Of Dice and Men – The Movie
“A geek movie without the self-loathing”
- It manages to exude an “indy charm” without trying too hard, unlike many of its contemporary indy dramedy peers.
- The scenes of game-play are so spot on gamers will wonder if Cameron McNary was lurking outside their game rooms taking notes for his script.
- The story weaves multiple sub-plots together effortlessly without getting lost in the overall vehicle of the game-play.
- It is obvious that this is a movie for gamers, by gamers.
- Even though it does have a ton of indy charm, it also has indy limited production value. While the green screen effects are cleverly used, you have to go into this with the right expectations; this is low-budget filmmaking.
- Some of the scenes play a little too “inside”; while not a problem for its core audience, it might feel a little impenetrable to those outside the hobby.
Before I go any further, take a minute and check out the trailer…
Okay, now that we have all of that out of the way I won’t wait any further to tell you how I felt about Of Dice and Men.
I absolutely loved it.
I am not saying this because they are local (to me) filmmakers. I am not saying this because the director and producers are such cool people. I am not even saying this as a nostalgic tabletop gamer who remembers many a late night rolling dice and pouring over Dungeons & Dragons, GURPS or Champions rulebooks.
I am saying this as someone who is happy to finally have a movie to show people who ask “what are role-playing games all about?”
While there are some quality movies out there about geek culture, even the best of them still resort to using the subject matter as a punchline once or twice (Role Models I am looking directly at you).
Of Dice and Men doesn’t go for the obvious targets, but instead uses the activity as nothing more than a natural backdrop to drive the story forward. The jokes about gaming were more of the “haha, I totally understand why it is annoying for people to blather on about there character history” sort instead of “haha, look at those silly geeks and their hobby.”
There was an especially insightful scene that really drove the point of this movie home to me; it was between the main character John Francis, who acts as the group’s Game Master (GM), and Brandon, who has only a cursory grasp of the rules and plays simply because his wife loves it.
Brandon, a huge football fan, has a realization about gaming that he shares… “football and gaming have something in common, they’re both utterly and completely pointless, and they matter.”
You see, everyone has something that ultimately doesn’t matter, but it means something to them.
As a geek who grew up in the early days of D&D (I still remember my first 2nd edition, blue box, Basic Set) I remember how uncool it was. I remember the anti-gaming furor that the made-for-TV Mazes & Monsters induced in parents (wonderfully referenced in one of the flashback sequences.) I remember the years of self-induced geek loathing I put myself through as I tried to hide my geeky habits from friends.
So it’s nice to have a movie recognize that not only that people of all shapes, sizes, genders, etc… enjoy tabletop gaming but that they are no less silly then the millions of people who get worked up over their favorite sport.
At it’s most basic level, a role-playing game is simply a social event. Getting together with friends to watch your favorite basketball team put on a dunking clinic against a rival team or to work through the draft in your fantasy football league is no different than rolling some dice and battling a horde of goblins with them.
And it’s nice to see that acknowledges that reality in a smart and funny way.
I will leave you with this quote from the director, which I feel truly sums up the essence of the movie.
“Your friendships and connections with people are what matter most. Doing what you love with those you love…and never taking your time with them for granted.” – Kelley Slagle, Director
I came for the gaming and found a touching story about a group of friends who learn some insightful things about themselves all because of their love for dwarves, wizards and dragons; and if I’m to be totally honest, I walked away from Of Dice and Men learning a little bit more about myself as well.
Note: This movie is not connected in any way to David Ewalt’s book of the same name.