It’s a well known fact that Hollywood has run out of ideas. Reboots, remakes, sequels and adaptations rule the box office, and while some of them can be derivative and boring, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves manages to buck this. It takes what could have been a niche, derivative and lore heavy film and makes it visually inventive, hilarious and wide appealing.
Starring Chris Pine as a thief and lutist, Michelle Rodriguez as warrior Holga Kilgore, Regé-Jean Page as a Paladin who takes everything literally, Justice Smith as a sorcerer with self-esteem issues, Sophia Lillis as an untrusting tiefling druid, and Hugh Grant as conman Forge Fitzwilliams.
With such a mammoth sized main cast, the film might collapse under its own weight, but thankfully they’re all well served, each with clear and effective character arcs. They each get their moment to shine in the spotlight, with Pine often handed comedic beats, and Smith’s arc being standout. Most importantly though they all have a clear reason for being involved, and not just there for the sake of it.
Turning to the villain, there’s Daisy Head’s Sofina the red witch. She’s working with Forge throughout the film, but most of her and her plot is just being evil and wanting to take over the world with mist, an overly generic villain for an otherwise inventive film. Her character would have been better if it was cut down to give Forge more spotlight, as Grant makes the role memorable with his wit and charisma.
Speaking of wit, the film has it in spades. Throughout there are jokes making fun of both the world they’re in, and a one liner that hits a little too close to real life. But it’s Pine who has the best joke in the film, involving his lute, and it’s one that will be memed on for months after the film has come out.
The film is a little complicated, with an array of macguffins to get to complete their journey, but really this mirrors the spirit of a true D&D game, one filled with side quests and side stories, so beneficial rather than a detriment.
There is the temptation with making a film on a niche property to spend long periods of time expositioning about the heavy lore and backstory of the world. Thankfully, there aren’t any long boring periods the audience comes across. Names do fly out in all different directions, and might not have a lot of meaning to a casual or new fan, which does feel somewhat overwhelming at times, but for the majority of the film it’s easy to tell what things mean.
Most Hollywood films lack a unique camera work in them, but not Honor Among Thieves. There is an impressive sequence just before the film’s midpoint, showcasing Doric’s shapeshifting abilities styled as a continuous shot, with the camera moving above and below as she transforms. A portal rod is well used, with overt rules that are followed and clever effects, and in the third act, a unique method of punching is showcased.
Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a campaign worth embarking on for everyone, even the most casual of fans. The humor and cast elevate it above a standard studio franchise film, and the inventiveness of some of the sequences keep it there.