Dungeons & Dragons Ruins Lives in Tom Hanks’ First Lead Role

The Big Picture

  • Tom Hanks started with minor film roles just before attaining legendary status, with his very first lead function becoming in the 1982 created-for-Television film
    Mazes and Monsters
  • Mazes and Monsters
    was influenced by a moral panic about Dungeons &amp Dragons throughout the 1980s, with Tom Hanks’ character suffering from mental illness due to a roleplaying fantasy game.
  • Despite the dark ending of the film, Hanks went on to take pleasure in a prosperous profession and the beliefs with regards to the dangers of D&ampD have been debunked.

Tom Hanks has had an incomparable acting profession and is actually a legend in the business, beloved amongst households for his numerous exceptional performances. The many Academy Award-winning actor has turned in memorable functionality immediately after memorable functionality, capable of captivating audiences, no matter if he’s portraying a stranded castaway, a diligent FBI agent, or an endearing rom-com lead. As one particular of the quintessential film stars, it is difficult to image Hanks as something other than an acclaimed and prosperous actor, but even Forrest Gump had to start out someplace. Though it is been lost underneath the mountain of crucial and industrial good results, Hanks’ very first couple of film roles weren’t specifically clear indicators of the profession that was to come.

Hanks very first appeared in a low-price range slasher film released in 1980 referred to as He Knows You’re Alone, but he became the lead for the very first time in a created-for-tv image, Mazes and Monsters. But even the most ardent Tom Hanks fan may well not be familiar with the film, and that is simply because of its niche and complex history and topic. That’s simply because Mazes and Monsters wasn’t just an ordinary Television fantasy film — it was a “moral panic” reaction to the preferred function-playing game, Dungeons &amp Dragons, primarily based on sensationalized stories about the demonic dangers of the game, meant to dissuade viewers from ever choosing up the dice and character sheet. The film’s good results in this pursuit, as with a lot of other films released with the very same purpose, was mixed-to-inconsequential, but even although Mazes and Monsters never ever halted D&ampD from becoming wildly preferred, it nonetheless served as the beginning point for one particular of the most illustrious careers in all cinema.

Mazes and Monsters Film Poster

Mazes and Monsters

Peter Brooks is a difficult-operating, difficult-up college student whose dislike of females attending college weakens below the amorous advances of spoiled socialite coed Joan Madison.

Release Date
December 28, 1982

Steven Hilliard Stern

Tom Hanks , Wendy Crewson , David Wysocki , Chris Makepeace , Lloyd Bochner , Peter Donat , Anne Francis , Murray Hamilton

100 Minutes

Tom Lazarus , Rona Jaffe

Main Genre

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What Is ‘Mazes and Monsters’ About, and Who Does Tom Hanks Play?

Mazes and Monsters was a straight-to-tv film primarily based on a book of the very same name by author Rona Jaffe, released in 1982 and inspired by sensationalized news stories released a couple of years prior. Though as opposed to the Dungeons &amp Dragons cartoon series released in that very same decade, Jaffe’s story held a wildly diverse opinion of the game. The film follows Robbie (Tom Hanks), a college student getting into a new college, as he befriends a trio of classmates who ask him to join their Mazes and Monsters group. Based on D&ampD, Mazes and Monsters is a fantasy roleplaying game filled with, nicely, monsters and mazes. Robbie’s new close friends include things like Jay-Jay (Chris Makepeace), Daniel (David Wallace), and Kate (Wendy Crewson), the latter of whom Robbie starts dating as they get closer. However, regardless of its initial levity, the game quickly bleeds into life in a way that is darker than Robbie’s close friends could have anticipated.

Robbie’s history with Mazes and Monsters is revealed to have been complicated and detrimental to his mental well being, as he was kicked out of his earlier college for obsessing more than the game. While playing with his new close friends, Robbie becomes inundated with poor dreams about his missing older brother and at some point suffers a mental break that causes him to genuinely think himself to be his character Pardieu, a magical and devout cleric. When the group tends to make a foolhardy choice to play the game in the service tunnels underneath the college, Robbie hallucinates monsters that he can’t see, becoming so entrenched in his character that he can’t split fiction from reality.



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The self-destructive behavior continues as Robbie breaks up with Kate to preserve Pardieu’s vow of celibacy, then all of a sudden goes missing. Still believing himself to be Pardieu, Robbie travels to New York, exactly where his hallucinations only get worse. When he is accosted by muggers, Robbie mistakenly believes them to be monsters and stabs one particular of them with a knife. His close friends are capable to track him down due to a map Robbie had left in his space, and catch up to him thanks to a moment of clarity that Kate is capable to leverage although they are on a payphone get in touch with. His close friends uncover Robbie on the roof of one particular of the Twin Towers, about to jump off in order to attain the fictitious “Great Hall,” but Jay-Jay is capable to speak him down by asserting his authority as the “Maze Controller,” the dungeon master of the game.

