Two interesting questions popped up in the comments on yesterday's post, and I felt they merited further discussion at length.
The first is: why would the creators of this new D&D film create a new storyline, world, and cast of characters, when they could have made (say) a Dragonlance or Baldur's Gate movie and garnered a bit more name recognition?
I think the answer to this question has to be that while there is a certain amount of recognition of those names among old farts like us, we're not really the people this film is being marketed to. Middle-aged male neckbeards are nailed on to watch a D&D movie, irrespective of how it is titled. Non-middle-aged male neckbeards will need to be coaxed into it, and I can easily see how associations with fairly obscure artefacts of 1980s or 1990s nerd-dom would be off-putting or alienating to those potential audiences. D&D: Honour Among Thieves just sounds friendlier and more down-to-earth than Baldur's Gate (or whatever).
The second is: why is it that D&D films always seem to be so bad?
This is a good question, but one which could be broadened out to: why is that fantasy films in general always seem to be so bad?
It's difficult now to remember, but prior to Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring, the landscape of fantasy film-making was an absolute ocean of cringeworthiness. No self-respecting actor or director would want to be seen dead in a fantasy movie, unless it was being played for laughs; the idea of pretending to be an elf or wizard and spouting hey-nonny-no lines would have struck anybody with an ounce of awareness as being deeply silly at best. The suspicion I always had as a fantasy reader back in those days was that almost any fantasy film you could name had been made to try to cash in on the genre's popularity rather than out of any authentic love for the field on the part of writers or directors. They almost universally displayed an absolute tin ear for what fantasy fiction is really all about, and were imbued with an atmosphere of faint embarrassment among all concerned.
The surprise me for is not that D&D films are always bad, but that The Fellowship of the Ring was able to capture the imagination of mainstream audiences so successfully. Peter Jackson's LOTR project turned into a monster, but he caught lightning in a bottle with Fellowship, and it changed the way the fantasy genre was conceived of forever. This has caused us to forget what things used to be like. If the new D&D film is crap, it will really just be (yet another) reversion to the mean.