HomeMoviesDungeons & Dragons: Honor Amongst Thieves: Fun Fantasy, Epic Easter Eggs &...

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Amongst Thieves: Fun Fantasy, Epic Easter Eggs & a Very Clever Commercial

Michelle Rodrigues & Chris Pine in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.
Photo Credit: Aidan Monaghan

Dungeon Master: *deep breath* “You are an international corporation. One of your intellectual properties has seen a massive uptick in popularity unseen in the last game’s last forty years and possibly ever since Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson created it. What do you want to do?”

Hasbro: “A movie tie-in.”

DM: “You’re sure? Because you’ve done this before. Poorly. And, right now, you’re up against the effects of a global pandemic, controversy regarding third party creator rights, and an audience that is starting to get burnt out on heroic epics.”

H: “I’m doing a heist film with a dashing rogue leading man and a warrior woman leading misfits with a workplace comedy vibe.”

DM: “Roll with disadvantage.”

H: “Let’s do this.”

There is a lot of unpacking to do in the wild sock drawer that is Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. Traditional Dungeons & Dragons gameplay involves the “three pillars” — combat tactics, social role play, and investigation/exploration. Similarly, the directing/writing team of Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, and Michael Gilio had to balance storytelling, fan service, and brand awareness. To their credit, they succeed in providing something for everyone.

The movie is rated PG-13 in the US but it’s a “PG in the ’80s or ’90s” PG-13 with minimal gore, harsh language, alcohol use, or sexuality. The action scenes are very intense and chaotic, however. There is a jump scare or two but, honestly, more of them and more intense in some of the trailers. But the world of Faerûn (created by Ed Greenwood and popularized by the Forgotten Realms game setting and series of novels) is a world populated by magic, monstrosities, cat people, elves, assassins, and undead so keep that in mind for kids and those with sensitivities to such.

Many Dungeons & Dragons pundits on social media have questioned why built-in properties like RA Salvatore’s Drizzt Do’Urden novels or the Dragonlance world created by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weiss weren’t used as subject matter. The answer was simple: Hasbro doesn’t want us to like those stories. They want us to use their products to create ones like they made for this movie. Goldstein, Daley, and Gilio do a very good job of introducing (more like teasing) the Forgotten Realms setting with a plethora of proper nouns we absorb more from context clues than exposition.

Newcomers will know that Neverwinter is a large city, Elminster was a legendary wizard, the Harpers and the Emerald Enclave are political factions, and that magic doesn’t just fix everything because it has rules. Some of the dialogue even makes tongue-in-cheek references to the sometimes seemingly arbitrary nature of D&D’s rules for magical weapons and spells. There are plenty of other Easter eggs ranging from unnamed classic monsters to a 1980s Saturday morning callback that gamers from casuals to old-school hardcore “Grognards” will appreciate. Even the plot itself flows like a well-designed D&D campaign with tropes like prison breaks, a heist, side quests, historical lore dumps, arena fights, and the occasional purposefully corny joke thrown in.

How does it hold up as a movie, though? It’s solid. Wikipedia has it listed as a “fantasy heist action comedy” and it delivers on all of those fronts. The comparison to Guardians of the Galaxy is inevitable with the ragtag bunch of losers finding value in each other and themselves to push forward against impossible odds. It keeps up that form with the same “workplace sitcom” type of dialogue where cultures, personalities, and eccentricities clash humorously and harmlessly. It’s fun. It’s got some heart to it. CGI stuff goes boom, crash, bite, slash (with some of it seemingly animated to mimic practical effects.) And the writers found plausible ways to create twists and tension when one literal Deus ex Magica or another is never more than a hundred feet away.

The cast has real chemistry and a natural banter that isn’t always “the most clever line possible at each and every exchange” but still funny with genuine awkwardness, affection, and frustration at times. Chris Pine is naturally playing the Han Solo-type, Edgin Darvis. Michelle Rodriguez is his platonic companion, Holga, a warrior woman from the Elk Tribe of the frozen north. Justice Smith (Detective Pikachu and Genera+ion) plays their once and future accomplice, a neurotic sorcerer named Simon. Their team recruits Doric (Sophia Lillis of I Am Not Okay with This) a shape-changing druid, and perfect paladin, Xenk Yendarin (Bridgerton’s Regé-Jean Page,) a desperate attempt to steal a powerful relic and Edgin’s daughter (Chloe Coleman, Marry Me and Big Little Lies) back from a former ally. Shadow and Bone’s Daisy Head and a marvelously against type Hugh Grant play the villainous opposition in sublime fashion.

Reportedly, the current plan is spin-off into a television series and a sequel film is “was never our intention” according to John Francis Daley. Considering the uphill battles and self-implosion many shared universe media franchises seem to be experiencing (side eye at everything DC comics related right now,) I wish them well. In addition to any Honor Among Thieves projects, Prime Video has ordered more of The Legend of Vox Machina and Critical Role’s second campaign The Mighty Nein and lifelong nerd-jock Joe Manganiello (Justice League, Magic Mike franchise) is rumored to be trying to get Dragonlance to television. It seems the old adage holds true that the game never ends, just new players take the seats.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is now playing in theaters everywhere.



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