Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
2023, PG-13, 134 min. Directed by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley. Starring Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Chloe Coleman, Sophia Lillis, Justice Smith, Daisy Head, Hugh Grant.
REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., March 31, 2023
As any tabletop gamer knows, the key to a good Dungeons & Dragons campaign is the party of adventurers. It's a rookie mistake to make them all overpowered and lawful good, because where's the fun in that?
So Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves rolls a critical hit right from the beginning of the adventure by bringing together the most hapless of teams: Michelle Rodriguez as Holga the warrior (+5 strength, -3 subtlety, completely jacked and with a weakness for a certain kind of man); Justice Smith as Simon the somewhat magical sorcerer (-2 spellcasting, +4 awkwardness); Sophia Lillis as Doric the shape-shifting druid (-3 trust, +5 great transformation sequences); and last but not least, the ever-charming Chris Pine as Edgin the bard (-3 usefulness in a fight, +1,000 enthusiasm), who is a planner.
And why have one plan if you can have several, including fallbacks? First off, his wing-and-a-prayer plan to get himself and Holga out of prison for a failed heist. Second, his plan to get the team back together. And third, his plan to get his daughter (Coleman) back and resurrect his murdered wife, slain by evil wizards. You know, regular stuff.
After all, this is D&D, where high weirdness, magical beasts, and terrible, world-ending conspiracies are everyday matters. Directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (who also wrote the script with Michael Gilio, from a story by Gilio and Chris McKay) bring the Renaissance Europe-inspired realms to glorious life in a story that mimics how the best D&D campaigns work. Yes, there's an overarching plot, but the path to the end is through a series of encounters, each their own quest. Yes, you have to get the magical helmet to get into the enchanted vault, but you have to get past the dragon to get the helm, and you can't even get to the dragon without a little bit of light necromancy. Each plays out as a glorious set-piece – some funny, some clever, some action-packed, some thrilling, and never boring – all executed with the frenetic, giddy energy to be expected from the team behind Game Night.
Honor Among Thieves is actually the fourth D&D film, but this big-budget reboot doesn't just throw some monsters and chain mail on the screen. It captures the joy of failing, running away, and coming up with a great solution that somehow just works, which is the real experience of any good D&D campaign. Daley and Goldstein (both gamers themselves) understand the dynamics and the world, throwing in all kinds of visual nods, like gelatinous cubes, vicious mimics, and Displacer Beasts (plus a throwback cameo to a certain Eighties TV series). They even understand that paladins, the purest and most perfect of heroes, are inherently insufferable, as summed up in a gleeful performance by Regé-Jean Page as Xenk, a gleaming paragon of goodness who constantly infuriates Edgin just by being, well, him.
But at no point does Honor Among Thieves feel alienating to newcomers. It may be the most perfect jumping-on point for first-timers since the release of the 2nd edition in 1989. Don't know what that this? Doesn't matter. Honor Among Thieves is a big, bright, iridescent gem of a heist movie in a spectacular, vibrant, and fantastical world. And, seriously, do you really need to know your Orcs of Thar from your Vault of the Dracolich to enjoy Pine and Rodriguez bickering, or the breathtaking excitement of watching Doric flit between forms as she flees from guards, or the deeply creepy performance by Daisy Head as the sinister wizard Sofina? As for Hugh Grant as the ambitious con man Forge, when is Grant never not fun as a morally murky charmer?
That chirpy, boisterous glee is what will make you hope that Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves turns out to not be a full campaign, but the first encounter of many for our delightfully inept heroes.
A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.
Danielle White, Feb. 23, 2018
June 7, 2023
June 1, 2023
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Chloe Coleman, Sophia Lillis, Justice Smith, Daisy Head, Hugh Grant