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General Spider-Man: Homecoming Writers Talk D&D Movie

Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley talked to Hollywood Reporter about the D&D movie, it's comedic themes, and how the directors are working directly with WotC.

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They directed Game Night, and wrote Spider-Man: Homecoming. They mentioned that they had been supposed to fly here to the UK to scout locations in March, but the pandemic interrupted that.

They also mentioned comedic elements and characters in the movie, which currently has a projected release date of May 27th, 2022. No actors are yet cast.

It's not an out and out comedy, but it is an action-fantasy movie with a lot of comedic elements and characters we hope people will really get into and enjoy watching their adventures.


Daley plays a weekly D&D game, so he is familiar with the genre. But the pair are working directly with WotC.

We haven't been accosted by players yet, but we are working with the Wizards of the Coast, the brand holders of D&D. They are the experts. We have people there that we work with and it's pretty helpful, because as much as we know about D&D, it's a drop in the bucket compared to the 45 years of lore that's out there, so these guys are such a resource. If we need a particular spell that a [high]-level wizard could do, they could give us a list. It's a lot of fun.
 
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Russ Morrissey

Comments

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
The only way that matters in general? Goodness no. The specific nature of the fourth wall breaking is precisely the difference in question though, so yeah, it is kind of important. I already granted the meta awareness of The Princess Bride, and was attempting to describe where that meta awareness differed from Deadpool.
Let me try a different way to approach the same question:

How is the Deadpool-style of expressing its meta-awareness materially different than any other way of expressing it? Why does it matter that it isn't Deadpool-style? Both stories are very much aware in the text that they are stories. They both tell the audience that they are aware. Why do we care which style of expressing it they use?
 

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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Let me try a different way to approach the same question:

How is the Deadpool-style of expressing its meta-awareness materially different than any other way of expressing it? Why does it matter that it isn't Deadpool-style? Both stories are very much aware in the text that they are stories. They both tell the audience that they are aware. Why do we care which style of expressing it they use?
In the context of what we want in a D&D movie? Of course we care, well I care, maybe others don't. That was the initial taking off point here though. I think Deadpool-style meta awareness in a D&D movie is a disaster waiting to happen. A PB style could be made to work, but I'd still prefer not. I only brought the PB up in the first place as an example of a fantasy movie that managed humor well in terms of dialogue and character, nothing to do with the meta-awareness at all.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Let me try a different way to approach the same question:

How is the Deadpool-style of expressing its meta-awareness materially different than any other way of expressing it? Why does it matter that it isn't Deadpool-style? Both stories are very much aware in the text that they are stories. They both tell the audience that they are aware. Why do we care which style of expressing it they use?
Each layer of story in "The Princess Bride" is self-contained. If you remove the frame story, all of the dialogue and plot of the main story still make sense. Likewise, the frame story still makes sense if you remove awareness of the context (it's a movie made by a certain studio on a given date, etc.). The grandfather and grandson aren't aware that they are characters in a movie, any more than Westley and Buttercup are aware that they are characters in a book.

Deadpool's comments show that he does know he is a character in a movie. His dialogue does not make sense without that knowledge. "Deadpool" breaks the fourth wall, where "Princess Bride" does not.
 



Dausuul

Legend
This is still telling me what happens. It is not telling me why you think it matters.
Because part of the pleasure of many stories is the ability to imagine the reality of the fictional world, as if the characters are real people with a life beyond the story itself. The more meta-awareness the story shows, the more difficult immersion becomes.

"The Princess Bride" is less immersive than, say, "The Lord of the Rings," because of the periodic interjections from the characters in the frame story. However, despite those interjections, both stories work as independent realities. "Deadpool" is another level of immersion-breaking; there is no pretense of independent reality, just a movie which Deadpool knows he's in.

