Dungeons and Dragons: Honour Among Thieves Review

I didn’t think that this is a review I’d be writing this early. Given that it’s not on general release until the end of the month I thought I’d have to wait until then. However, Cineworld has a trend of holding secret screenings and the most recent one was for this film. Now I have to admit, I’ve never played Dungeons and Dragons. I have dabbled in that type of RPG, but I’ve not played that one myself. Despite that, I was intrigued by the trailers and the cast so I had some hopes for it and, after seeing it, I have to say that this is a fun time at the cinema.

The film follows Edgin, a bard and former spy who, after the death of his wife, has turned to being a thief, alongside barbarian Holga and sorcerer Simon, to provide for his daughter Kira. After stealing something for the wrong person, the group have to go up against them and their former ally, con artist turned lord Forge, allying themselves with druid Doric and paladin Xenk. Now the general tone of the film is fairly light and breezy, and it’s fair to say that it takes some cues from the MCU. This tone though works for the vibe of Dungeons and Dragons. Playing it too straight would not have worked, given the potential for comic and ridiculous scenarios that the game can provide and leaning into that tone makes it feel more honest as an adaptation. It also helps that the film is consistently funny and has its heart in the right place, making you care about the characters. There are also enough pieces of lore dropped throughout the film to give the sense of a larger world, but not so much that it overwhelms the film. There are still flaws though, with some of the character writing feeling clunky and some of the emotional beats not landing as well as they could have due to the more irreverent tone, it not quite managing to handle the tonal shifts as well as something like Guardians of the Galaxy.

The performances are pretty solid throughout. Chris Pine makes for a compelling lead, having the right kind of cocky charm but hiding inner pain and guilt over his past with his daughter. I think there should have been a few more scenes with his daughter at the start of the film to better sell the dynamic the two have and how it changes throughout the film, but what we get does the job. Michelle Rodriguez is fun as Holga, having the right physicality for the role and acting as a good foil opposite Pine. She does decent work in the dramatic scenes, but the writing isn’t quite as strong in these areas. Justice Smith as Simon is on a fine line between endearing and annoying, but he manages to handle himself well and he has some good scenes exploring his feelings of inadequacy and self worth. Sofia Lillis is fun as Doric, having an interesting dynamic with the rest of the cast, being less willing to trust them at first and she sells the outsider nature of her character well, but it feels like there should have been more time spent with her outside of the rest of the cast. Hugh Grant is having fun as Forge, but he is hit worst by the writing. The writing for Forge is trying to have a charming rogue and con artist vibe, to create a silver-tongued character who can convince anyone of anything, but it doesn’t really work and it all makes you wonder why anyone would trust him, with any charm coming from Grant in spite of the script. Regé-Jean Page meanwhile is a lot of fun as Xenk, his more serious tone and the general vibe of him being a more heroic character who seems to have come in from a nobler fantasy film providing a fun contrast with the rest of the cast. From the trailers I was worried that they were going to try too hard to replicate Dave Bautista’s work in the MCU but Page gives his own spin on this type of character, making him an archetypical hero that works in the brief role he has here, knowing not to use him too much. There’s decent work from Chloe Coleman and Daisy Head, and there are a few fun cameos throughout the film.

The technical elements of the film are pretty impressive. This is the first fantasy action film that John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein have directed but they do a good job here. There are some impressive set pieces, with a one take escape scene being a particular highlight. The production design and costume design is solid on the whole and the music fits with the more comedic vibe of the film. What I really appreciated though is the use of practical effects. It would have been so easy for all the fantasy creatures to have been created using CG, but there’s a good amount of elaborate costumes and animatronics throughout the film and it adds to the believability of the world. The CG that is used meanwhile is pretty good for the most part, the transformation effects being a highlight, although there are some moments that feel a bit dodgy, and don’t hold up quite as well as the practical effects.

Overall, I had a good bit of fun with Dungeons and Dragons: Honour Among Thieves. Whilst the character writing isn’t the strongest, it’s saved by a charismatic cast, a fun sense of humour, a good heart and strong technical skills, making this an entertaining popcorn flick and what looks like a good start to a franchise.

My Rating: 3.5/5


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