Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Review – Rolls the Dice and Completes a Successful Campaign as a Rollicking Crowd-pleaser

You may have never picked up a twenty-sided die in your life, or you may be a dab hand at the most popular role-playing tabletop game, well, ever. Either way there is something for the novice and the master in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. Cleverly directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein with a script by them and Michael Gilio [story by Gilio and Chris McKay] the movie is witty, well-paced, and wise enough to know how silly it is yet still sustaining a substantial heart.

The plot relies on a lot of the randomness of the game, the “let’s make a plan” aspect coming into play often as well as the “we need to get x from y to defeat z.” However, if that was all there was to it then you might as well just play the game. In stating that the same could be applied to a somewhat similar in tone series Guardians of the Galaxy, because without the directors’ particular vision informing the text, you might as well just read the comics.

Helmed by a charming and very funny Chris Pine, we follow the story of Edgin Darvis (Pine) who was once a bard and a member of the upright Harpers – an organisation devoted to fighting evil, specifically the necromancers the Red Wizards. Unfortunately for Edgin his time with the Harpers led to the Red Wizards finding his home and murdering his wife leaving Edgin a broken and guilty man barely able to care for his infant daughter. The barbarian Holga takes pity on his daughter and begrudgingly by extension, Edgin. The two who are outcasts for different reasons (Holga for marrying outside the barbarians for love) form a makeshift family with Edgin’s daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman) take to thieving and team up with other outcasts; the not very confident nor skilled sorcerer Simon Aurmar (Justice Smith) and the bound to betray them con-man Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant) who has brought along with the mysterious Sofina (Daisy Head).

All of this exposition is delivered in a masterful fashion at a tribunal where Edgin and Holga are arguing for their release from prison for stealing from a Harpers’ Hold. It was indeed a set up, and they were indeed betrayed. Just as they are about to receive their pardon, they stage a ludicrous prison break and go on the run trying to find Kira who has been left in the care of Forge.

Forge, of course, is a weasel and makes it abundantly clear to Edgin and Holga that he not only will not assist them, he has no intention of giving Kira back to Edgin. He has instead been slowly poisoning her against her father by suggesting the relic that Edgin was trying to steal was a token that would grant untold riches, when instead it was a resurrection tablet that Edgin hoped would bring back his deceased wife. Forge is now the Lord of Neverwinter with Sofina by his side. Dastardly plans are afoot…

With Forge and Sofina’s guard made up of reanimated Thay (Red Wizards) on their trail Edgin and Holga must find a way to break back into Neverwinter to get Kira. Of course, this means finding a new guild which sees them reunite with the still unsuccessful Simon who suggests they team with Doric (Sophia Lillis), a tiefling druid who has been living with the wood elves and is in the Emerald Enclave a resistance movement against Forge and his destruction of their forests for gain.

That is a lot of set up, but in any quest styled piece the set up is only half of what makes it work. The other half, of course, is how the job is done. Daley and Goldstein make the most of the “getting it done” part of the film. After spending an hilarious but also grisly time in a barbarian graveyard digging up corpses looking for a helm that will protect the group from Sofina’s magic and an unbreakable sigil (look out for the voices of the Aunty Donna boys in the Australian version), the rag-tag group meet the smouldering and heroic paladin, Xenk Yendar (Regé-Jean Page) who was once a citizen of the beleaguered Thay.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves makes the most of the cast’s various skills. Michelle Rodriguez of course kicks butt with alacrity but she’s also given some comedic and sincere moments. Justice Smith makes the clumsy and shy Simon come to life and has a sweet chemistry with Sophia Lillard’s Doric. Hugh Grant is clearly having fun in his sleazeball era, and really, would we have it any other way? Chris Pine proves that he’s an all-rounder managing to make Edgin ridiculous, clever, sympathetic, heroic, and the lynchpin of the guild. Regé-Jean Page just appearing on screen will be enough for some viewers, yet his presence not only provides a pivotal realisation for Edgin, it also explains what the Red Wizards are capable of.

There is of course an excess of CGI in the movie but none of it really takes away from the wackiness at its core and doesn’t distract from the practical effects. There are too fat dragons, strange portals, statues coming to life, Doric’s shapeshifting skill. All are employed with a wink to knowing that it’s a bit over the top and that it’s all in good fun.

All in good fun could be the tagline for the film if it wasn’t for the fact it also has significant character arcs that involve found families and how important they are. Crowd pleasers often get a bad rap for doing what they can to give the audience a satisfying filmic experience. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves really does want to please the crowd and achieves its goal. A successful campaign completed, and one they can roll the dice on again if they wish or leave it where it stands.

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)

Nadine Whitney

Nadine Whitney holds qualifications in cinema, literature, cultural studies, education and design. When not writing about film, art or books, she can be found napping and missing her cat.

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