DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: HONOR AMONG THIEVES (2023)
Starring Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, Hugh Grant, Chloe Coleman, Daisy Head, Jason Wong, Rylan Jackson, Kyle Hixon, Spencer Wilding, Will Irvine, Nicholas Blane, Bryan Larkin, Sarah Amankwah, Colin Carnegie, Georgia Landers, Sophia Nell Huntley, Clayton Grover, San Shella, Barry O’Connor and Bradley Cooper.
Screenplay by Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley.
Directed by Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley and Michael Gilio.
Distributed by Paramount Pictures. 134 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Although the game has changed a whole lot over the years, since 1974 Dungeons & Dragons has been exciting the fantasies of nerdy guys, who spent eight hours a day in their mom’s basements with graph paper and oddly shaped dice, summoning magic and cunning and trying to save the world from monsters. (Nowadays there is no graph paper, and the basements tend to belong to the actual players, but otherwise it’s pretty much the same vibe.)
Filmmakers have been trying to translate the game into film periodically for over 40 years, if you count the unsanctioned 1982 TV movie Mazes and Monsters, which was unofficially based on the D&D phenomenon and is now only slightly remembered otherwise because it was Tom Hanks’ first lead role in a film.
Then there was director Courtney Solomon’s wretched 2000 critical and box office bomb Dungeons & Dragons. Despite being despised by game fans and movie fans alike, the movie did spawn two made-for-video sequels, Wrath of the Dragon God (2005) and The Book of Vile Darkness (2011). Those three films are also, mercifully, pretty long forgotten.
Well, thank the Lords, with the new complete reboot of the series, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, Hollywood hasfinally figured out how to tame this beast. Don’t get me wrong, Honor Among Thieves is far from a perfect movie. However, it is a whole hell of a lot of fun and feels like the perfect spawning ground for a legitimate D&D film franchise.
Good for them.
It’s not really a serious fantasy film. Dungeon & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves feels more like something like The Princess Bride or Shrek; a film which is serious about being funny that just happens to be in a fantastical world. You don’t even necessarily have to have played the game (I haven’t in decades) to enjoy the movie. It is almost like a comedy that just uses the fantasy world as a frame for its tale. It has monsters and fighting and yet at the same time it is rarely gruesome or overly violent. It is more of a comic character study than an action-adventure tale.
Honor Among Thieves is co-written and directed by filmmaking team Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley (the Freaks and Geeks kid all grown up!) The two Johns are smart pop culture chroniclers; however their filmmaking has been pretty up and down. For every really good film they have been involved in (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Horrible Bosses, Game Night) they have also had one that is pretty bad (Vacation, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Horrible Bosses 2).
Dungeons & Dragons is one of the good ones.
Chris Pine stars as Edgin the Bard, a thief who is doing hard time after a botched robbery attempt. His wife has died – also peripherally due to his thievery – so now all he is living for is to get out and see his daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman), who is living with one of his accomplices, a con man named Forge (Hugh Grant). When Edgin and his partner Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) escape from the dungeon lair, they go off in search of Kira, only to find that Forge has scammed his way into leadership of the land with help of a red sorceress named Sophina (Daisy Head).
So, yeah, there is a story, not that it really matters.
More importantly, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves has some stunning effects and creatures, and it’s a heck of a lot more pure fun than overwrought fantasies like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, so we don’t either. It’s all the more likable because of that lightness.
Pine reminds us that despite his leading man good looks, he is actually quite skilled at goofy comedy and the rest of the cast is also terrific, particularly Grant as the sniveling and duplicitous Forge.
I hope that if there is a sequel – and I think we can all pretty safely bet that there will be one – that the filmmakers remember to keep the light touch and smart action of Honor Among Thieves.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2023 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 30, 2023.