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Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Review

March 31, 2023 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Image Credit: Paramount Pictures
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Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Review  

Directed By: John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein
Written By: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein, Michael Gilio, and Chris McKay; Based on Hasbro’s Dungeons & Dragons
Runtime: 134 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for fantasy action/violence

Chris Pine – Edgin Darvis
Michelle Rodriguez – Holga Kilgore
Justice Smith – Simon Aumar
Sophia Lillis – Doric
Hugh Grant – Forge Fitzwilliam
Regé-Jean Page – Xenk Yendar
Daisy Head – Sofina
Chloe Coleman – Kira Darvis
Ian Hanmore – Szass Tam
Georgia Landers – Zia

The original system that defined fantasy tabletop role-playing games, Dungeons & Dragons, gets another chance on the big screen with Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. Paramount Pictures imbues the action-comedy fantasy flick with a giant-sized budget, accompanied by A-list cast. The results are surprisingly satisfying in what is probably one of the most overachieving popcorn films of the year. Thanks to the infectious energy of the Date Night directing duo John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, Honor Among Thieves is a fantasy adventure that performs above expectations.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is set in the Forgotten Realms setting familiar to fans of the original game. In the land Faerûn, Edgin Darvis (Pine) is a down-on-his-luck bard sentenced to a hefty prison sentence in a glacial prison for thievery. In his old life, Edgin was a benevolent spy and member of the Harpers faction, happily married to his wife Zia (Landers) and father to their newborn daughter Kira, living a modest life. Unfortunately, all that gets ripped away when a misguided attempt to provide for his family brings nefarious Red Wizards of Thay to their doorstep, and Zia is murdered. That leads Edgin to renounce his Harper’s oath and turn to a life of crime, joined by his new companion and partner, Holga Kilgore (Rodriguez); a barbarian warrior exiled by her tribe. When they are offered a heist to retrieve a priceless artifact that has the power to resurrect Edgin’s wife, Edgin and Holga are betrayed by their nefarious client, the mage Sofina, who freezes the group in a time-stopping bubble, stealing a magical artifact with a deadly purpose.

Thanks to Edgin’s penchant for improvisation and strategy, Edgin and Holga escape from their icy prison and seek to reunite with their old partner, Forge Fitzwilliam, who raised Kira (Coleman) while they were in prison and managed to become the Lord of Neverwinter. Unfortunately, Forge was in on Holga and Edgin’s betrayal, turning Kira against her beloved father. After another hasty escape, Edgin and Holga must now put together a team to break into Forge’s vault, steal the resurrection artifact, earn back Kira’s trust, and somehow manage to stop the sinister Sofina, who is secretly a subject of the evil Red Wizard Szass Tam. For their squad, they recruit their old second-grade sorcerer buddy, Simon Aumar (Smith), and a rebel fighter of the Emerald Conclave, the Wild Shape druid Doric (Lillis). Doric mainly wants to unseat Fitzwilliam since Fitzwilliam’s regime is encroaching on the Emerald Conclave’s land and destroying the Conclave’s homes. The odds are against the misfit quartet, and they are going to need some good dice rolls to make it out of this situation alive.

One thing about the film that’s been undersold by the ads and marketing material for Honor Among Thieves concerns the remarkable amount of practical effects, costumes, and characters. The land of Faerûn looks wide, epic, and cinematic. The fantasy realm is filled with races and characters beyond humanoid ones. In addition to humans and dwarves, there are elves, tiefling, the felonious Tabaxi, and even Dragonborn. The Dragonborn are brought to life with practical, in-camera, good old-fashioned animatronics, and costume work, and they look spectacular.

Honor Among Thieves does not skimp on massive CGI and visual effects, especially where magical spells and the titular dragons are concerned. However, the balance between practical and CGI is much more balanced for such a major budgeted studio release. Daley and Goldstein achieve an impressive verisimilitude in bringing the world of Faerûn to life.

Notable is the tone Daley and Goldstein are going for here. As a film, Honor Among Thieves wears its influences on its sleeves. The film is comedic, but the stakes are legitimate. The action and fight scenes have a strong sense of weight. When wizards engage in a magical duel, the spells have an interesting style and flair. The film puts genuine thought into the magical system and obeys its internal rules and logic. In terms of Edgin and his band, each member brings something different to the table, even Edgin, who is not a gifted combatant. As filmmakers, Daley and Goldstein capture the spirit of friends getting together at a table and going on a fantasy quest with the various high jinks and jokes that come with a D&D gameplay session.

The central cast members have exceptional charm and chemistry with one another. Pine’s Edgin and Rodriguez’s Holga share a deep familial bond, along with Kira, that is genuinely sweet. Regé-Jean Page emerges as the designated scene-stealer of Honor Among Thieves as the noble paladin, Xenk Yendar. The marketing campaign has somewhat exaggerated Page’s role in the film. His role is smaller than expected, but Page makes the most of his screen time. Xenk Yendar is a heroic individual, but he takes everything seriously and has no sense of humor, resulting in amusing repartees with the main band.

Hugh Grant provides a riotous performance as the scoundrel Fitzwilliam. Thankfully, the script makes his alliances clear at the outset, so the movie doesn’t dwell too much on the idea that he’s an honorable scoundrel worthy of the heroes’ trust. There is no contrived bait-and-switch to lure the audience with Fitzwilliam’s witty charm. Fitzwilliam is a scoundrel through and through, and Grant plays him to maximum sliminess.

The main drawback is that the narrative takes some time to find its footing. Once the stakes and the main band are finally together, the story settles into a nice groove. The opening act isn’t necessarily clunky as it has a certain roughness in setting up the main quest and the villains’ objective. During an early Q&A screening, the filmmakers revealed that additional scenes were added from reshoots to establish the villains’ motives, so apparently, it was an issue during the editing process.

The overall structure is very familiar and often predictable. It owes a lot to the Marvel Studios’ house style. Those fingerprints are evident as Jeremy Latcham, one of the original architects of the MCU, is the producer of Honor Among Thieves. These elements do not seriously hurt the film or viewing experience but are difficult to ignore.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a fun, satisfying fantasy adventure that embraces its tabletop gameplay roots and welcomes novices of the art form. It’s a comedic, action-filled romp that doesn’t let the humor get in the way of genuine stakes and looks marvelous.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves defines overachieving as a cinematic experience that performs above expectations with impressive practical visual effects, an immersive fantasy world, and charming, likable underdog characters. Whether this sparks a new franchise or not, it demonstrates that a variety of styles, genre mixing, and fantasy can work. Fans of the games will likely enjoy the various cameos and Easter eggs. Honor Among Thieves is a popcorn movie where one can have fun without checking their brain at the door because the filmmakers perform the effort to uphold its internal logic.