It seemed like an impossible feat to bring Dungeons & Dragons to life, especially considering the game doesn’t have any one story to adapt to the big screen. But Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves — directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein from a screenplay they wrote in partnership with Michael Gilio — is appealing to those who have played and those who haven’t. The film is entertaining, wildly funny, and the cast gels together incredibly well. While the characters are not too deep, and the plot occasionally stuffed, Honor Among Thieves delivers a thrilling fantasy adventure that, though long, never wanes in its enjoyment.
Two years after being imprisoned for attempting to steal gold and a magical artifact, Edgin (Chris Pine) and best friend Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) hatch a plan to escape and return to Edgin’s daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman). However, she isn’t pleased to see him, believing that he valued riches over her. After realizing they’d been betrayed by an old friend, Edgin and Holga recruit friends old and new — including the sorcerer Simon (Justice Smith), the druid Doric (Sophia Lillis), and paladin Xenk (Regé-Jean Page) — and they set out to retrieve the artifact they had once been after in a bid to save everyone from Sofina, a Red Wizard of Thay (Daisy Head), who has nefarious plans for the population of Neverwinter.
Honor Among Thieves is at its best when it’s focused on the personal stakes. The side adventures are fun and hilarious, but it’s the characters’ camaraderie that really shines and makes everything all that much more exciting. There’s an overarching narrative regarding the Red Wizards, but it’s not as worthwhile or compelling as the conflict between Edgin and Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant), Lord of Neverwinter, as it involves the former’s daughter and the latter’s plans. Edgin’s friendship with Holga, his belief in Simon as a sorcerer, and in Doric’s abilities keeps everyone together. There is loyalty and trust that is built into their relationship, and it’s what strengthens the film and has one believing in their journeys, as well as in how much they can accomplish together.
The action sequences are well-choreographed and the special effects believable, and the musical score by — is lovely and memorable. Everything from the costumes to the hair, makeup and production design is beautiful. Honor Among Thieves really leans into the fantastical elements, and the characters’ travels allow the audience to take in the variety of places and creatures that exist within this world. Crucially, the film acknowledges that failure is always an option, and is a good thing because it at least means one tried. It also touches upon how easy it can be to lose sight of what’s important because of past hurt, the importance of letting go, and in believing in oneself instead of relying on others for validation.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is greatly elevated by a charismatic cast, all of whom seem to be having a blast with the material and the world in which their fictional counterparts exist. Pine and Rodriguez are the pair no one knew they needed until now. They light up the screen and make for a comedic duo. Smith and Lillis are solid as Simon and Doric, but it’s Page who is a scene-stealer as the very straight-laced paladin who is the moral opposite of the thieves he aligns with, and his moments with the other actors, though brief, are some of the funniest in the film.
The film is quite long, but it doesn’t drag or get bogged down too much by all that’s happening. It moves swiftly enough for audiences to keep up and remains engaging because of the characters, adventure, and changes in location. It’s a fully realized world and one can’t help but be immersed in it. That said, Honor Among Thieves’ world is so vast that it’s occasionally difficult to keep up with all the references for those who have not played the game, but it doesn’t detract from the overall story. Dungeons & Dragons may have a lot going on plot-wise, but the filmmakers imbued the film with a lot of love and fun, and it shows. The film is infectiously exuberant, with kinetic energy that never lets up. Paired with its lighthearted tone, Honor Among Thieves is a wildly good time at the movies.
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Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves premiered at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival on March 10. The film will be released in theaters March 31. It is 134 minutes long and rated PG-13 for fantasy action/violence and some language.