Monkey Man

Monkey Man Is Basically a One-Man DnD Session & It Rocks

Warning: The following article contains spoilers for Monkey Man.

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Monkey Man stars Dev Patel as “Kid,” a nameless protagonist with a tragic past looking for vengeance in an unforgiving city. Along the way, he’ll make enemies and allies, and what begins as a struggle for personal satisfaction turns into an all-out war for a status quo upheaval.

As I watched Patel’s Kid rip apart the foundations of the corrupt and broken world he lives in, something dawned on me. This is a one-man Dungeons & Dragons session, right down to the nameless protagonist. The premise of Monkey Man is seemingly simple at first (much like a DnD session). Kid wants revenge for what was done to him. And let’s face it, how many players have a tragic backstory built into their character? I’ve recently started a game with a character that has no tragedy built into their origin. I did this because I’ve grown sick of this trope.

From One DnD trope to Another

A screenshot from the Monkey Man trailer. This image is part of an article about how Monkey Man is basically a one-man DnD session.

What enamored me about the Monkey Man‘s story structure was how Kid had to deal with enemies. He’s outnumbered, has to enter an area where he has no advantage, and has to figure out how to come out on top. And throughout the first act, he’s building to what he believes will be an epic battle. He is planning out every step to get to his opponent. It feels like when you and your DM sit down and figure out how to tackle this problem.

Unfortunately, as all players know, plans 99.9% of the time fall apart at the first hurdle in DnD. I come back to the quote of a great man, “Make the plan, execute the plan, expect the plan to go off the rails, throw away the plan.” There is even a point in Monkey Man that feels like Kid rolls a Nat 1 when he tries to jump through a window.

There’s also a fairly impressive training montage that Kid has to go through to become stronger. He needs this training and this growth to truly be a threat to his enemies. And it feels like the downtime that we all use to level up our characters, as well as build up the world around them. Monkey Man builds on all these tropes to craft something timeless, which allows for a more epic battle for Kid in the final act.

Related: The DnD Cartoon Had One of TV’s Most Bizarre Episodes

From the Micro to the Macro

When the second half of Monkey Man hits, and both the audience and Kid see the wider world, we all understand his grievance is but a small part of a much larger world. And with this realization, as always happens in DnD, Kid levels up and becomes the mythical figure he needs to become to get his revenge and save the world.

By the end of Monkey Man, Kid can take down hordes of enemies. Looking back to an hour before this, it would have been impossible for him, but he’s achieved his hero’s journey and has become stronger physically and mentally. Just like countless campaigns out there, Monkey Man is a passion project full of imagination, wildness, and a lot of Nat 1s, but more importantly, even more Nat 20s.

Monkey Man is in theaters now.


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Author
Graham Day
Graham has been writing online for close to a decade. This includes writing about games, books, films and so much more. He loves stories of all kinds across every form of media. For the Escapist he tries to come up with his own unique angles on the stories we adore. He was born in Dublin, Ireland and has been an actor, an amateur animator, writer and artist. He also runs his own website based in Ireland.