Confused over the Dungeons & Dragons movie trailer? We break it down for you

Chris Pine (left) plays a Bard while Rege-Jean Page plays a Paladin in the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons movie.
PHOTO: UIP

It's monsters and magic galore for the upcoming Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) movie with the first trailer being released at San Diego Comic-Con on July 22.

And based on online reactions (media included), the trailer is a hit with overwhelming praise directed at how it closely captured the chaotic energy of a D&D adventuring party.

Narrated by the charming Chris Pine, the trailer positions the film as a heist movie gone wrong as our protagonists "helped the wrong person steal the wrong thing".

Now, that's something that everyone can relate to — especially for D&D players. If you've played long enough, you'll realise that you can be overprepared but things rarely go according to plan.

Surprisingly, or perhaps it was a calculated move, the trailer dives right into the action and showcases plenty of familiar creatures, abilities and spells from the source material without bogging it down with convoluted fantasy jargon.

And if you're confused by all the shiny effects and explosions, or failed your Intelligence check, then here's what you need to know.

Who is playing what?

Some of Hollywood's hottest stars are in the film and while not much information has been revealed on all of the roles, we do know that Chris, Michelle Rodriguez and Simon "I-burn-for-you" Basset Rege-Jean Page play Elgin, Holda and Xenk respectively.

British actor Hugh Grant is set to be a villain but he's only a part of it as the Red Wizards (more on that later) are pulling the strings too.

As for their classes (what you might know as Warrior, Mage or Ranger), this montage of the cast tells it all. If you've watched the video, you might notice a symbol next to the actor's name and that shows us what they are portraying.

Here's the list (in order):

  • Chris Pine - Bard
  • Michelle Rodriguez - Barbarian
  • Rege-Jean Page - Paladin
  • Justice Smith - Sorcerer
  • Sophia Lillis - Druid
  • Hugh Grant - Rogue

Who is the bad guy?

While Hugh Grant is pegged as the traitor of the group, according to the official synopsis, the real villains are the Red Wizards of Thay. They do make an appearance in the trailer near the end where our heroes are fighting against a cultist in red robes.

They have a long history in the lore of D&D but to cut to the crux of it, they're a notorious group of evil spellcasters who are associated with necromancy and liches.

Fun fact, Vecna — who is now a household name thanks to Stranger Things 4 — is one of the greatest villains in D&D and he was a lich who ascended to godhood.

Fantastic creatures and what are they

What would a fantasy movie be without its creatures? Rather, what would D&D be without dragons? It's literally in the name.

The very first creature featured in the trailer is a black dragon. Dragons are a little more complicated in D&D lore because not all dragons are good.

Dragons are categorised as either chromatic (commonly known ones are red, black, blue, green and white) or metallic (such as gold, silver, copper, brass and bronze). The former are evil and the latter are good.

SOURCE: YouTube

Each type of chromatic dragon is also associated with a specific element and for black dragons, it's acid — and that's the steaming stream of goo that you see raining down on the battlefield.

Other iconic creatures also make an appearance and here's what we saw:

  • Owlbear
  • Mimic (chest with fangs) - a shapeshifting predator which can take on the form of inanimate objects to lure prey and are nearly indistinguishable from the original
  • Gelatinous Cube - an ooze creature in the shape of a cube that traps prey in its body and slowly digests them
  • Displacer Beast - an otherworldly six-legged panther-like creature with tentacles
SOURCE: YouTube

Wow, shiny magic

Now we get to the fun part — maybe more so for D&D players — where we identify the spells and abilities used in the game.

Since the Red Wizards are a key part of the story, it's no surprise that magic will be heavily integrated into the action sequences.

In a scene where people are bouncing off a force field, that looks to be Shield. While it temporarily increases your armour in the game, thereby making you harder to hit, the film seems to be using it differently.

After all, certain elements of D&D may not translate well onto the silver screen unless some creative liberties are taken.

Alternatively, it could be another spell called Wall of Force which conjures an invisible wall preventing anything from passing through.

SOURCE: YouTube

And if you haven't already noticed, the names of D&D spells are quite literal.

Shortly after that, we see what looks like a spell being cast as time crawls to a stop. This is rather exciting as it's most likely Time Stop — a powerful high-level spell that doesn't see much play as most games don't go that far.

When Rege's massive sword starts glowing with runes, that's probably a spell called Holy Weapon or a Paladin ability known as Divine Smite. Both have similar visual effects but what fans might be more excited for is the latter as that's what Paladins are mostly known for.

SOURCE: YouTube

The transformation into an owlbear is called Wild Shape and is the Druid's signature move. Generally speaking, the ability allows them to turn into different kinds of animals, not just owlbears.

Although, this has caused a minor controversy among fans as, according to the official rules, Druids can't turn into owlbears.

We also see, in quick succession, a lightning spell and a fire spell. Of course, there are a plethora of spells associated with those elements but the most popular ones are Lightning Bolt and Fireball — both of which have been a running gag among longtime players.

So, we're willing to bet a pretty penny that that's what those are.

SOURCE: YouTube

The shield that blocks the fire, though, might very well be Shield or Wall of Force at play, but it could also be a creative use of another common spell called Counterspell. As the name suggests, it negates the activation of a spell.

Lastly, the cultist in red can be seen teleporting to the top of a building in a misty swirl and while it may just look like generic magical effects, that's undeniably Misty Step.

SOURCE: YouTube

That's pretty much all that we can tell from the trailer but we gather that's quite a lot to start with, especially for those who are only vaguely aware of D&D because of Stranger Things.

However, if you're curious to find out more about these classes and spells, check out D&D Beyond as it's pretty much the official digital database.

Though the trailer has been a hit among fans — racking up 16 million views in three days, more than half of what the Warcraft trailer has got to date — we're being cautiously optimistic.

After all, the first film adaptation in 2000 was a disaster and video-game film adaptations have traditionally not been great either (looking at you, Assassin's Creed).

So, here's hoping that this latest adaptation bucks that trend and rolls a natural 20.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves opens in cinemas March 2, 2023.

bryanlim@asiaone.com