Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves is showing in cinemas nationwide from Friday, 31st March.
Anyone with an itch to scratch regarding adventure films can finally feel relief. Dungeons and Dragons: Honour Among Thieves is a riveting quest movie rarely found in the age of superhero franchises. It’s a somewhat ironic statement, given that this is an adaptation of a board game and thus is technically a franchise too. But, speaking as someone who has only ever played the game once, this film stands firmly on its own to deliver something joyously thrilling.
Dungeons and Dragons is a well-known role-playing game that has received further exposure through the rise of Stranger Things. Unlike other role-playing games, there is rarely a determined path within D&D. Imagination narrates the gameplay as much as chance and the established player archetypes; therefore, an adaptation could have gone literally anywhere.
Having busted out of prison after a heist gone wrong, the bard Edgin (Chris Pine) and barbarian Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) head home to Edgin’s daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman), who has been under the protection of their past accomplice, the rogue Forge (Hugh Grant). Forge has since become a powerful lord and has turned Kira against her father by lying to her about the nature of their failed heist. Therefore, Edgin decides to go and retrieve an ancient relic that’ll prove his good intentions and win Kira back. To do this, he must assemble a new team composed of old and new friends alike, all while going up against the slowly growing evil of the red wizards.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves owes a lot to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. From the gorgeous landscapes in the cinematography, courtesy of Barry Peterson, to the pulse-pounding score of Lorne Balfe, the Middle Earth influences enrich the film’s visual power. There is a dazzling sense of wonder to the film’s craft, emphasised by the healthy mix of special and practical effects. Yet the rising action and narrative beats at play are refreshingly akin to The Princess Bride or Indiana Jones, from the problem-solving obstacles to the glorious treasures awaiting our band of heroes. It is an action-adventure film that wears a fantasy coat of paint.
Daisy Head plays Sofina, Hugh Grant plays Forge and Chloe Coleman plays Kira in Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves from Paramount Pictures and eOne.
Cleverly, the film does not set out to be a sweeping epic, although it is rather impressive in scale and spectacle. At its core, this is an intimate story about companionship and the things we do for love. The third act introduces broader perils, but for much of the film, this is a small story set in a big world with very personal stakes. The last attempt at a D&D adaptation in 2000 made the mistake of going too big in its story; however, by making its central story character-based, Honor Among Thieves achieves a surprising emotional hook.
The leading ensemble is a delightfully colourful bunch who each add idiosyncratic energy to their already varyingly eccentric roles. Their goals, flaws and personalities shine through the script’s playful humour and affection for the adventure genre. Here the cast is a prime example of how far charismatic actors can carry a film. Pine’s dashing looks and charm lead the group, but the chemistry between everyone is palpable. From Rodriguez’s hard woman with a soft centre to Justice Smith’s anxiety-ridden sorcerer and Sophia Lillis’ tenacious druid, this fantastic cast perfectly plays off each other’s strengths. Meanwhile, Hugh Grant seems to be channelling his remaining Phoenix Buchanan quirks into his role in another hammy, joyous and maniacal outing.
Michelle Rodriguez plays Holga, Chris Pine plays Edgin, Sophia Lillis plays Doric, and Justice Smith plays Simon in Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves from eOne and Paramount Pictures.
But more than anything, Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves is unashamedly fun. Its source material is a game of infinite possibilities, so the film appropriately follows suit. Creative editing and camera work involving one-takes and rotating locations generate intensity and exhilaration beyond even our own personal investment in the quest. At the same time, the direction of Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley combines the giddy humour of the script with sheer spectacle. It’s a movie that is proudly and consistently entertaining from start to finish through marvellous pacing, emotional moments that are earned, and a deep enthusiasm for the source material.
Dungeons and Dragons: Honour Among Thieves is a pleasant surprise that I didn’t know I needed. It boasts zany characters, an exciting premise with personal stakes and themes, and zero restraints in its craftsmanship. It fits squarely into the picturesque spectacle of the best modern blockbusters while wonderfully capturing the feel of old-school adventure films that have felt lost to time in recent years. While its quirky humour and a vast array of characters, locations and jargon might be dizzying to some, it is a movie that achieves its ambitions in spades, all while seemingly staying loyal to the inherent appeal of its namesake. With many dungeons, some dragons, and a bountiful supply of joy, I’ll be gobsmacked if Dungeons and Dragons: Honour Among Thieves isn’t among my favourite blockbusters of 2023 come the end of the year.
SHAZAM! FURY OF THE GODS
United States | 2hr 14min | 2023
With many dungeons, some dragons, and a bountiful supply of joy, I’ll be gobsmacked if Dungeons and Dragons: Honour Among Thieves isn’t among my favourite blockbusters of 2023 come the end of the year.