Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Review – An Absolute Romp for Avid Players & Newcomers Alike

Dungeons & Dragons, or D&D, has long been a name that people have perhaps heard, but not truly known. Whether experienced in passing, or partaking, the now Hasbro owned fantasy tabletop role-playing game has danced the edges of popular culture since it was developed in the early to mid-70s by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. With a long history of criticism, the last 5-10 years have been much kinder to D&D, having seen a boom in not only its popularity, but also the respect it has garnered as a boiling pot of creativity and community.

Thanks to the likes of its revised, fifth edition ruleset being released around 2014 and a growing online presence due to creative teams such as Critical Role (who themselves have since had their online campaign turned into an Amazon Original animated series) and Dimension 20, Dungeons and Dragons has never been more popular. And with this popularity, there was of course a film in the pipeline somewhere.

Cut to 2023 and thanks to the talents of writers and directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, with additional writing efforts from Michael Gilio and Chris McKay, comes the new fantastical adventure, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. Telling the tale of Edgin, a charming bard portrayed by Chris Pine, and a band of adventurers as they embark on an epic journey across Neverwinter to retrieve a lost relic, but in typical D&D fashion, things go dangerously awry when they cross paths with the wrong people.

Where Honor Among Thieves immediately succeeds is introducing its audience to a world as rich with lore as that of D&D. Daley and Goldstein have truly captured the essence of being a part of a D&D campaign. Complete with item hunts, memorable side characters, spells that make no sense and hidden obstacles to serve no other purpose than throw the party off its path; the film absolutely nails the feeling of the game. With this, it’s clear that the film was helmed by passionate people who were willing to treat its source with open arms and sincerity. The bonus of all this, is that despite the innumerable references to spells, locations and characters, they are never overbearing for an unsuspecting audience.

Daley and Goldstein, with the help of Gilio and McKay, have done the seemingly impossible and bottled the right mix of lore, character and story to make Honor Among Thieves welcoming to even the most uninitiated audience members. Striking a terrific balance of fantastical adventure, action and comedy, this crew has a serious crowd pleaser on their hands. This energy and excitement is felt in the film’s cast too, who all appear to care about what it is they are making together and have a blast while doing it (not unlike a D&D game).

As mentioned, Chris Pine acts as the film’s heart as Edgin the Bard, who is tackling this quest to regain his daughter’s trust and return her home. As charismatic as he is deceptive, Pine strikes the emotional beats as well as he does the comedic, which seem to come quite naturally to him. Surrounding him are his band of thieves; with Holga the Barbarian (Michelle Rodriguez), Simon the Sorcerer (Justice Smith), Forge the Rogue (Hugh Grant), Doric the Druid (Sophia Lillis) and Xenx the Paladin (Regé-Jean Page). Whether it’s in Rodriguez’ enraged fights, Smith’s uncertain spellcasting or Lillis’ shapeshifting shenanigans, all are strong in their performances and get their individual moments to shine and revel in their respective characters’ quirks and abilities.

The film’s comedic elements mostly come from well-crafted and well-timed jokes that serve a purpose to the moment with genuine buildup to the punchline. In a cinematic landscape of mostly self-aware humor, though the film isn’t entirely innocent from it, there is a refreshing feeling to seeing comedy treated with a sense of sincerity and genuine care. Perhaps firing more often than not, the comedy never truly feels out of place in a world so fantastical. It is also balanced well with the more emotional beats of the film, as well as the action, which is executed strongly by Daley and Goldstein.

With moments of magical chaos, enraged axe fights and a oner chase sequence that harkens back to the egg scene from the duos last film, Game Night, Daley and Goldstein continue to establish their voices behind the camera. With a clear sense of direction in the film’s larger moments, the audience never feels lost in the chaos of passing spells and magical creatures. Highlighted toward the film’s climax, in a maze sequence that features an array of magic and monsters, which is preceded by actual dungeons and dragons (don’t worry, they’re in there), the directing duo prove themselves to be fit for a film of this scope.

Standing out, in a world as outlandish as this, are the film’s visual effects. With a large amount of practical and digital effects, there is a seamless blend between the two, which all but adds to the immersive nature of Neverwinter, its cast of residents, creatures and spells. Again, in a landscape of bluescreen reliance and subpar visual effects in these big budget spectacles, it’s a welcome reminder that blockbusters can look and feel as tangible as this.

Perhaps slightly let down by what is a somewhat rushed climax, the film overall is an absolute pleasure from start to finish. Baring its heart on its sleeve, the film is an ode to its source, while serving as a welcoming entry point for newcomers who have perhaps been overwhelmed by D&D in the past. John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein and the entire crew have managed to truly capture the feeling of Dungeons & Dragons. With action, comedy and fantastical adventures that anyone can enjoy, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a glorious addition to the fantasy genre and one that hopefully spur more stories within this world.

Directors: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein

Cast: Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Justice Smith

Writers: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein, Michael Gilio, (story by Gilio and Chris McKay)

Blake Ison

My name is Blake Ison and I am a film fan based in Brisbane. I have no professional knowledge of the industry, but love discussing all things to do with the medium. I’m a nerd through and through, so I have a major soft spot for all things genre. Hope you enjoy my ramblings!

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