As someone who used to play the popular tabletop role playing game back in the 80s and 90s (and reintroduced to the world and made popular again by ‘Stranger Things’), seeing the trailer of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves tickled my childhood fantasies. In the trailer, I saw creatures I’ve fought in the game like The Displacer Beast and the Gelatinous Cube. It’s all geekdom and nerd-lore but that’s the realm by which ‘Dungeon & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’ is trying to strike a chord with. And by all means, it works.
There’s an almost improvisational structure to the narrative of the film, which reminds me of how it’s like to actually play the game. Rather than laying down and establishing all the moving parts early on, we discover side quests that are needed to beat the big boss of the film. There are even three stories told within the main story – again, very reminiscent of the actual tabletop role playing game – but you don’t have to have played the game to enjoy this movie. The characters, most especially the duo of Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez, is actually enough to carry the movie through.
‘Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’ is a fantasy action heist movie with Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez as Edgin and Holga, partners in both petty crime and raising Edgin’s daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman). When one job goes horribly wrong, Edgin and Holga find themselves in prison and take on a quest to get free and find Kira. The first part is easy but the second part, means they’d have to go against a former ally Forge Fitzwilliam (played by Hugh Grant, who is obviously having a blast) and their former client Sofina (Daisy Head), who happens to be a powerful wizard.
So the narrative shifts from a simple rescue mission to a complicated caper that includes mystical items to break through a very powerful kingdom. Along the way they gather the sorcerer Simon (Justice Smith, a shape-shifting druid (Sophia Lillis), and the Paladin Xenk (Rege-Jean Page).
It’s a team caper film with a lot of moving parts and each segment is hinged upon the special skills of one of the main characters or a magical item that happens to be in their arsenal. It’s not particularly clever plot-wise, in fact, there’s very little friction or true struggle in the film. You get this feeling that they’ll figure it out regardless of what obstacle gets in their way. ‘Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’ is lightweight and easy in tone and mood and that’s actually its charm.
‘Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’ is not out to put you through a ringer. Instead, it’s out to give you a good time and enjoy a hassle-free adventure. It’s generous in its gags and jokes and plenty of battle sequences. It’s a by-the-numbers adventure film where the stakes aren’t that high but the enjoyment level is still quite high.
And surprisingly, it manages two very touching scenes, both involving Pine, Rodriguez, and Coleman, which serve as the heart of the film. For all its lightweight charm and its incessant use of one-shot techniques and CGI effects to showcase the full extent of a shapeshifting druid’s abilities, the film surprises you with tender moments full of heart. The dynamic and relationship that the film manages to establish between Edgin, Holga, and Kira surprises us with a strongly beating heart at the center of this movie.
More than anything, it’s just nice to see a totally different world in the cinema that’s not superhero related nor some reboot of some old tv show or movie. It’s a completely new set of characters and adventure and while it is set in a familiar world – familiar to those who know the world of Dungeons & Dragons, most specifically the Forgotten Realms campaign setting – it still feels new and refreshing.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is now showing in cinemas nationwide. Buy your tickets here