This story contains light spoilers for “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.”
In Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, a Bard, Barbarian, Wizard and Druid team up to pull off their greatest heist yet – and save the world too.
Similar to an adventure in the tabletop RPG on which the film is based, the heroes of “Dungeon & Dragons” in theaters on Friday travel across the land on a series of missions to aid them in their broader quest: to one hunt down certain treacherous villains. And like any good jailer, directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, who also wrote the screenplay for the film starring Michael Gilio, make sure each member of the party has moments to showcase their individual talents.
Tabletop D&D creates a set of guidelines for players to let their imagination run wild, and Goldstein and Daley sought to channel that experience on the movie set within the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy world, rather than directly adapting an existing story .
“We wanted to make sure the film captured that spontaneity, the collaboration, the unpredictability, and having to kind of twist when things go against you, which they inevitably do,” Goldstein said during a recent video call.
“What excites me about a D&D movie is that you can add that element of lightness and whimsy to the movie without giving away the backstory,” added Daley, noting that playful irreverence is part of the game’s experience. “That sense of warmth and lack of cynicism was really important to us… And I think there’s a way to be humorous without undermining the stakes or the sincerity of the adventure.
A standout sequence that captures the spirit of the film involves the tiefling druid Doric, played by Sophia Lillis. After reluctantly agreeing to join Edgin (Chris Pine), Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) and Simon (Justice Smith), Doric sneaks into a castle to gather information as a literal fly on the wall. Unfortunately, her spying is noticed by the Red Wizard Sofina (Daisy Head), leading to a chase where the camera follows Doric in one long, seemingly uninterrupted shot as she tries to escape while turning into a series of different creatures transformed.
It’s a sequence Goldstein and Daley suggested for Dungeons & Dragons when they first met Paramount.
Abandoned by her human parents because she is a Tiefling—someone of human descent who inherited demonic traits through an act of an ancestor—Doric is suspicious of humans and doesn’t quite fit into the Druidic community that took her in. the Emerald Enclave.
To prepare for the role, Lillis said she “watched a lot of animal documentaries” to study their movements closely, from the muscles they use to their centers of gravity. This is because, as a druid, Doric has the ability to transform into beasts known as the Wild Shape.
“I’ve always thought about exercise [and] How you use your body is a very important skill when you’re acting,” Lillis said. She employed it as Doric, particularly during her transitions into animal form; The stunt team also incorporated animal-like moves into Doric’s fighting style, she said.
Doric’s most impressive transformation is into an owlbear, a savage, feathered monster with the head of an owl and the shape and body of a bear. Technically, a druid would not be allowed to transform into an owlbear under current D&D rules, but Daley cited the “rule of coolness” – which allows dungeon masters to ignore some rules in favor of the story – as their justification.
“She might seem a little reserved and not say much in the context of the group, but [Doric is] She’s at her most free when she’s with these other animals, especially the owl bear,” Daley said. “She’s kind of most comfortable in her own skin when she’s these other creatures.”
While Doric doesn’t transform into an owlbear during her grand escape sequence, as the chase progresses she transforms Wild Shape into six different creatures: a fly, a mouse, a bird, a cat, a deer, and an axbeak – a fictional, large, flightless one Vogel, unique to D&D, its movements here are based on ostriches.
Admittedly, one-take sequences “aren’t easy to do,” according to the directors, who got a taste for it after including one on “Game Night” in 2018.
One of the challenges of a single long take, explained Ben Snow, the film’s production visual effects supervisor, is, “How do we break this down into filmable segments? And how do we see where the mixes will be between these different segments?”
Preparation for the sequence involved storyboarding and rough animation during the pre-visualization phase – which allowed the team in the original version to realize “that you kind of lost your connection with Doric himself,” Snow said. “So we changed it so that she turned more into herself again.”
In the final version of the sequence, Doric reverts to her tiefling form twice, once into armor after walking around as a mouse, and again after a brief morph into a cat.
Despite the complexity of the sequence, which ran the risk of falling into the “uncanny valley” during Doric’s transitions, one of the most complicated takes focused on a seemingly simple move: Doric back in her tiefling form after being a cat and attempting a hood to pull over her head before heading out into the busy city streets. The hood kept getting stuck in its horns.
“Oh god,” Lillis said. “I don’t know why it was so difficult. [The hood] was thin and the material was weird and it was kind of windy. It took all day.”
In fact, most of the sequence was shot on physical sets, using as many practical effects as possible.
“Part of what drew me to visual effects was the magic trick aspect,” Snow said. “A lot of directors have a desire to keep things as real as possible… so I like to solve problems like that, where [we figure out] how we can keep it as real as possible and then use CG where we can’t possibly use it real.”
For example, the chase begins in the vault set with a computer-generated fly version of Doric. The crew cut a hole in the wall of this set to retract the camera and guide the digital fly before it became a fully computer-animated scene within the wall. Similarly, the sets used for the part of the chase where Doric is a mouse were built with a removable floor to allow the camera to be low enough to capture the required angles.
And while most of the animals were rendered digitally, including Doric’s bird form falling down a chimney after crashing into a flag, the cat coming out of the chimney was real.
“We filmed multiple takes,” Snow said. “I have to direct the cat.”
Other handy elements include the explosion in the grain room (which resulted in popcorn) and the pyrotechnics used to blow up an aqueduct (which didn’t work the first time and took a month to set up to fire again) . Given the amount of effects the sequence involved, it was the last VFX shot to be completed.
As daring as it is, the sequence, made possible by the work of VFX artists from The Moving Picture Company with a little help from Industrial Light & Magic, could have been even more awesome. A shot of a real dog meant to be shown reacting to Doric’s cat form was felt to be “kinda cheesy” according to Daley, and a moment of mouse Doric scurrying through a dining room filled with guards was also lost in the process.
“We decided,” Goldstein said, “that it was a shot too many.”
Source : www.latimes.com