Review | Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)
“There is certainly a lot of fun to be had with Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. It’s packed with terrific set pieces, and a great pairing of Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez!”
Films based on video games or board games usually fall into one of two categories. They are either pretty enjoyable or are godawful (Yes, I’m looking at you, Super Mario Bros, Battleship). But sometimes you get movies that fall partway in between the two. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves happens to be one of them. Don’t get me wrong, the film is a terrific family film that will have audiences laughing out loud, cheering on the heroes without really breaking the mold. But one performance threatens to derail the whole thing. Thankfully though, the film overcomes this and fits more into the pretty enjoyable bracket.
The movie is set in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. Chris Pine stars as Edgin Darvis, a bard and former member of the Harpers. Alongside him is the ever-dependable Michelle Rodriguez as Holga Kilgore, a barbarian. Justice Smith as Simon Aumar, a wild magic sorcerer, Sophia Lillis as Doric, a tiefling druid, Regé-Jean Page as Xenk Yendar, a paladin, and Hugh Grant as Forge Fitzwilliam, an ambitious rogue and con artist. Along the way, our band gets into many scrapes, has plenty of fights to contend with, have some bonding time before we get to the big climax with our heroes battling Daisy Head as Sofina, a Red Wizard of Thay. Add in a surprise cameo, some brilliantly hilarious laugh-out-loud moments, and the usual ‘Maguffin’ and you have the whole film.
With the exception of one cast member, everyone else is terrific in their roles. Of course, the main story concerns Chris Pine and his daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman) but everyone gets their time to shine in the spotlight. Pine is in great comic form as Edgin, all bluster, lies, and deception, but with a good heart beating inside of him. Pine gets to have the movie’s most hilarious scene and is a good sport all the way through the film. From the start, we can see where his journey will take him, from being somewhat of a coward at first to becoming the hero we all know he will turn out to be. Pine excels in his role, often allowing others to steal the scenes he shares with them.
Michelle Rodriguez too is in great form here. Holga is exactly what you’d expect, all muscles, battle-hardened warrior. But she too has a great heart beating inside her and quickly becomes a favorite of the audience. She also shows she can kick some really serious ass at times. She also gets in on the comedy and shows that she too has a great sense of comedic timing. Holga also has her own backstory that will come to fruition during the film. And Michelle Rodriguez becomes a vital part of the proceedings. When she isn’t on screen (which actually isn’t that much), we await her return with bated breath. The film belongs to her and Chris Pine throughout, and we can’t wait to see the pair of them in action.
JUSTICE SMITH AND SOPHIA LILLIS
Justice Smith as Simon, and Sophia Lillis as Doric are a delight in their roles. Surprisingly, both actually play a large part in what the film contains and are not kept in the shadows by the two main leads. Smith has a larger and more important role in the film as the young, inexperienced sorcerer who must overcome his own failings. In a film that is essentially a heist movie set in medieval times, Smith proves to be a versatile, accomplished young actor. He more than holds his own and is a surprise to the audience from the second we meet him.
Sophia Lillis too has a substantial role to play in the proceedings. As Doric, she provides enough warmth and laughter in a role that so easily could have been overshadowed by the main cast. The role becomes vital at times and Sophia Lillis is more than up to the challenge. Her personality, her acting ability, and her general likability shine through. And she also has a major part to play in the film’s climax. Instead of just becoming a background player in the mayhem, she comes to the fore in her role.
Rege-Jean Page also proves to be a welcome member of the cast. His role as Xenk is, to be honest, just an extended cameo. And that is a shame as his character is likable, fun, and worthy of being in the entire movie. He is in essence, in the film in the hero’s quest for the aforementioned Mcguffin. But for the time he actually spends on screen (around twenty minutes or so), he proves to be a wonderful actor, one that like Justice Smith and Sophia Lillis, has a huge career ahead of him. Page here is a welcome addition that leaves the audience wanting to see more of him than we get.
Daisy Head as Sofina gets the short end of the stick, sadly. As the film’s big bad, she doesn’t get nearly enough screen time or enough to do to sustain her role. From the minute we meet her, Sofina proves she is the villain of the piece. The death, destruction, and mayhem she causes are one of the main reasons for the quest, to begin with. But Daisy Head vanishes for a lot of the film, only popping up here and there before the big climax.
She deserves more screen time, and more depth to be presented to the audience for us to truly hate her character. As it is, she appears and does something evil before disappearing for the vast majority of the movie. She does get her time to shine by the climax, but by that time, we expect it. And it is too late by then.
Hugh Grant though is a major annoyance from the start. If you were not a fan of the actor before the film, you certainly won’t be after it. For such an accomplished, well-respected actor, Grant here will drive the audience insane. As Forge, we can see what and who he is from the minute we lay eyes on him. And when the reveal of his true nature, early on in the film, it isn’t a surprise.
The way the character has been written, and the way Grant portrays him are major disadvantages to the film as a whole. For someone we thought would be a highlight, instead, he is a big distraction, something the film doesn’t want or need. If the film is profitable enough to get a sequel, then Grant needs to be confined to a cameo appearance if he appears at all.
The direction by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley is pretty assured. Both give the film the perfect look and feel. The action is handled deftly and winningly by the pair, and they have a keen eye for both visual and practical comedy throughout. The way they frame their shots, showing the colors of the interior and exterior sets and the beauty of the locations are up to par from the outset.
The direction of the actors is above reproach and gives the film a winning feeling. They make the film feel like it should, a fun action-filled comedic romp that will keep the audience happy and send them home with smiles on their faces.
Composer Lorne Balfe delivers a score that fits the film like a glove. His cues are sheer perfection at times, one minute all action and drama, the next kind and feeling. He also provides comedic moments with music that is inspired. It is hardly surprising to learn that Balfe himself is a huge fan of the game and delivers some of his best work for the movie. Lorne Balfe has been making himself quite the reputation in Hollywood with his music and here, it will only enhance the composer’s reputation. He is fast becoming one of the go-to composers and here, he once again proves why.
Fans of the tabletop role-playing game will find much to enjoy here. The film does contain some visual and vocal cameos along the way that will have fans pointing at the screen and smiling as the characters come to life. The film as a whole is wonderfully entertaining, amusing, and worthy of buying a ticket for. There is certainly a lot of fun to be had, some terrific set-pieces, and a great pairing of Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez bring the film to life.
With some brilliant supporting performances along the way, the film manages to overcome the things that drag it down somewhat. The problems do stick in the mind after the film ends but they shouldn’t allow the enjoyment of the film to be distilled.
MID CREDITS STINGER
There is, of course, a mid-credits stinger. It actually ends something that the film contains halfway through. And is yet another wonderful comedic moment. Although I did expect it, it was still a delight to see and ended the film perfectly. There are a few scenes that could possibly scare younger viewers but these are very few and far between. To be honest, they’ll be too busy marveling at some of the special effects to notice, but they may jump at what happens in places.
But they, like the rest of the audience, will get a kick out of what is on display here. It may be slightly predictable near the end, and it may have a few problems along the way, but by the end credits, you’ll leave completely entertained. Is there honor among thieves? Maybe, but the film is an honor to watch and devour.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is distributed by Paramount Pictures And eOne Entertainment and will be released on March 31st.
Carl Roberts is the News Editor for The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force frequently!