Dungeons & Dragons has been a part of my life for many years. During the beginning of the pandemic, every Friday my friends and I would gather over Zoom, diving into our characters and forgetting about the problems of the world. While I don’t play nearly as much as I would like anymore, D&D has remained an integral part of my identity. So when Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves was first announced, I was ecstatic.
In recent years, many game adaptations have caused fans trepidation, Dungeons & Dragons seemed the perfect game for film. Essentially, an adaptation does what every DM and player does on a weekly basis; tell a new tale in an established but expansive world. Bringing this quest to life are directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Michel Gillio.
The cast is star-studded, with talent from every genre and caliber coming together and rolling a D20 for initiation. So was Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves a hit for me? Or was this a Natural 1 during the big boss fight? Let’s explore just what I thought about this film.
[Warning: light spoilers from Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves are below!]
Edgin (Chris Pine) describes a tragic backstory
Life has not been kind to our band of merry adventurers, especially Edgin the bard, played by Chris Pine. He’s arguably the main character of the film, with the story of Honor Among Thieves following his misfortune more so than anyone else. The initial section of the movie uses frame storytelling, to show how Edgin ended up in prison, a fortress similar to the wall from Game of Thrones, snow and all.
Edgin, appealing his and his best barbarian friend Holga’s (Michelle Rodriguez) case to a panel of judges, recounts the events of how he went from someone who had it all to manacles and chains. He was once a member of The Harpers, a semi-secret organization that polices the land of Neverwinter to main the balance between good and evil. However, his actions within the organization paint a target on his back and that of his family. Losing his wife to some angry Red Wizards, Edgin’s life was thrown into chaos.
He struggles to raise his daughter and turns to a life of drinking and thieving to survive, although he meets Holga along the way who helps him care for the young baby. The two work together along with Simon (Justice Smith), a frustratingly bad sorcerer, and the ruthless yet charming Forge (Hugh Grant).
On the last mission together prior to his and Holga’s incarceration, in search of a resurrection tablet to bring back Edgin’s wife, the group is betrayed. All this exposition is narrated hilariously by Pine in the first ten or so minutes, setting up the story for the rest of the two-hour or so film.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’ adventurous journey
The story moves away from the prison, as Edgin and Holga travel back to their roots in search of Kira (Chloe Coleman), Edgin’s daughter. Although, the farther they travel, the more they realize how much everything has changed. Where once Forge had been grimy and poor, now stands the Lord of Neverwinter. Housed along with him is Kira, however, it’s not as simple as walking in and getting his daughter back from the aristocratic society.
Joining him on this new adventure, which takes them from corner to corner of the map, is his old mate Simon, as well as two new individuals who are looking for retribution of their own. Doric (Sophia Lillis), a tiefling druid living with the Emerald Enclave, is looking to protect the forest in which she lives from those looking to destroy it. Xenk Yendar (Regé-Jean Page), a paladin, is the last to join the group but the key to success for the mission.
Together, this misfit group of warriors set off together, however, hilarious mishaps happen continuously, making this the D&D campaign from hell. I could just picture the players of this game rolling natural 1’s over and over again. How successful they are in their mission, well dear reader, you’ll have to watch the film to discover that.
The good and the bad of Paramount’s Honor Among Thieves
While it could easily have been a risk for the production company to adapt a table-top roleplaying game, however, Paramount succeeds and make it look easy. The story of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is strong. The story is full of belly-busting jokes, plenty of heart, and a ton of action. It felt like the writers were fans of this expansive franchise, having grown up playing the games themselves. This film captured the essence of what makes D&D great, the silliness of playing a roleplaying fantasy with your friends.
The humor in the film had many different layers, which will appeal to both the general audience and dedicated fans of Dungeons & Dragons. I took my 14-year-old nephew with me to see this film, who has never played D&D before in his life. Both he and I were able to laugh robustly from start to finish, even on those jokes where I had a bit more context. Again, it felt like those who made this film knew how to appeal to those who have played this game for years as well as new fans just coming for an excellent film.
This movie was jam-packed full of well-choreographed fight scenes, each of which showcased new and exciting ways of fighting from the world of D&D. The blend between the magic and practical fighting was seamless, as a true D&D campaign should be.
Speaking of the magic, the VFX of this film was stellar, perhaps one of the best I’ve seen from a movie in a while. I found myself in awe of the magical spells every time they were cast. There’s a dragon later in the film that was impressive as well. I loved how they blended practical effects with the VFX, providing different elements and textures to the film.
On top of all that, the writers developed some terrifying and intimidating villains for this first campaign with the Red Wizards. Their motivations were easy to understand and the way they achieve their goals took my breath away. There were a few scenes with Sophia where I had chills over Daisy Head’s delivery. Her character is creepy and malicious, cementing her as one of my favorite and most memorable villains. The writers had to dig deep in D&D lore for the Red Wizards, but it was absolutely the best call to make them the antagonists of the film.
The only aspect of this film that left a bit to be desired was how some of the character’s backstories are slightly underdeveloped in order to focus on Edgin’s story. The first ones that come to mind are Doric and Xenk. The bright side is that while the film is focused on a singular story, the powers behind this film are willing to grow the brand, such as with a prequel story dedicated to Doric. It makes the most sense, especially when trying to streamline the film.
Final Thoughts on Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
I fear some of you will think it’s an exaggeration when I say this, but Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is one of the best films I’ve seen this year. It had everything I was looking for going into it, and I had pretty high expectations for this film. The entire cast was perfect, capturing the charm of the D&D franchise while also adding something new to it. Everyone should be running to get tickets as soon as possible because this spectacle of a film must be enjoyed on the big screen.
My rating for the film:
★★★★ / ♥♥♥♥♥
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves arrives in theaters on March 31. Are you excited to see the film? Let us know on Twitter or in the Cosmic Circus Discord. And if you haven’t already, check out our book review on The Druid’s Call, Doric’s Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves prequel!
Book Review: The Druid’s Call: A Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Prequel