Thankfully, the adaptation of the granddaddy of all role-playing games to cinema lives up to most expectations. At first I wasn’t sure if I’d like Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves because of the trailers. It had more of a Marvel movie vibe than anything else.
The full presentation should have dialled the laughs down, and made the fantasy setting feel a bit more mediaeval. Thankfully, the horror elements are done right. The undead are real, and they are waiting to conquer the Forgotten Realms. The armies of Szass Tam are the evil dead and living beings are needed to make new ones. And when Edgin Darvis (Chris Pine) crosses paths with them, the trouble only gets worse.
Although he’s worked some good as a Robin Hood (known as Harpers in this universe), stealing from the Red Wizards of Thay meant swift revenge and his wife getting killed! Ever since then, Darvis turned to stealing because he has a young girl to raise. To help him is Holga (Michelle Rodriguez), but those two at it aren’t enough. Soon afterwards, he recruits Forge (Hugh Grant) and Simon (Justice Smith) to assist in the search for more gold and a resurrection tablet to bring his spouse back from the dead and reunite his immediate family. Unfortunately, that means breaking into a vault rumoured to contain one, but unfortunately, half the party is caught and tossed into prison!
A few years pass and after Edgin and Holga decide to escape, he learns he’s been swindled by Forge. He’ll need a new team to help enact a new plan—to free his child and find what this former ally did with the magical item. After getting help from his former compatriots, there’s a new partner in crime. Doric’s (Sophia Lillis) is a new recruit, and her forest world is being devastated. Her desire for justice fuels her hate for humans and as a tiefling, she wants more than simple revenge.
Although the early editions had limitations, I often wondered how I could further refine my creation. That is, how can I weave in a biography that helps define why being a character like Doric matters. Was it possible to play Templar Knight with a code of honour? Alternatively, could I role play an Antiquarian wanting to discover a time when Dragons truly roamed the land?
The latest editions are great at detailing character backgrounds. And what Dungeons and Dragons, Honor Among Thieves presents is a group of origin stories before getting to the adventure. On paper, Forge is a Rogue, with a charlatan background and feat of an actor. This outline enables him to worm his way to become Neverwinter City’s regent. While I adore Hugh Grant in other films, his performance in this fantasy doesn’t work. This character has all the motivations of a modern criminal, rather than something mediaeval. Also, his demeanour is like The Grandmaster from the MCU. Both are played by wonderful actors, but ultimately the personas don’t gel.
And in order to defeat Sofina, an evil witch of greater power, the group needs to work together. She’s just as vicious as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy, and her relationship to Szass most likely matters in the same way as this ex-villain is to her father. Ultimately, what the studio system crafted is a mashup that includes this film along with Ocean’s Eleven and Thor: Ragnarök. Even the whole climax is stolen from the latter instead of playing out proper like in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator. I was let down because the best mments were spoiled by the trailers.
There was nothing new to add when watching the finished product. All I got to know is the fate of the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon characters–a cameo most fans loved seeing without them stealing the show. However, the true scene chewing wonder is Yendar the Palidan (Regé-Jean Pagedemeanour).
In the long run, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is more about forming a new family and celebrating the game’s 50th anniversary one year early. And as for for what’s next, I’m hoping for an adaptation of a famous game module like Temple of Elemental Evil. If not that, I’d rather want to watch a movie that’s more like a traditional medieval fantasy than eye candy.
3½ Stars out of 5
Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Final Trailer
PostScript: For those people interested in trying out the D&D game, two kits exist. I recommend the Essentials set over the Starter. The Dungeons & Dragons Core Rulebooks Gift Set is especially nice for those truly wanting to dive right in. For those simply wanting to role-play, The Player’s Handbook and a supplement for their beloved profession is often essential. The reference material in those gives everything needed to round out a character. After that, some may opt for a custom miniature and dice, but those are 100% optional.
Anyone interested in checking out my play session from over a year ago are also invited to check out Questline’s One Shot or Not D&D Podcast, “Secrets of the Nightwood.”