Dungeons and Dragons Honor Among Thieves Synopsis: A charming thief and a band of unlikely adventurers embark on an epic quest to retrieve a long-lost relic, but their charming adventure goes dangerously awry when they run afoul of the wrong people.
A down-on-his-luck bard, a ferocious barbarian, a shape-shifting druid, and an insecure sorcerer form a makeshift team to save the world in Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.
Basing a movie on an iconic role-playing tabletop game boasts a certain allure. That said, adapting Dungeons and Dragons’ expansive lore into a succinct feature film has been easier said than done. The brand made its cinematic debut in 2000 with disaster results, showcasing cheesy effects and lifeless world-building in a misguided attempt to create the next blockbuster franchise. Soon after, two thankless, straight-to-DVD follow-ups received little fanfare as the brand eventually vanished from the Hollywood zeitgeist.
Thankfully for D&D fans, Honor Among Thieves ventures down a far more inspired path in its revival of the franchise. This spirited adventure casts a charming spell by cleverly elevating its familiar narrative framework.
The writer/director team of Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley may seem like an untraditional choice to helm a blockbuster. The duo gradually rose the ranks in the industry through their sharp comedic voice, helping to shape crowd-pleasing efforts like Game Night and Horrible Bosses. Where many filmmakers struggle in their transition to big-budget endeavors, Goldstein and Francis Daley seamlessly fold their strengths into the proceedings.
Honor Among Thieves boasts a knack for rich character-building. Bard Edgar, barbarian Holga, sorcerer Simon and druid Doric feature standard-issue character traits at first glance, but the script always discovers vivid ways to personalize their roots. Goldstein and Francis Daley intelligently emphasize building the type of camaraderie one would experience while embarking on a Dungeons and Dragons quest. The offbeat central team gradually forms a tight-knit family that consistently captures interest.
It helps to have a dynamic cast enriching these roles. Movie star Chris Pine was born to play a charismatic bard, imbuing his signature spark and effortless gravity as the team’s makeshift leader riddled by his own complicated past. In addition, Michelle Rodriguez delivers her onscreen bravado as a grizzled warrior; Justice Smith and Sophia Lillis bring affable energy into their sorcerer and druid roles, and Regé-Jean Page is a delightful scene-stealer as an honorable paladin. Everyone involved seems to be having a blast, and their infectious enthusiasm becomes a contagious draw to the viewer.
Behind the director’s chair, Goldstein and Francis Daley prove to be capable dungeon masters (look it up non-Dungeons and Dragons players). They boast an assured command of tone and pace, swiftly guiding viewers across countless action setpieces, comedic pratfalls, and quiet moments of reflection. I also enjoyed the duo’s deft integration of CGI with practical special effects work – the make-up and tactile creature design here is a particular standout. Through their composed craft, Goldstein and Francis Daley impressively forgo the dysfunctional transition phase many suffer from when rising to the ranks of more expensive projects.
I don’t think their film suffers from any significant weaknesses, although I’d argue its charms are capped by reaching satisfactory marks rather than truly excelling in certain areas. The action setpieces are competently staged yet rarely invigorating. The central team dynamic is appealing, but it ultimately feels like a copycat rendition of other ensemble films, namely the Guardians of the Galaxy. Even the filmmakers’ trademark comedic touch endure inconsistencies as some gags try too hard to be clever. The movie’s limitations ultimately left me with an enjoyable yet weightless blockbuster experience.
My misgivings toward Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves did not prevent me from having a satisfying odyssey at the cineplex. It’s an honorable reboot that understands the appeals of its brand and consistently presents them with charm and panache.
Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is now playing in theaters.
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