Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Review
Another Dungeons & Dragons movie? Since 2000, numerous filmmakers have attempted to transfer the magical wonderful world of DnD to the big screen, all failing to achieve success in the box office or critics’ corner. Going into “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,” one can’t help but think that it's going to be more of the unfunny, unlikable and irreparable damage to the source material that these films tend to be, but thankfully, this film is not only a smarter and more fleshed-out project than the previous cheap cash-grab movies, but delivers one of the best cinematic fantasy stories we’ve received since Peter Jackson’s “Rings Trilogy” adaptation and HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”
One of the best decisions that “Honor Among Thieves” went with was choosing to stage the film completely within the realm of the actual world of DnD. This allowed for the comedy to be natural to the world rather than forced and artificial. Many people forget that a major attraction of Dungeons & Dragons as a game is humor that friends make with it. The filmmakers understood this and incorporated comedy into the film enough to remind us of this, but not to the point of exhaustion.
It can be compared to Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014), which manages a similar level of tongue-in-cheek type of banter along with storyline consequences, a fact underlined by the direction of Jonathan Goldstein, co-writer of “Spider-man: Homecoming” (2017). The only difference between this film and “Guardians” is that this film is actually funny. The comedy of “Honor Among Thieves” separates it from being just another Tolkien-esque fantasy epic, but doesn’t lead to hardcore nerdy aspects that would perhaps turn off the casual viewer.
Despite the poindextery community that DnD has, the film isn’t just 134 minutes of pure fan service and doesn’t even require one to know anything about the elements of the tabletop game to derive enjoyment. This is because there are some rules of DnD which the film completely overrides, in a sort of “homebrewed” fashion, for the sake of fun. For example neither 5th edition nor any other official rule-set allows Druids to turn into Owlbears, but the film does it anyway because it makes a memorable scene. Letting the film run wild from the ruleset actually benefits the film as it mitigates predictability for veteran players in the audience.
Dungeons & Dragons is a trope-and-gag heavy game. The average Dungeon Master isn’t an expert storyteller, meaning that they’ll likely rely on common storylines and witticisms to entertain the party in substitute of some grand original poetic idea. It should be praised that the film balances the fine line between traditional movie storytelling and a campaign tale well enough that, no matter your knowledge of DnD, you’re never left confused.
The visuals of the film are beautiful in a way that respects the source material, trying not to be a discount version of The Shire or other stereotypical fantasy landscapes. Everything from the spells, towns, the graveyard, the labyrinth, the forests, and the creatures are well designed and animated beyond expectations, and it is delightful to finally see them done right.
Our main characters, especially our barbarian Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) and bard Edgin (Chris Pine), all battle for the scene spotlight just as much as they do against assassins and big red pudgy dragons. Every character is more than a comedic tool with their emotions and desires, secret or not, building them to be both likable and cared about by us, but their actions also make them smart and interesting rather than hair-pulling. This is not an MCU movie, and it cannot be overstated how thankful the people should be for that.
“Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is a nat-20 success, so much so that by measuring its box-office draw, it wouldn’t be outlandish for Paramount to turn this film into a series of its own. Whether Paramount should is a different question all on its own, as although Dungeons & Dragons has potential to provide an infinite amount of interesting stories, turning this film into a series could lose what made this one so good. Ultimately, basement dweller or not, all people will find themselves smiling by the end of this film. Being in a packed theatre and listening to the crowd roar with laughter, it’s films like these which make going to the movies an experience to love, and more than that, makes one want to go back to see it a second time.