Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is an upcoming film that may seem intimidating if you’ve never immersed yourself in the long-running fantasy tabletop RPG. Starring the likes of Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Hugh Grant, and much more, the film goes live in cinemas nationwide on March 29 courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
Intros out of the way, D&D: Honor Among Thieves is an incredibly entertaining fantasy adventure that does not require prior knowledge of the material it was adapted from (and rewards it generously if you do). It’s a heist film – think Ocean’s Eleven but with dungeons instead of hotels and dragons instead of Al Pacino (not too far away, I’d say).
There are planning and prep montages, we got things going hilariously wrong, and we got specialized characters doing physics-breaking acrobatics. ‘Tis a bread-and-butter formula for sure, but who would’ve thought this would work so well when melded with Dungeons & Dragons, the fantasy roleplaying game that’s been taking the world by storm the past decade or two after defeating the bad-faith nerd stereotypes of the 80s and 90s?
Well, for people who play D&D (like me), for one, I’d go as far as to say that this movie is how most tabletop groups envision their campaign during their sessions – fun, somewhat self-aware, and never too serious.
D&D: Honor Among Thieves is a quintessential game-to-movie adaptation that rivals the faithfulness of the MCU to its source material, despite the creative freedoms it took to provide a very well-paced lighthearted romp of storytelling that does not overstay its welcome. Cynics and hardcore fans beware, for your attention to detail might just be pleasantly surprised anyway, because D&D: Honor Among Thieves is hella frickin’ enjoyable.
TLDR: It’s really good. If you want to go in blind, stop reading and come back after you’ve seen it and pat me on the back for nailing it on the head.
D&D: Honor Among Thieves stars Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez as the Danny and Rusty of the heist – Pine’s Edgin is a down-on-his-luck bard armed mostly only with his lute and his sharp wits, while Rodriguez plays the barbarian Holga who’s all too eager to bash heads in where Edgin points her at. Rodriguez got buff for this role – I know she has that acting type of rough-and-tumble female character, but Holga’s an absolute gem of an example of that here.
The pair travels with their erstwhile companion, the rogue Forge, played by an annoyingly suave Hugh Grant. They take a job from the creepy and mysterious wizard Sofina, played by Daisy Head (fun fact, her dad is Anthony Stewart Head of Buffy The Vampire Slayer). Things go horribly awry from here, but don’t fear, the rest of the cast of D&D: Honor Among Thieves is introduced shortly soon after without missing a beat.
Sophia Lillis (It Part One’s Bev Marsh) is the young and committed (to nature, not emotionally) druid Doric. Justice Smith (Jurassic World) is Simon the Sorcerer, who’s talented but doesn’t exactly have his head in the game yet. Regé-Jean Page plays Xenk, the heroic goody-two-shoes paladin – he seems like he’s got a lot of experience on his belt and doesn’t skimp on using it to help the oppressed. Ladies and gentlemen, we have our motley crew!
The Dungeon Crawl
D&D: Honor Among Thieves isn’t just a heist, but it’s actually got a lot of gravity in it beyond the acquisition of material wealth. The backgrounds of the characters mesh together fast and quickly with the setting of the city of Neverwinter and its politics with the Red Wizards of Thay, and our characters are smack dab in the middle of it while trying to rescue loved ones, come away with literally life-changing loot, extract closure from their identity crises, and find family in the moments they thought they were alone.
The narrative is never at the mercy of exposition and is moved along at a breakneck pace. Maybe not Fury Road speed, but close to it. There’s barely any moment wasted on explaining spells or abilities or whatnot that’s not cleverly clad in comedy or action hijinks, so we don’t get slowed down too much.
D&D: Honor Among Thieves‘ visuals are impressive, with good CGI and fluid choreography (although there are a few cheesy flukes). The many fantasy races and creatures of D&D are well depicted – I never thought I’d see staples like Displacer Beasts and Gelatinous Cubes in a movie with Tabaxi and Aarakocra. I don’t want to spoil any more references and cameos (and some inaccuracies too), but suffice it to say that you’ll be pointing at the screen like Leo did more times than you can count on one hand.
But what really got me convinced that I would rave about D&D: Honor Among Thieves is the creative fight-and-chase scenes – I think I haven’t enjoyed one in so long after the recent slew of same-ish superhero punch-a-thons and wizard wand-wavings. Just like I love Dr. Strange’s bargaining with Dormammu, I loved the non-conventional conflict resolutions our D&D had to do to put away the bad guys.
After all, what’s a D&D roleplaying session but creative and cooperative problem-solving? We as the audience are juxtaposed into the film ourselves, surrogated by our choice of the party member we most relate to, and we’re rewarded by the events unfolding onscreen, satisfyingly, whether it went according to plan or not. Time and again, the real treasure we found in the dungeon was the friends we made along the way.
The Final Boss
I thoroughly enjoyed D&D: Honor Among Thieves after going in blind, save for watching one trailer. I was hyped going into it, with my expectations turned up to 11 (with a disadvantage), being a huge fan of the tabletop game, and as it happens, also a huge fan of Steven Soderbergh and his heist movies. My standards were met, with a lot of good points in excess, like a hoard filled to the brim with gold.
Directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (known for Burt Wonderstone and Spider-Man: Homecoming) have outdone themselves by weaving every element from the cast to the screenwriting into a film I’m guaranteed to watch again and again, and one that I’d welcome sequels to. It doesn’t leave with a cliffhanger setup, but instead breaks open the world/s of D&D for more adaptations whether film or small screens.
I loved Vox Machina, and now D&D: Honor Among Thieves adds to the small but growing (again) collection of major watchable media of D&D. And as their on-site cinema tagline says: No Experience Required! – I recommend you watch this movie if you want to see something that’s gonna make you smile walking out of the theater whether you play D&D or not. You’re probably going to want to consume more D&D material right after, either way.
P.S. They even have backstories filled out in a wiki for the movie characters! Even the chubby dragon, yes.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves opens on March 29, 2023, in Philippine Cinemas courtesy of Paramount Pictures.