Published on April 28th, 2023 | by Douglas Rasmussen0
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
Do you need to be a Dungeons & Dragons fan to enjoy Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves? We roll the dice to find out!
Firstly, I should say that I was coming into this film as a relative newbie to the world of Dragons & Dragons and roleplaying as a hobby. I know people who play them, who are really into this property, but I’m not much of a gamer myself. I played once or twice in high school, but I can’t say that I was interested enough to pursue it as a hobby. Great for all those who do roleplaying games, imagination is important, but it isn’t for me.
The reason I mention this is because one of the concerns I had going into this movie was that I’m unfamiliar with the world and likely miss a lot of the details. Fantasy can be an unforgiving genre in that sense, heavily preoccupied with world-building, such as we see with the Lord of the Rings books and movies and Game of Thrones television series (from the two or three episodes that I’ve seen). And fantasy as a genre isn’t one that usually appeals to me, so I was hesitant to see this movie on the big screen.
However, the trailers looked fun, and I was at least curious. As someone not versed in the Dragons & Dragons lore, let alone the fantasy genre as a whole, I was pleasantly surprised. The film was an enjoyable romp and just a good bit of escapism. I wouldn’t say it was a great film, but certainly a good film. It has its issues, but generally is enjoyable and accessible enough that anyone who’s at least read or watched a basic hero’s quest adventure story will likely have a good time with Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.
Having said that, there are some flaws in the movie. The movie has a rough beginning, and I was worried that I was going to have to sit through two hours of exposition dialogue. The movie starts off with nearly twenty minutes of character backstory that, to be perfectly honest, was somewhat tedious to watch. It wasn’t until we get all the character’s introductions out of the way and we have the first action set piece, which is Doric’s (Sophia Lillis) chase scene as a wild shape (which, the movie tells us, are druids who can shift into the shape of any animal, including something called an Owlbear, which was definitely one of the movie’s highlights) where she changes into a number of different animals. It’s the first hint that this movie has something fun to offer the audience.
Which points to one of the movie’s deficits: pacing. Some scenes leap off the screen with fun and excitement, or in some cases, humor, but there are sections that do drag on. There is a middle section of the movie that didn’t seem to move the story along or was particularly interesting, but luckily these were blanched with scenes that were fun enough that it balanced the movie out.
The scenes that work the best are indeed the action scenes, with three set pieces that are particularly notable. The aforementioned wild shape chase, a great scene in the underdark (basically Hades) where they square off against undead assassins and then a chase sequence with a dragon that is a great reveal for the film and leads to a fantastic chase scene, and the final action scene that begins with a deadly competition and ends with a final battle against the movie’s main villain (and features a return of the Owlbear!).
Aside from the action, the humor and the characters generally work well in the movie as well. Or, rather, I should say that about half the jokes in the movie land well, the other half doesn’t as much. But that’s not an entirely bad ratio as far as most comedies go. The jokes failed not because they were too insider for me and went over my head, but rather flopped because the filmmakers are aiming through volume with the jokes and half are just likely to miss their target.
The characters are, for the most part, likable and entertaining. Especially Chris Pine’s bard, who acts as the movie’s lead protagonist. Even the Paladin Xenk (Regé-Jean Page), who is a bit of a drip (and overpowered, which is why they wisely decided to have him only in the Underdark section), works because they make jokes at his expense. Edgin (Pine) cutting Zenk off just when he is about to go into a lengthy backstory is one of the jokes that does work. The remaining cast of Michelle Rodgriguez (Holga Kilgore, a bad-ass Xena-like warrior) and Simon Omar (Justice Smith) as the insecure wizard also work well and provide some good moments in the movie.
The villains are a mix. There are two notable ones, Forge (Hugh Grant), who plays on his image in a delightful way in this movie, and an evil wizard named Sofina (Daisy Head), who is bent on world domination, or some such typically nefarious plan. Sofina is a bit of a weak spot as she isn’t especially interesting as a character, but is also necessary for the plot to move forwards (Forge wouldn’t work as a solo villain, he’s more of an unwitting dupe), and she does make a good action climax in the film.
All in all, a solid and entertaining movie. Without the world-building that is inherent to so many fantasy films, the viewer can just sit back and relax and enjoy the pure escapism of the movie. Not everything works, and it’s not without its flaws, but enough does work that you won’t be bored watching Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among thieves.