-1.8 C
Munich
Saturday, December 2, 2023

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Review

Must read

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves opens in theaters on March 31, 2023.


Even if you've never rolled a 20-sided die, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a fun-filled and wholly accessible fantasy adventure that leans into the spectacle and silliness of D&D campaigns. Sure, there are plenty of in-jokes and Easter eggs to delight hardcore role players, but they never come at the risk of losing newcomers. It’s a movie that’s rich with imaginative quests and colorful characters, and together they bring realms from Baldur's Gate to Icewind Dale alive – like a tamer, family-friendly version of the excellent The Legend of Vox Machina animated series.

The cast is very clearly having a blast playing familiar character types you'd select from at the start of any home D&D campaign – in this case, a heist-like quest to rescue a kidnapped daughter from the clutches of a treacherous lord. Chris Pine shines brightest as the wisecracking Edgin, a lute-strumming man with all the plans – plans which usually need a few iterations, adding more humor as he improvises on the fly. Michelle Rodriguez is her typically badass self as the axe-swinging warrior Holga, and Regé-Jean Page steals scenes as the virtuous paladin Xenk, who speaks in eye-rolling prophecies. Everyone – including Justice Smith and Sophia Lillis, respectively playing an amusing self-doubting sorcerer not-so-supreme and a straight-faced druid who doesn't trust humans – falls into rhythm as unexpected teammates with a common goal and contrasting personalities.

Writers and directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein emphasize lighthearted entertainment that lifts Honor Among Thieves above cumbersome lore. Sprawling maps with unrecognizable territory names tease the grand universe where the story (co-written by Michael Gilio) takes place, but the actual essential information is easy to digest. As Red Wizards corrupt less powerful innocents or the hero party must explore underlands to search for hidden artifacts with special abilities, the spectacular nature of lava lakes or battlefields where fireballs rain immediately catches the eye. There's never a moment where all the fantasy world-building becomes overwhelming, since we’re only told what's necessary.

Honor Among Thieves is a visual feast of fantasy landscapes.


Honor Among Thieves is a visual feast of fantasy landscapes, from luscious treetop villages where woodland folk reside to quaint towns that resemble architecture with favorable comparisons to The Shire in The Lord of the Rings. There's fantastic practical costume work that showcases dragon-human hybrids and furry tiger people, and a graveyard scene oozes Sam Raimi's dark humor (think Army of Darkness) where corpses – in top-notch zombie makeup – come alive to be asked questions by Pine's impatient company. There’s also plenty of digital effects that produce adorably chubby dragons and all kinds of fantasy races made from different species hybrids with scales, fur, or gills. A few choice sequences feature floating orbs or other animated objects that are less convincing, but those rougher moments are far outnumbered by all the visual effects wizardry.

The two biggest problems with Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves are its length and how all the best moments rest on the shoulders of just two of the main characters. While Daley and Goldstein are able to find cheeky humor by poking fun at dungeon masters who overcomplicate puzzles or make challenges obscenely absurd, running over two hours leaves too much time for comedy that can fall flat. And while there's plenty of room for an all-timer cameo as Holga visits her ex-boyfriend, and Hugh Grant chews through dialogue as the dastardly lord, serving as a splendid main antagonist (although it’s a bit more complicated than that) Honor Among Thieves is never better than when Pine and Page take control. When they step back the energy dips, and what's otherwise a rollicking castle crasher becomes a more mundane series of sword and shield clashes.

Running over two hours leaves too much time for comedy that can fall flat.


That said, Pine and Page are so charming as medieval bards and soldiers that the lulls of Honor Among Thieves feel less disruptive. Be ready for well-earned belly laughs scattered between Pine's likeness used as a distraction or Page's hatred of irony. Not to downplay action sequences where Lillis' druid morphs into an Owl Bear that bashes heads or when Smith's wizard throws wind gusts from his hands, which are thrilling moments. Daley and Goldsmith just put comedy first in most instances – these are the filmmakers behind the hilarious comedy Game Night, and they make sure we don't forget.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves – Spells, Creatures, and Other D&D Easter Eggs

Verdict

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves may not be as epic as The Lord of the Rings or as treacherous as Game of Thrones, but there’s nothing wrong with being the jokier sibling of the fantasy adventure genre. Writers and directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein display a passion for Wizards of the Coast’s famous tabletop roleplaying game through humor that both roasts and respects dungeon masters everywhere. You’re here for the mystical creatures, magical enchantments, and everything Chris Pine does as a laughable yet persistent bard. It’s a bit longer than its storytelling can comfortably sustain, but special effects go a long way in holding attention as dragon’s flames, snarling monsters, or other flashy effects and costumes often dazzle and delight. There’s plenty to honor here beyond sticky-fingered thieves, which hopefully is the start of an on-screen universe that only gets stronger as quests continue.

More articles

Latest article