Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
The board game adaptation is surprisingly entertaining
The “Dungeons & Dragons” boardgame had a bit of a revival in the mid-2010s as 80s nostalgia was running high. It was featured heavily in the first season of Stranger Things (2016-) and soon many millennials were adopting the fantasy role-playing game. As with most Hollywood attempts to capitalize on a trend, the film adaptation came a couple of years too late, but the wait may have bizarrely been worth it.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023) is the big budget adaptation of the Hasbro boardgame. In it we find the typical fantasy land filled with orcs, wizards, shapeshifters, and more. We follow a gang of thieves, led by the witty Edgin (Chris Pine) and his muscly best friend Holga (Michelle Rodriguez). They must attempt to rescue Edgin’s daughter (Chloe Coleman), who is being held by friend-turned-traitor: Forge (Hugh Grant), who is flanked by a mysterious sorceress (Daisy Head).
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who initially cut their teeth as comedy writers, before penning the start of the new Spider-Man trilogy with Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) and directing the hilariously gripping Game Night (2018). Their wit and self-deprecation are one of the greatest tools they bring to Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. It would be hard to create a straight-faced fantasy picture trying to compete with the likes of Lord of the Rings andGame of Thrones (2011-2019). Thus, Francis Daley and Goldstein choose to approach their subject tongue-in-cheek. This allows for a rather effective use of blockbuster comedy; funnier characters are played off self-serious ones so that the genre satire flourishes with convincing effect.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves provides more than just self-aware comedy, however; it also crafts entertaining action and adventure. The uses of magic and “rules” of the fantasy world are inventive and creative, delivering refreshing takes of the genre. The action scenes, while utilizing some tired shaky-cam, are rather impressive in their long takes and particularly in Michelle Rodriguez’s stunt work. Goldstein and Francis Daley also achieve a greater level of immersion and dedication to their source material by choosing to forgo most CGI effects for a surprising amount of practical work. One appreciates they are shooting in real locations as opposed to sets, and that makeup and prosthetics are employed instead of unrealistic computer effects.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, however, doesn’t avoid the potholes that many fantasy adaptations fall into. We still have an inordinate amount of lore and exposition dumped in droves – though with Chris Pine’s charm and some inventive structuring it’s made somewhat palatable. There are predictable blockbuster beats and narrative trajectories, which seasoned viewers will see coming from a mile away. The villain is also one of the weakest elements, making the stakes and threat posed in the story appear cookie-cutter and generic.
Overall, however, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is more captivating and entertaining than it had any right to be. It goes to show that, despite what might appear as an obvious studio cash-grab, one mustn’t judge a film before watching it. Thanks to pointed humor, refreshing perspective, and gripping action, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves proves to be one of the more entertaining films of the year so far.