Over the weekend I was cajoled into watching Dungeons & Dragons: No Honor Among Thieves.
I did not enjoy it.
The problem was that I wasn't sure if I was watching a satire or a serious adventure film. There were plenty of obvious laugh lines aimed at D&D players, and yet the pacing and general structure of the film indicated that I was also supposed to take it seriously.
This was impossible, because as the film itself demonstrated magic and do almost anything, and no sooner would this assertion be declared false than magic would in fact solve whatever problem was at hand.
This goes back to my repeated critiques of super-hero films and now Disney Star Wars, which is that if there is all this non-stop action, when am I supposed to find time to care about the characters?
The more wild and improbable (and unrelatable) the setting gets, the less invested I become in the outcome, because everything appears arbitrary and random.
At that point, if the good guys win, it won't feel like they earned it, they just happened to turn over the right card (or the game was fixed from the start).
This problem becomes doubly acute when the plot is built around a bank heist. In the real world, I know that locks, walls of steel and massive doors covered by cameras present formidable obstacles.
But in the D&D world, there's probably a spell to circumvent all that - and then a spell to stop that spell, and a spell to the stop that spell, etc.
As I said, arbitrary and random.
There's also the setting, which has no meaning to me. Oh, I recognized some of the references from the game, but there's no overarching story of D&D World like there are of Narnia or Middle-Earth.
It's just a tale from the Land of the Knee-Walking Turkeys or something. The Princess Bride felt far more grounded in that respect. It make jokes about the genre, but not at the expense of destroying one's immersion in the story. The fact that it was a story within a story actually amplified this effect - as Fred Savage became more invested, so did we.
Fans of the film have suggested that the digressions, asides and so on represent the course of the game, and in that case, I'd have loved to see a bunch of nerds sitting around the table arguing about what will come next. Then we'd have to real tension because the story would finally be anchored in some sort of consistent reality.
Instead of being arbitrary and random.