It works for "Deadpool" because Deadpool isn't trying to immerse you in a story, he's trying to tell jokes. Those jokes work by riffing on the "X-Men" movies, which do have that pretense of independent reality, allowing Deadpool to use them as a "straight man." A D&D movie in the Deadpool style would need something else to serve as its straight man.
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
The only way that matters in general? Goodness no. The specific nature of the fourth wall breaking is precisely the difference in question though, so yeah, it is kind of important. I already granted the meta awareness of The Princess Bride, and was attempting to describe where that meta awareness differed from Deadpool.
First rule of arguing about fourth-wall breaking: don't argue Deadpool with a guy with a Deadpool avatar.

There are different kinds of "fourth-wall" breaking, on this I completely agree with you.

The "Deadpool" example is one where the character directly addresses the audience; the artifice of the medium is exposed. This isn't that uncommon. Ferris Bueller also did this, and we see this in Mel Brooks comedies (Spaceballs!) and Monty Python. But to directly address the audience is usually so immersion-breaking that you usually only see it in a straight out comedy. Woody Allen also did this, and for a non-comedic example, you can think of Kurosawa (Lower Depths), Do the Right Thing, or Funny Games.

When we think of breaking the "fourth wall" that is what we are really discussing; this is a term that has traditionally described the wall between spectators and performers, the wall that the performer cannot see through but the audience can.

...but, we also now will use this term interchangeably with not just the "pure" concept of acknowledging the audience or speaking to the audience, but also the general concept of "meta-reference" (in other words, the in-fiction acknowledgement of the the fiction). So is a movie that is explicitly "meta" an example of breaking the fourth wall? For example, does The Cabin in the Woods break the fourth wall, or is it merely referential? What about a movie that is even more explicitly commenting on its own genre (like Scream)?

Personally, I see the distinction you're making; we often refer to something as breaking the fourth wall when we are really discussing the ways in which it is meta-textual, referential, or just plain ol' fan service-y.
 

When we think of breaking the "fourth wall" that is what we are really discussing; this is a term that has traditionally described the wall between spectators and performers, the wall that the performer cannot see through but the audience can.
Breaking the forth wall is explicitly a reference to theatre, where it is much more common, and where the performer can see and interact with the audience. I would argue that it isn't actually possible to break the forth wall in cinema, since it is not possible for the performer to see and react to the audience in the way they can in theatre. At most you can have a pre-recorded narrator why may show some narrative voice, and may also be a character in the story.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Breaking the forth wall is explicitly a reference to theatre, where it is much more common, and where the performer can see and interact with the audience. I would argue that it isn't actually possible to break the forth wall in cinema, since it is not possible for the performer to see and react to the audience in the way they can in theatre. At most you can have a pre-recorded narrator why may show some narrative voice, and may also be a character in the story.
I completely disagree. It has nothing to do with interacting; it is enough to acknowledge the presence of the audience. That's the raison d'etre of the term.

In fact, treating the audience as if they exist within the world of performance (to either address them directly, or to acknowledge their existence within the fictional world) is the entire issue with breaking the fourth wall. Moreover, it has noting to do with interacting with an audience member or the audience.

Finally, your last statement is not correct; it is not the case of having a pre-recorded narrator with some narrative voice, who may also be a character in the story.

So, I cannot disagree more strongly than I do with pretty much every single thing you just said.

EDIT: And you are probably in the minority of one to state that breaking the fourth wall is not possible in cinema.
 

Breaking the fourth wall is just acknowledging the audience in the theater, as Prospero does at the end of the Tempest. It's not required for him to go out into the audience or anything to do so, like he was in Hair. (Although Prospero would really fit in with the rest of the cast of Hair.)
 

Dausuul

Legend
Breaking the forth wall is explicitly a reference to theatre, where it is much more common, and where the performer can see and interact with the audience. I would argue that it isn't actually possible to break the forth wall in cinema, since it is not possible for the performer to see and react to the audience in the way they can in theatre. At most you can have a pre-recorded narrator why may show some narrative voice, and may also be a character in the story.
You're quibbling over semantics now. And your quibble is wrong.
 


Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I agree with those saying that breaking the fourth wall or any meta-nonsense in the D&D movie would be terrible.
But to slightly differentiate it:

A. Breaking the fourth wall (in the traditional way)? Bad. No direct acknowledgement of the audience. It destroys immersion, and usually only works in comedies or (very occasionally) in "artsy" movies. This is neither.

B. No meta-textual references. That means acknowledgements of the "this is a fantasy movie of this type" conceits. Either through framing (Princess Bride), in-movie references (Scream) or just playing with the genre conventions (The Cabin in the Woods). There isn't enough "there" to be sending up at this point.

C. On the other hand, I fully expect there to be "Easter eggs" and "fan service-y" moments; whether it's a passing reference to some character named Gygax or Drizz't, or perhaps Arneson's Inn, or Monty Haul's Magick Shoppe spotted on the street, I expect there to be a few bits for the hardcore D&D fans to get a kick out of so long as they don't take you out of the film.
 

C. On the other hand, I fully expect there to be "Easter eggs" and "fan service-y" moments; whether it's a passing reference to some character named Gygax or Drizz't, or perhaps Arneson's Inn, or Monty Haul's Magick Shoppe spotted on the street, I expect there to be a few bits for the hardcore D&D fans to get a kick out of so long as they don't take you out of the film.
Of course. Everyone likes easter eggs and a bit of fan service.
 

I agree with those saying that breaking the fourth wall or any meta-nonsense in the D&D movie would be terrible.
There's no reason to believe anyone intends that, of course.

I think we can also agree that we don't want anyone in the D&D movie to strap roller skates to their feet and a giant firework to their back, either.

Just because someone might crack a joke doesn't mean the movie is going to be Deadpool or a Looney Tunes cartoon.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
I did tell you why it matters. Because I think it would suck in a D&D movie. In Deadpool it's awesome.
Eh . . . I get that the fourth-wall breaking is part of the source material for Deadpool, but . . . going into the first movie, I was not familiar with the Deadpool comics, and if you had described the fourth-wall breaking style I might have just skipped it. But I'm glad I didn't, as I thoroughly enjoyed both Deadpool movies and I'm hoping for a third. Reynolds and crew gave me something I didn't know that I wanted!

There is a similar tradition in D&D gaming and fantasy storytelling, where the players are sucked into the fantasy world. It's got a whole page on tvtropes.org! The best example I'm familiar with is Joel Rosenberg's "Guardians of the Flame" series I read as a kid.

I'm not really hoping that the new D&D movie uses this trope, I'd rather them not. But it is totally possible for them to use and do it well. Use of the trope does not equate with the D&D movie sucking.
 

Parmandur

Legend
Eh . . . I get that the fourth-wall breaking is part of the source material for Deadpool, but . . . going into the first movie, I was not familiar with the Deadpool comics, and if you had described the fourth-wall breaking style I might have just skipped it. But I'm glad I didn't, as I thoroughly enjoyed both Deadpool movies and I'm hoping for a third. Reynolds and crew gave me something I didn't know that I wanted!

There is a similar tradition in D&D gaming and fantasy storytelling, where the players are sucked into the fantasy world. It's got a whole page on tvtropes.org! The best example I'm familiar with is Joel Rosenberg's "Guardians of the Flame" series I read as a kid.

I'm not really hoping that the new D&D movie uses this trope, I'd rather them not. But it is totally possible for them to use and do it well. Use of the trope does not equate with the D&D movie sucking.
I definitely agree they could go that route and it could work. Given the history, recent and not so recent, if the D&D brand in fiction, I reeeaaaally don't expect it.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I definitely agree they could go that route and it could work. Given the history, recent and not so recent, if the D&D brand in fiction, I reeeaaaally don't expect it.
No, me neither. That said, Rosenberg's Guardians was the first thing that popped into my head when I was thinking about this exact point when I was talking about the meta-ness of the Princess Bride upstream. I think it might be a bit too Jumanji-adjacent at this point, even if Rosenberg did it first.
 

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