Review of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves – A Film Worthy of the Game

Dungeons and Dragons

Perhaps it’s because in the world of blockbuster cinema and high fantasy, the looming threat of Armageddon is always just seven seconds away, even though the world is probably not ending. This is likely why the idea of the apocalypse has become so tiresome at the cinema. However, in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein’s lighthearted adaptation of the popular role-playing game, the stakes are as small as a group of friends embarking on a quest using a 20-sided die. It’s a delightful crowd-pleaser that’s actually enjoyable, partly because it’s a million miles away from the dark image D&D once had in the 1980s.

Honor Among Thieves is a refreshing change from the usual bombastic CGI-laden blockbusters and fantasy tales that are often plagued by war and fratricide. Instead, it echoes the anachronistic medieval fantasy movies of the 80s, such as The Princess Bride and Willow, rather than following in the footsteps of J.R.R. Tolkien or George R.R. Martin. The movie’s non-stop charm offensive is its real magic. As the second big-screen adaptation of the tabletop game, Honor Among Thieves is a charming and winsome movie that is a breath of fresh air.

Meet Edgin, the sweaty bard-turned-thief played by Chris Pine in the movie. At the beginning of the film, we find out that Edgin is not very good at being a minstrel or a criminal because he and his sidekick, Holga (played by Michelle Rodriguez), are imprisoned in a snow fortress for stealing. If Edgin were a character in a Dungeons & Dragons game, his character sheet would not be impressive. However, Pine’s portrayal of the character is charming and disarming, with a twinkle in his eye that never breaks the fourth wall nor goes for the gravitas of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

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The film’s world is similar to other modern blockbusters, full of digital landscapes and creatures, such as a fire-breathing dragon with a weight problem that struggles to fit through an ancient mining doorway. Edgin’s band of crooks also has its own set of issues, including Simon (Justice Smith), a sorcerer who lacks self-confidence; Doric (Sophia Lillis), a tiefling Druid who has lost her tribe; and Holga, a lonely barbarian warrior who resents being roped into Edgin’s harebrained schemes, which have caused them to be separated from Edgin’s daughter (Chloe Coleman), whom Holga raised as her own.

The uncomfortable twist of Holga being separated from the child becomes the catalyst for the quest, as Edgin and Holga build a team to retrieve various magical items that will reunite them with the child. However, this quest often leads to comedic hijinks, such as when Simon briefly resurrects corpses from an ancient battle, who are only able to answer five questions before they die again. Despite the macabre premise, the scene is more reminiscent of Abbott and Costello’s famous “Who’s on First” routine, as the dead soldiers have a limited perspective on what killed them.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves takes a comedic approach with a carefree attitude, similar to the Marvel Studios formula that has dominated big budget movies for the last decade. However, unlike most middle-of-the-road entertainment, this film delivers genuine laughs instead of just a smile as the next battle scene rolls in. The emphasis on humor is apparent throughout the movie, showcasing chubby dragons and bumbling cadavers that keep the chuckles going.

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What sets this film apart from the last five years of MCU flicks is its polished visual style, thanks to the directors and cinematographer who took the time to create a visually appealing movie. Filmed on location in Northern Ireland and Iceland, it has a distinct look, though not quite like a Peter Jackson film. The use of practical effects in creature designs also adds to the movie’s appeal and occasional belly laughs.

Hugh Grant and Regé-Jean Page steal the show as two of the secret weapons for landing the loudest guffaws. Grant plays Forge, a con man and scoundrel, stealing scenes with his overbearingly smarmy presence and constant self-promotion. Bridgerton’s Page plays Xenk, a Paladin and the most noble and holy class of knight in the role-playing game. Xenk comes off as insufferable to Edgin, played by Chris Pine, and the scenes between Pine and Page hint at a buddy comedy that could have been in a different script.

While Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is primarily an outright comedy, some of the dramatic moments fall flat in its attempt to cover all the bases. As the plot twists unfold, it becomes predictable, and viewers may anticipate the direction of the story long before the characters do. Additionally, not all members of the questing party receive equal attention, and the conflicts that Lillis and Smith’s characters face feel tacked on, especially when compared to the others who are allowed to go with the flow.

However, these minor issues do not detract from the overall enjoyment of the film, which left the SXSW audience eager to go on the journey again with their own guilds at home. In a time of generic franchises, this movie’s off-color magic stands out and makes for an entertaining ride.

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