With Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit trilogy movies along with HBO’s A Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon television series, one would think that another popular medieval fantasy franchise such as Dungeons and Dragons being turned into a big time popular media platform would be a home run, or as the role-players would say, a “natural twenty” on a D20, but truth be told this isn’t the franchise’s 1st attempt.
Its last foray into the big screen was last 2000 with one of my favorite actors Jeremy Irons being cast, and boy that was quite the let-down. To be fair there is no immunity to box office bombs just because geek entertainment is one of the favorites nowadays in the movie theatres. However, the latest Dungeons and Dragons movie entitled “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” turned out to be a fun film to watch and far, far from the embarrassment of its 2000 attempt at the silver screen.
I got to say that Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, directors and screenwriters, I assume have been rolling a bunch of numerical multi-sided rocks and landed some pretty good rolls on their challenge tests, because they got this film right. So let us address the obvious first. It is a heist film. The protagonists aren’t heroes per se but are anti-heroes. The plot isn’t some grand epic like Lord of the Rings.
What it does have is a lite adventure, goofy to low bar comedy, good action scenes, character development, honest emotional content, and some clever moments for a film set in a fantasy setting. It is nothing revolutionary but it is a well-constructed piece of entertainment and quite frankly better than some of the big budget films released this year. I can honestly say that you don’t need to know anything about the Dungeons and Dragons franchise to enjoy the movie however to those who are familiar and just plain fans of the game, there are many, many references to the film you can relate to.
The plot is very character driven. Chris Pine as Edgin Darvis a charming bard, secret agent who wanted a better life for his family turned into a disillusioned, cynical but still charming bard/thief leads the ragtag group of criminals. Though not the strongest or most capable fighter among the group, Edgin is one of the top two charismatic characters in the film and is probably the one with the highest “Luck” stat. His character development is honestly predictable and nothing new. He is the glue of the team, the inspirational/delusional talker, the loser that need a break. His character is much like a popular yet common ice cream flavor among the different ice cream brands, a flavor that never really goes out of style.
Joining Chris’ character is Edgin’s best friend the stern, brooding warrior Holga Kilgore played by Michelle Rodriguez. She is the rock of the group. A proud warrior who made some I would not call poor life choices but didn’t really went the way she thought it would, ends up helping Edgin and they have been besties ever since. For the films humor, she is one of the group’s setups for their comedic executions, but she does have her subtle wit. A strong and capable fighter but she is no blunt instrument. She is a stubborn and reluctant to grow character but she gets there.
The other characters include an unreliable yet dorky sorcerer named Simon Aumar performed by Justice Smith; a humorless, straight walker, “Mr. No Compromise My Virtues” paladin named Xenk Yendar portrayed by Regé-Jean Page; and the hyper-confident druid named Doric played by Sophia Lillis. The cast is rounded up with Hugh Grant as the smooth talking conman/lord bad guy Forge Fitzwilliam, Daisy Head as Sofina the obvious red flag (it really doesn’t get any more obvious that she’s the badest gal), and Chloe Coleman as Kira Darvis the daughter of our main hero and the film’s designated prized possession.
Visually, Honor Among Thieves is as impressive as one might hope from a present day fantasy film. The set design is well done. I especially like the Underdark location with some of the most striking set pieces. The creatures are rendered with the full CG menagerie of the Monster Manual collection on display. Rest assured that you will get to see a dragon in this flick and then some.
The overall plot is simple, yet it’s been layered with the backstories and character building of our team of protagonists. As I mentioned earlier, it is a heist film and to perform this heist our main hero Edgin needs a team. Half of the film is about getting the team together and the other half is making it all work. It helps that our band of “heroes” is made up of and criminals, as characters that live more in shades of gray which is much more suitable for the kind of humor they are putting on.
It has betrayal, plans not going according to plan, over-coming weaknesses, meme worthy moments, and some convenient story solutions to progress the plot. I find the story’s pacing somewhat strange, most especially with Rege-Jean Page character as Xenk the paladin. Page dominates the scene during his onscreen time but he’s not always present. The fight scenes are essential where most of the action packed brawls come from Holga, Xenk and Doric (well not really Doric the tiefling but more of her full CG shapeshifting self).
I like how “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” manages to deliver, from somewhat contemporary drama to slapstick humor, and of course the kind of action you would want from a fantasy adventure story. If you are just tired of another Marvel movie but still want to get your geek on in the movie house, then this film is for you. If you just want to have a few laughs and have a good time without expectations, then I recommend this film. It is truly a FUN film to watch that emphasizes on character growth and not so much world building.