Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves review: crowd pleasing cinema

Dungeons & Dragons Honor Amongst Thieves
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Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves sees Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez and others embark on a grand and chaotic quest.


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Anyone who’s played in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign knows that the tabletop game can be incredible, chaotic fun, with a Dungeon Master (DM) throwing increasingly difficult obstacles in the way of your characters and having to come up with increasingly zany solutions in the heat of the moment. 

Every campaign also starts, though, with an awkward first session. A DM has to figure out how to bring your completely incompatible characters together, and then you sit round the table relaying your dark backstories to each other – most of them probably involve being an orphan.

All of the above applies to John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein’s Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves, with the latter particularly plaguing the opening segment. There’s a lot of backstory to get through. We meet Chris Pine’s charismatic bard Edgin and Michelle Rodriguez’s Holga as they attempt to gain a pardon from their prison sentence – the crimes being grand larceny and skullduggery. Pine narrates their tragic past as it’s shown in flashback, alongside the crime that caused their imprisonment. 

It’s a format that’s returned to throughout this fantasy blockbuster, as we’re introduced to Hugh Grant’s treacherous con-man Forge Fletcher, the young and insecure sorcerer Simon (Justice Smith), the druid Doric (Sophia Lillis) and Xank the paladin (Rege-Jean Page). But the flashbacks and action sequences are dynamic and fun, the banter between party members amusing and seemingly endless, and the performances from the main cast are enough to carry the film even without those other elements.

Once it gets past the chunk of exposition, the film is off to a flying start. The characters stumble upon some bad people plotting a world-ending event, and go on a quest to gather the magical items needed to stop them. From that point forward, it provides set piece after set piece, with each obstacle being overcome in inventive and interesting ways.

It somehow has the unpredictable, chaotic energy of a real D&D game, where the characters have no idea what’s going to happen next and make things up as they go along, while also, disappointingly, signposting its big plot beats a bit too clearly.

Dungeons and Dragons

Regardless of where it’s going, though, the journey is just great fun. The set pieces go beyond simple sword fights – a long chase sequence showcasing Doric’s Wildshape (shapeshifting) ability is a real highlight – and the cast is clearly having a ball.

Grant has developed somewhat of a type recently, playing hilariously insufferable toffs. Here is no different, and it’s a type he excels in. Pine carries the film on his back with his “tortured soul who deflects everything with jokes” act, but Rege-Jean Page is the real hero here. His paladin, Xank, has the air of a player who will roleplay their humourless, lawful good character with complete and utter seriousness. Page’s straight-faced deliveries are some of the funniest moments in an overall quite funny movie, and it left me wanting a lot more of him than we get.

Not all of the comedy lands as well as that, and at times I was wishing for a bit more serious fantasy. There’s one cameo in particular that really takes you out of the film, but overall it’s fairly well-balanced.

The conviction of the cast helps to paper over a sometimes-lacking script. Each party member is effectively characterised by their backstory and one or two key traits. I can understand why this might have happened – often D&D characters will inevitably become reductive fantasy stereotypes – but what works for the tabletop game doesn’t necessarily translate well to film, where you would expect the main players to be a bit more well-rounded.

It’s a script that has its moments, though. Things that are set up early on are paid off in satisfying ways, and it’s clear the screenwriters (Daley, Goldstein and Michael Gilio) have done their homework. Dungeons & Dragons fans will be pleased with the inclusion of a key character from the lore and its array of interesting creatures. Both fans and newcomers alike will love how vividly they’re realised on the big screen.

I’ll admit, I have a huge soft spot for all high fantasy film. It’s a genre that comes to cinemas only once in a while (not often enough). As a fan of both the genre and Dungeons & Dragons specifically, Honour Among Thieves ticks a lot of boxes.

It might sometimes seem predictable, or the characters simplistic, but it’s got its tongue firmly planted in its cheek for the whole run time, and you can just imagine Pine and co sitting around a table playing out the events of the film. In that respect, it’s a good D&D adaptation that’s in keeping with the spirit of the game. In terms of being a high fantasy blockbuster, it’s very entertaining.

Whether you’re a D&D player, a fantasy nerd or just a fan of big blockbusters, Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves is, quite simply, a crowd pleaser.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves is released in cinemas on 31st March.

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