“A lot of heart put into it both in front of and behind the camera”
John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein’s Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves introduces us to bard Edgin Darvis (Chris Pine) and barbarian Holga Kilgore (Michelle Rodriguez), who have been imprisoned in Revel’s End prison for the last two years. While pleading their case to be released, Edgin discusses the events that led them there. He recalls his past as a member of the Harpers, the tragedy that befell his wife at the hands of a Red Wizard, and the heist he went on in order to provide his daughter, Kira (Chloe Coleman), a better life. Edgin and Holga teamed up with amateur sorcerer Simon Aumar (Justice Smith), rogue Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant), and mysterious Sofina (Daisy Head), to steal the Tablet of Resurrection, but get captured while the rest of their accomplices made off with it. In present day, Edgin and Holga manage to escape prison and travel to Nevermore, only to find that Forge has now become a lord under mysterious circumstances, and, while taking care of Kira, lied to her about why Edgin went to prison. After barely escaping Forge’s capture, Edgin and Holga reunite with Simon and tiefling druid Doric (Sophia Lillis), in order to bring Kira home and steal back the tablet.
One of the best aspects of D&D is undoubtedly the stacked cast of talented actors. They have fantastic chemistry together, and it’s clear that everyone here is having an absolute blast. Watching this group bring their characters to life with such joy is what makes the journey all the more enjoyable to be a part of, and, much like the actors portraying them, each of these characters bring something unique to the table. The friendships formed between them are believable, and this sense of camaraderie, which is also a vital part of the role-playing game itself, only heightens the comedic moments. Despite employing a few predictable and tired gags, most likely a product of its PG-13 rating, there are a lot of genuinely hilarious moments that have equally satisfying payoffs without ever taking away from the more emotional beats— a trap that a lot of films have fallen into recently. If anything, the comedy only makes witnessing their times of hardship all the more affecting, an impressive balance Daley and Goldstein, along with their co-writer Michael Gilio, achieve.
The biggest issue with D&D is that its story is too bloated, an issue that a lot of films, specifically in the fantasy genre, fall into when tasked with introducing an audience to a new world with new rules. Trying to juggle this many characters and their backstories in such a short amount of time is a difficult feat, and inevitably leads to some characters being relegated to the background, never fully fleshed out. Not only can this become overwhelming, it just feels messy, weakening the understanding and belief in the characters’ motivations and lessening the impact of their arcs in the end. Pine’s rushed exposition dump at the start is a perfect example of this, as it would have been a much bigger detriment if not as entertaining as it was. It’s the same reason why most of the faults in this film can be overlooked—it’s such a good time.
Daley and Goldstein have successfully crafted a film that everyone can enjoy, not just fans of the role-playing game; however, their adaptation remains faithful to the lore within the already-established universe, which is something fans will be able to appreciate. It’s clear that Dungeons & Dragons has a lot of heart put into it both in front of and behind the camera, with its costume and set designs and use of practical effects that’s rare to see nowadays. For a film of this caliber, it’s refreshing and promising to witness such earnestness in telling a story that’s important to so many people.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is in theaters now.
Directors: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
Writers: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein, Michael Gilio
Story: Chris McKay, Michael Gilio
Cast: Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, Hugh Grant