Released: 30th March
Seen: 30th March

In 1974, the very first edition of Dungeons & Dragons was published and it pretty quickly became a mainstay of pop culture. Every decade seems to change how people look at it, be it back in the 80s when it was a very large part of the Satanic Panic bullshit or in the 2000s when we were talking about the first film adaptation that carried the name or even the 2010s when Stranger Things reminded people of why they enjoyed playing this game back in the 80s when the adults said it was evil and satanic. Even now it still maintains high popularity with an untold number of web shows and podcasts dedicated to variations on this classic tabletop RPG… I’ve never played it once, so I went into this movie completely blind and had a great time but who knows how a fanboy might react to this.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves follows a roving band of adventurers, namely a bard named Edgin Darvis (Chris Pine), a barbarian named Holga Kilgore (Michelle Rodriguez), a sorcerer named Simon Aumar (Justice Smith) and a druid named Doric (Sophia Lillis) who all team up to take down their former friend who is now evil rogue. the Lord of Neverwinter Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant). Their adventure will be treacherous with side quests, assorted friends they can make along the way like Xenk Yendar (Regé-Jean Page) a paladin who can guide them on a special side quest. It’s just a big fun adventure film, there’s a fancy MacGuffin that they’re all trying to get hold of that can do something awesome at the end of the film. It’s not a complicated plot, there’s not much to go into about this.

The genuinely brilliant thing about Dungeons & Dragons is that it’s just remarkably simple, just throw a bunch of charming charismatic performers into a silly little adventure film and that’s all you need. It doesn’t need an overly complicated plot (literally the entire thing is “We need this magic tablet, the tablet is in the kingdom, so let’s get into the kingdom to get the magic tablet”) or even characters that are that complicated since literally every character here represents a standard class of characters found in the Dungeons and Dragons game… you just need a charming band of fun people doing some cool-looking action and you can make a fun movie, it’s not that hard and Dungeons & Dragons absolutely get that and does everything well.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023) Sophia Lillis, Justice Smith, Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023) Sophia Lillis, Justice Smith, Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez

For the benefit of those who aren’t fully on board with Dungeons & Dragons lore, the film is genuinely great at explaining the key things it needs to in the simplest terms. It doesn’t require you to be an expert in anything, that might certainly help you catch some of the background references going on but it isn’t a barrier to entry. You don’t need to really understand the difference between the sorcerer and the druid because they make sure it’s easily understood within seconds of meeting them. It also sets up the limitations of the characters, making sure we can’t just solve every problem with a simple magic spell and creating some genuine tension along the way.

With the issues of lore and story easily handled, what makes Dungeons & Dragons work is the incredible cast and their outstanding chemistry. In particular, Hugh Grant continues his recent reign as a fascinating character actor delivering another fun over the top performance, Chris Pine is such an effortlessly charming lead that it makes sense for everyone to follow him blindly into battle and Michelle Rodriguez just kicks everybody’s ass with such ease that they basically throw all the fight scenes at her because you know they’ll be great. It’s kind of stunning just how good everyone in general is, managing to take these very broad characters that’re meant to represent an entire class in the game system and make them lovable and fun.

Also helping is that Dungeons & Dragons just looks amazing, with several glorious sweeping shots and dazzling long takes that last for minutes at a time to a dramatic maze scene that is just flawlessly executed, every single frame of this film just works better than it has any right to. There are more than a few times when the pure spectacle of what’s being thrown on screen is enough to knock you back in your seat, witnessing this strange new world unfolding before you is a real treat that never gets old.

It’s honestly a little surprising how much fun Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is, especially considering the reputation of previous film adaptations but this seems to have nailed everything just right. It’s fun, it’s easy to follow with a bunch of charming characters and some great action beats that keep things moving at a breakneck pace. It’s hard to even find something negative to point out, it’s just a really good fun action comedy that plays its hand carefully and for as wide an audience as possible and it turns out, that’s a great way to play.


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