Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

The criticism that one film is too silly while contending another takes itself too seriously can feel a bit contradictory— especially coming from the same critic. I acknowledge this. Enjoyment of a movie is an emotional experience. The subsequent review ultimately demands that we assign capricious reasons as to why we did or didn’t like something after the fact. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves certainly ticks off specific boxes in providing a test-screened piece of Hollywood entertainment in 2023. It’s a competent interpretation of the role-playing game (RPG) first introduced in 1974–but not much more.

I played the game back in 1980. It simply required a book, a pencil, graph paper, and dice. Oh, and it involved a lot of arguing with a DM (dungeon master) because it gets made up as you go along. The haphazard nature of this narrative gets that part right. I’m going to boil the plot down to its essence. The saga concerns a wisecracking thief, perfectly realized by Chris Pine and his band of random adventurers, including Michelle Rodriguez as a barbarian, Justice Smith as a sorcerer, and Sophia Lillis as a tiefling druid. No need to explain what that is. Her shape-shifting race is immaterial to people unfamiliar with D&D. This picture has been designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Anyone can understand it.

It’s basically a heist film, and our heroes are out to retrieve a lost relic. They receive help from a handsome knight named Xenk Yandar (Regé-Jean Page). However, things don’t go as planned (they never do). The individuals meet up with some nasty characters. Hugh Grant stands out as an evil ruler named Forge Fitzwilliam. Hugh Grant’s breakthrough came nearly three decades ago, depicting the likable leading man in Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994). I appreciate how he’s pivoted to bad guys at this career stage. He’s very good at it. This is a compliment.

The entire cast is excellent, and they bring the requisite charisma and personality to their roles. So why didn’t I enjoy this more? , Well, the chaotic plot is a mishmash of special effects and CGI, and the visuals look fake. It’s all served up with numerous jokes and quips. That air of inconsequentiality eliminates the threat. Whenever the script stopped for a fight scene, I tuned out because there was such a casual disregard for risk. The spectacle didn’t inspire fear in our protagonists. It’s a lighthearted computer graphic-enhanced cartoon. There are no stakes.

My fondest memories of watching movies in the 1980s were fantasies like Clash of the Titans (1981), Dragonslayer (1981), The NeverEnding Story, and The Princess Bride (1987). Those classics contained danger and excitement, and they felt real. The screenwriters had the sense to pause and develop a fable you could embrace. I missed that quality here. Directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (who co-wrote the screenplay with Michael Gilio) know comedy. I consider Game Night one of the very best films of 2018. But here, frivolity works against the material.

Dungeons & Dragons is fine. It’s an adequate effort that incorporates some funny gags. My favorite bits are the scene where Chris Pine plays the lute and another where the group casts a spell to speak with the dead. Still, the whole exercise is a product of our age that doesn’t forge a distinct identity. Dungeons & Dragons aspires to be Guardians of the Galaxy or Thor: Ragnarok more than anything else. That approach worked in that context but not in this realm. Structured like a Marvel production, it’s designed to please as many people as possible, which is ironic because it didn’t please me.


4 Responses to “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves”

  1. I gave this 3 1/2 ⭐️ . I enjoyed the silliness. I didn’t have high hopes so it exceeded that. I agree, all the acting was top notch. Michelle Rodriguez is one of my favs.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rachel's Reviews Says:

    I had a good time with it. It did remind me of The Princess Bride.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: