movie reviews

‘Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’ review: This has the Gift of Alacrity

Carljoe Javier

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

‘Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’ review: This has the Gift of Alacrity

Justice Smith plays Simon, Chris Pine plays Edgin, Sophia Lillis plays Doric and Michelle Rodriguez plays Holga in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves from Paramount Pictures.

Aidan Monaghan/Paramount Pictures International

'That this film exists in a world filled with dour, self-serious high fantasy dominating the cultural imagination is already an accomplishment'

One of the things that Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves does that blows my mind (and there are lots of things that blew my mind) is that it makes this whole project seem effortless. It makes a D&D movie feel fun, easy, and just plain delightful. 

That it exists in a world filled with dour, self-serious high fantasy dominating the cultural imagination is already an accomplishment. GotG/HotD and Rings of Power quickly come to mind, with Witcher and a few other things hanging around too, as examples of high fantasy that might be fun to watch, but really lack a sense of fun. 

I keep saying fun, and that’s because that’s the best word to describe Honor Among Thieves. Where other projects choose to carry all kinds of burdens, like living up to source material, or serving fans, or trying to do things that are dark and provocative, it seems like the only thing this movie wants is to keep throwing us situations and a story that we will enjoy in the time that we are with it. 

Makes me think about gaming experiences. Sometimes you play with people who take the game waaaaaaay too seriously, people who are slave to the source material or the campaign they’ve prepared, people who can’t stand something that diverges from “what they expect” from the game, franchise, lore, whatever. Don’t even get me started with people who can’t stop talking about lore that they can’t get to the story. 

The story of Honor Among Thieves is simple enough that there’s breathing room for characters to develop, side-quests, and just enough world-building that it feels balanced. We get Chris Pine’s bard, Edgin, and Michelle Rodriguez’s barbarian, Holga, at the start telling us of their past (in a smart use of exposition). They’ve been separated from Edgin’s daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman) because of a heist gone bad, and they just want to get back to her. 

From there we get a steady build-up of conflict. It’s not just a matter of getting back to her. There’s betrayal, scheming, black magic, evil wizards, and other things you would expect from a fantasy adventure.

Also as expected, this main quest leads to side-quests that involve recruiting people to join the party, acquiring important items, digging for information, crawling through dungeons, and fighting dragons. So in a very smart way, it includes a lot of the stuff that people who love to play D&D or similar RPGs or games are familiar with, but figures out how that works in a film setting. 

The first thing it does is it finds the perfect spots to work in the exposition and the lore. I absolutely love that this movie sidesteps an opening info-dump and resists giving people a history lesson at the beginning. Instead, it does another really smart thing, in putting the storytelling and context-building in the hands of the bard character. Chris Pine’s rakish charm, which served him well in many roles but top of mind for me is as Captain Kirk, work to his advantage here. He’s so charming and likable that when he attempts to recruit people, or tries to convince them to take on a crazy plan, it all makes sense that they would. 

This isn’t to say that we don’t get a good dose of history and world-building. It’s that the movie is creative in how it does it. For example, there’s a great historical battle which might easily be narrated, but this movie’s workaround is memorable and funny. 

Must Read

The D-I-Y joy of ‘Dungeons and Dragons’

The D-I-Y joy of ‘Dungeons and Dragons’

Add to that the movie’s commitment to really engaging action sequences. There’s a sequence where the shapeshifting druid Doric (Sophia Lillis) goes from one form to another as she attempts to escape from a castle. It’s absolutely a heart-stopper and you can see how much the filmmakers thought about how to make it magical. There’s plenty of close-quarters bashing heads too, and that’s done well. Where it takes it to another level is when it combines the different combat styles and integrates them with magic. Again in a show of effortlessness, it brings all these elements together and gives you scenes that keep you focused on the excitement and the characters, as opposed to making you think about how the magic works or how the spells are cast. 

The variety in action is welcome too. We have close quarters, we get big battlefields, we get chases and escapes, and because we are dealing with thieves here, we even get a pretty good heist. 

Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is the kind of movie that I look forward to when I’m watching what aspires to be a Hollywood blockbuster. It’s got a good story, compelling cast, and ambition and creativity that match its sizable budget. I get humor, action, and just the right amount of heart that the whole thing just sticks with me. Whether you play the game or not, this movie is something you’ll want to watch if you’re looking for a fun time at the theater. –

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!