Dungeons & Dragons is a tabletop roleplaying game that took the world by storm upon its release in 1974. Its considered by many to be the grandfather of all modern roleplaying games and has expanded across dozens of different genres including video games, cartoons, web series and movies. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is the newest attempt at translating the beloved boardgame into a feature film. While being a refreshing breath of life in the fantasy space, Honor Among Thieves fails to reach the lofty heights of its inspirations.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves centers on Chris Pine, who plays the bard Edgin Darvis in his quest to retrieve a lost relic and win back the love of his daughter, played by Chloe Coleman. He’s joined on this adventure by the warrior Holga Kilgore, played by Michelle Rodriguez; the sorcerer Simon Aumar, played by Justice Smith; the druid Doric, played by Sophia Lillis; the paladin Xenk Yendar, played by Rege-Jean Page; and the rogue Forge Fitzwilliam, played by Hugh Grant, who all play their own role as they run afoul of an ancient evil championed by Daisy Head as Sofina. While an entirely passable fantasy plot on its own, it fails to capture the two core essences of why people love D&D: Forging bonds in unlikely places and the unpredictability of the dice.
While many would think that the story of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves would revolve around Chris Pine forming his adventuring team to obtain the relic, almost all of that is glossed over in the first 30 minutes of the film, instead focusing on the consequences of the betrayal of a character that happened off-screen and did not speak up until that point. For those characters introduced later on who don’t already know each other, little time is dedicated to establishing a bond outside of the singular character who they serve to develop. Whereas films like The Guardians of the Galaxy and The Goonies feel like a group of friends against the world, Honor Among Thieves seems like a handful of very loosely connected characters going through their own troubles.
Luckily, it is in the characters where Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves shines. The dialogue is nowhere near perfect, with the script seeming to almost go out of his way to write Rege-Jean Page and Chloe Coleman’s characters to be as stiff as humanly possible, but every actor brings their A-Game. Chris Pine and Hugh Grant stand far above the rest in their performances, with every scene they’re in sure to crack a smile, but the rest of the cast is able to stand with them even in the roughest scenes. Even Page, whose relatively minor role in the film seems to be more based off Dave Bautista’s Drax than any paladin archetype, is able to elevate the character beyond the predictable role he plays in the plot.
Predictable is not a word many would assume would apply to a Dungeons & Dragons adaptation, but the film seems to fight against its wilder instincts at every turn. Despite a few moments of truly elevated creativity, no plot development truly knocks the viewer off guard the way a Nat 20 or Critical Failure does in a D&D campaign. The film even evokes Wild Magic, one of the most unpredictable parts of any campaign, and fails to do anything with it beyond being a throwaway reference. It even goes so far as to sand down the most interesting yet intrinsic properties of its leads. If any fan goes into the film expecting a Barbarian rage, a Bard to use magic, or even the mention of spell slots, they’re likely to be disappointed.
The film also fails to surprise visually. By no means is any shot in the film badly composed or come even close to looking bad. Yet very few of the visuals are truly able to hook a viewer in and make audiences lose themselves in the world, with the few exceptions being related to the Druid’s Wildshape ability. The world is also oddly human, with only a handful of characters being non-human. Even the Tiefling Druid ditches any form of interesting character design to just be a human with small horns that many would mistake for a headband. The non-human characters and displays of magic that do exist in the world look phenomenal — its just their quantity that leaves something to be desired.
Despite its many issues, one would struggle to truly be disappointed in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. The dialogue isn’t horrible, but it could be better. The visuals aren’t stunning, but they do look good. The humor and charm hits consistently and it has just enough of its wild side to keep the viewer interested in what’s coming next. In any other circumstance, this would be an above-average genre film that serves to bring the light and adventure back to the genre after a decade of serious fantasy with Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. However, Dungeons & Dragons fans have been spoiled in recent years with some of the best narrative content in the series’ history with shows like Dimension 20 and Critical Role. When its story and creativity is placed against those paragons and quality, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves falls a bit flat.
Overall thoughts: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves stands on its own as an entirely above-average fantasy film that brings fun back to the genre after years of a mature slant. However, when put next to its contemporaries as an adaptation, Dungeons & Dragons fans may wish that the film leaned a bit more into its wild side.
Final Score: 7/10