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Why Did People Think Dungeons &amp Dragons Was Evil in the ’80s?

Mazes and Monsters is a time capsule into an intriguing and shocking period in Dungeons &amp Dragons history, as the public perception and opinion of the game in the 1980s was wrought with sensationalized stories and panic from specific groups. D&ampD was accused of becoming unsafe to its players, harmfully indoctrinating them with “demonic” influences and witchcraft. Though there was no tangible proof of the game’s damaging influence, it was falsely correlated to numerous true-life tragedies that occurred in the decade. Examples of suicide and violent crime have been linked with the game just simply because men and women involved had a history of playing the game, largely ignoring the other extenuating situations that typically impacted these peoples’ lives.

The most notable of these stories was that of James Dallas Egbert, a Michigan State University student who had gone missing and became the topic of nationwide fascination. A private investigator, William Dear, investigated Egbert’s disappearance and place forth the concept that the student’s self-destructive behavior was connected to playing Dungeons &amp Dragons. Dear himself later asserted that he did not think D&ampD had something to do with the case, but the concept had currently run rampant as news stations started reporting sensationalized stories about the dangers of the roleplaying game.

Rona Jaffe, the author of Mazes and Monsters, primarily based significantly of her story on sensationalized media reports of Egbert’s disappearance. While Robbie’s obsession with Mazes and Monsters is the clear parallel, Jaffe had also written Jay-Jay with numerous traits taken from Egbert’s story. Egbert was a prodigious student who was studying laptop or computer science at university at just 16 years old and had spent time exploring the steam tunnels underneath the college although fantasizing about D&ampD. Egbert did not pass away in the tunnels, regardless of university service tunnels quickly becoming an urban legend, but a quantity of complex mental well being challenges sadly led to his passing by suicide just a year immediately after he was located. Organizations such as Bothered About Dungeons &amp Dragons (BADD) continued their campaign against the game, even going so far as to seem on 60 Minutes in conversation with D&ampD creator, Gary Gygax. But regardless of all the damaging press, sales of the game truly grew, and in the coming decades the TTRP would evolve from a niche gaming neighborhood to an internationally preferred fantasy staple. And fortunately, regardless of criticisms of the game, continued research by the American Association of Suicidology, the US Centers for Disease Control, and Health and Welfare Canada have asserted no identifiable hyperlink involving D&ampD and suicide.

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‘Mazes and Monsters’ Didn’t Have a Happy Ending — But Tom Hanks’ Career Did

Keeping in line with the movie’s intention to be a cautionary tale about the dangers of D&ampD, Mazes and Monsters does not conclude with a pleased ending for Robbie. Though he was saved by his close friends from jumping off of a skyscraper, Robbie never ever recovers his sanity and continues to think himself to be Pardieu. Living with his mother in a additional rural property, his close friends stop by him and are discouraged to see that their buddy is forever gone, and only Pardieu remains. They play out Robbie’s fantasies one particular final time to slay monsters with him till the sun sets, although they will forever lament the loss of their buddy. The film remains a complex piece of fiction, each for its inspiration from a loose set of details from a true-life missing particular person case and its portrayal of the dangers of D&ampD. Robbie and every single of his close friends are introduced bearing significant interpersonal and emotional challenges with their households that in the end influence their actions additional than the film ever admits. While Robbie’s obsession with the game is vilified, it is difficult to think that his house life with an alcoholic mother and controlling father are not also significant causes for his poor mental well being.

But although the movie’s ending was bleak, Tom Hanks’ profession was thankfully spared from becoming lost just before it started. Despite significantly of the silliness of the function, Hanks nonetheless turned in the most exceptional functionality of the film, from its additional comedic moments to the genuinely heartwrenching. The ensuing decades of good results for Tom Hanks leave tiny additional to be stated, as he went on to star in numerous prosperous films, received many awards and recognition, and became one particular of the most beloved actors in cinema history. Dungeons &amp Dragons, as nicely, wasn’t foiled by the moral panic films attempting to tear it down in the 1980s. The game continued to develop in reputation, spawning a trilogy of cult classic films, a range of actual play content material, and one particular of the most enjoyable films of 2023, with Dungeons &amp Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.

Mazes and Monsters is accessible to stream on Peacock in the U.S.

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