When it was first released in 1974, the tabletop roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons swept the globe. It has been adapted into dozens of different genres, including video games, cartoons, web series, and movies, and is widely regarded as the forefather of all contemporary role-playing games. The most recent effort to adapt the popular board game into a feature film is Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. Honor Among Thieves is a welcome breath of fresh air in the fantasy genre, but it falls short of the lofty ideals of its models.
In Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, Chris Pine portrays the bard Edgin Darvis, who is on a mission to find a misplaced artifact and win Chloe Coleman back as his daughter. Along for the ride are the adventurer Forge Fitzwilliam, played by Hugh Grant, the rogue Holga Kilgore, played by Michelle Rodriguez, the sorcerer Simon Aumar, played by Justice Smith, the druid Doric, played by Sophia Lillis, the paladin Xenk Yendar, played by Rege-Jean Page, and the paladin Xenk Yendar, played by Daisy Head as Sofina.While a perfectly good fantasy story on its own, it falls short of capturing the two main reasons why D&D players enjoy the game: forging relationships in unexpected places and the unpredictable nature of the dice.
Most of the plot of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is glossed over in the first 30 minutes of the movie, focusing instead on the repercussions of a character’s betrayal that occurred off-screen and did not speak up until that point. While many would assume that the story of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves would revolve around Chris Pine assembling his adventuring team to acquire the relic. There isn’t much time spent forming relationships between characters who are introduced later and have never met before, aside from the one whose development they service. Honor Among Thieves gives the impression that a number of very loosely linked characters are experiencing their own problems, in contrast to movies like The Guardians of the Galaxy and The Goonies.
Fortunately, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves excels in its cast of personalities. Rege-Jean Page and Chloe Coleman’s characters are written to be as stiff as physically possible, but even though the dialogue is far from perfect, every performer gives it their all. Every scene they are in is guaranteed to make you smile, but the rest of the ensemble is able to stand alongside Chris Pine and Hugh Grant even in the most challenging ones.
Even Page is able to elevate the character above the predictable part he plays in the plot, despite the fact that his comparatively minor role in the movie seems to be more inspired by Dave Bautista’s Drax than any paladin archetype.
It’s unlikely that a Dungeons & Dragons remake would be described as predictable, but the movie consistently seems to go against its more untamed tendencies. No plot development truly catches the audience off guard the way a Nat 20 or Critical Failure does in a D&D game, despite a few instances of truly elevated creativity. Even though Wild Magic is one of the most unpredictable aspects of any game, the movie only makes a passing reference to it. It even goes so far as to sand down the inherent qualities of its leads that make them the most intriguing. Any fan who enters the movie anticipating a Barbarian outburst, a Bard using magic, or even the mention of spell cells is likely to be let down.
The movie’s aesthetic surprises are also lacking. No shot in the movie is by any means poorly constructed or even remotely unappealing. With the few exceptions being connected to the Druid’s Wildshape ability, very few of the visuals, however, are truly capable of hooking a viewer in and making viewers lose themselves in the world. Only a small number of characters inhabit a universe that strangely consists entirely of humans. Even the Tiefling Druid abandons all pretense of intriguing character design in favor of simply existing as a human with a pair of what many would mistakenly consider to be headband-sized horns. The non-human characters and magical performances that do exist in the world appear incredible; it’s just that there could be more of them.
One would find it difficult to be wholly dissatisfied with Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves despite its many flaws. Although the dialogue isn’t awful, it could be improved. Although not particularly stunning, the visuals do appear good. Consistently funny and endearing, with just enough of its wild side to keep the spectator intrigued about what will happen next. After a decade of serious fantasy with Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, this would be an above-average genre movie that helps to bring the light and excitement back to the genre. However, with programs like Dimension 20 and Critical Role, fans of Dungeons & Dragons have been treated to some of the finest narrative material in the series’ history. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves struggles a little when measured up against those models of excellence.
Overall thoughts: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves stands on its own as an entirely above-average fantasy film that brings fun back to the genre after years of a mature slant. However, when put next to its contemporaries as an adaptation, Dungeons & Dragons fans may wish that the film leaned a bit more into its wild side.
Overall impressions: After years of a more serious tone, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves stands alone as a completely above-average fantasy movie that revives the fun of the genre. However, Dungeons & Dragons fans might wish that the movie leaned a little more toward its wild side when compared to its peers as an adaptation.
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