To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a fantasy heist comedy film based on the tabletop role-playing game of the same name directed by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (Game Night), who co-wrote the screenplay with Michael Gilio (Kwik Stop). Featuring Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Chloe Coleman, Sophia Lillis, and Hugh Grant; this is the fourth film based on Dungeons & Dragons although it has no connections to the previous trilogy. Set in the Forgotten Realms, the story follows Edgin Darvis and his best friend Holga Kilgore as they attempt to rescue Edgin’s daughter Kira from Forge, a former ally turned enemy.
In a snowy prison outside Neverwinter, Edgin Darvis (Chris Pine) and his best friend Holga Kilgore (Michelle Rodriguez) await a meeting with the Absolution Council so they can plead their case and win their freedom. Holga doesn’t think they’ll get out but Edgin assures her they will since Jarnathan, an Aarakocra, is on the council this time. During their meeting, Edgin notices Jarnathan isn’t present and is told he was delayed by the storm. Edgin wishes to wait for him to arrive to give his statement but the council tells him to proceed or waive his statement and stay in prison. Edgin proceeds to tell the council about his former life as a Harper before becoming a thief. Momentarily stopping his story to ask the whereabouts of Councilman Jarnathan.
Edgin had a wife named Zia (Georgia Landers) and a daughter named Kira (Chloe Coleman). After arresting a Red Wizard with the Harpers, Edgin’s wife is killed in an act of retaliation. Left to raise his daughter alone, Edgin met Holga who took pity on Kira and helped to raise the girl. Since they were poor the family resorted to thievery to earn a living and eventually Edgin and Holga were caught after looting Korinn’s Keep to acquire a resurrection tablet that would have allowed Edgin to resurrect his wife. After Edgin makes his final statements to the council Jarnathan appears and he and Holga tackle him out the window with his bird-like form allowing them to land safely outside the prison and escape.
I remember being a young kid and seeing ads for a Dungeons & Dragons movie. It meant nothing to me as I did not know what Dungeons & Dragons was, but I did see that Marlon Wayans was starring in it and decided to check it out. The film was terrible and spoiler alert, Wayans’ character Snails (the only Black person I remember being in the movie) was brutally killed by the big bad. I didn’t hear much about the role-playing game again until Stranger Things became popular. The main characters in the series are major fans of the game and many of the creatures that appear in the show, like the Demogorgon, the Mind Flayer, and Vecna are named after creatures from the game. With its growing popularity and many celebrities coming out as avid players, it was only a matter of time before a new Dungeons & Dragons movie would be made.
Goldstein and Daley were the perfect directors to take on this property. They are known for their comedic writing and directing even on films that aren’t branded as comedies. On paper Dungeons & Dragons comes off as something closer to Lord of the Rings, but taking such a serious approach isn’t always necessary. This film works as well as it does because of Goldstein and Daley’s infusion of humor in almost every scene. Some aspects of this universe come off as quite silly and the directors are not afraid to have the characters point them out. While Dungeons & Dragons is full of heart and emotional moments, there are many laughs to be enjoyed along the way.
The casting by Victoia Thomas (The Harder They Fall) is also pretty perfect. Chris Pine is great in the role of Edgin. His timing as the comedic relief works better than having him be the fearless leader. He is the heart and soul of the film and it is his journey we are on throughout the story. Michelle Rodriguez’s Holga is a character she is used to playing by now. She is a badass tough woman with a heart of gold who can handle her own in any situation. Obviously, she pulls the character off effortlessly so I have no problem with her sticking to her wheelhouse for the film. For a while, I wasn’t a fan of Justice Smith. He always seemed annoying, running around and screaming in most of his roles. But lately, he has calmed down and turned in some great comedic performances that aren’t over the top. Simon Aumar is one of these roles and prices much of the film’s situational humor due to his poor magic skills. Sophia Lillis also turns in a decent performance as the shapeshifting druid Doric. Would’ve been nice to see her spend more time with Smith as their relationship is an awkward one. Regé-Jean Page is in the film far less than expected but his character Xenk’s serious demeanor juxtaposed with our heroes provides some of the funniest scenes in the film. Hopefully, his role is expanded if future entries are made. Once again Hugh Grant just looks like he’s having a blast and there is also a great cameo by Bradley Cooper as Holga’s ex-husband Marlamin that is quite funny in an unexpected way.
The visual effects are pretty solid as well. The production design and cinematography by Ray Chan (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) and Barry Peterson (21 Jump Street) is splendid making the viewer feel as if this world is tangible. There is a scene involving Doric transforming multiple times to escape a castle that is pretty well done. The use of drone shots and digital environments blend perfectly for a shot that feels epic and exciting. Practical makeup is used throughout mixed with several digital effects. With the film not taking itself too seriously, this allowed costume designer Amanda Monk (In the Long Run) to create beings that honestly look like actors wearing big rubber suits. At no point, however, does this take away from the realness of the world.
It’s always a joy when a movie is far better than expected. Goldstein and Daley have crafted a story that’s exceedingly funny yet emotionally endearing. I give Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves an Excellent 9.1/10. I want to see more of this world. Dungeons & Dragons is a very expansive game and I think Paramount has a top-tier franchise on its hands. Hopefully, Goldstein and Daley can return to direct future installments.