8 Ways ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ Delivers Fantasy Family Fun
Apr 4, 2023   •   Mikhail Lecaros
8List.ph is published by ID8, Inc.
Apr 4, 2023   •   Mikhail Lecaros
Fronted by Chris Pine (Star Trek, Wonder Woman), Michelle Rodriquez (Fast and Furious, Avatar), and Hugh Grant (Notting Hill, Love Actually), Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a star-studded romp that introduces the universe of the iconic tabletop fantasy role-playing game (RPG’s) to a new audience. Written and directed by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (the duo behind Horrible Bosses and Game Night), this is an all-new big-screen take on the material that shouldn’t be confused with the infamous Jeremy Irons-starring flop from 2000.
Created in 1974 by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, Dungeons & Dragons represented an evolution of traditional tabletop RPGs, combining character-based adventures and storytelling with elements drawn from popular fantasy and mythology. Easy to pick up and endlessly adaptable to players of different skill levels, the game proved popular with veteran gamers and newcomers alike.
Since launching, Dungeons & Dragons has spawned multiple updates, revisions, and expansions, in addition to scores of fan-created adventures (homebrews), over the succeeding decades. The franchise has even inspired scores of ancillary products and media, including video games (Neverwinter Nights, Baldur’s Gate), novels, toys, and an animated series.
Following the aforementioned first attempt to adapt the property in the early 2000s, Honor Among Thieves makes its bow amidst over a decade of so-called “geek” properties ruling the box office. In a market now accustomed to multiple superhero franchises, re-imaginings, and assorted video game adaptations, can the new film succeed where the previous one so famously failed?
Honor Among Thieves is the story of Edgin Darvis (Pine), a bard-turned-thief-with-a-heart-of-gold, and his crew, consisting of mighty warrior Holga (Rodriguez), inept sorcerer Simon (Justice Smith, Detective Pikachu, Jurassic World: Dominion), and con man Forge (Grant). Using acts of petty theft to raise his daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman, My Spy) in the wake of his wife’s passing at the hands of Red Wizards, Edgin, along with Holga, is arrested on a job gone horribly wrong. Imprisoned for the next two years, the duo escapes incarceration in hopes of retrieving Kira (who was raised by Forge in the interim), as well as the treasure that got them arrested in the first place: a tablet that can return Edgin’s beloved wife to the land of the living.
Upon escaping, Edgin and Holga learn that Forge has managed to scam his way right to the top, and is now the ruling Lord of Neverwinter. To retrieve his daughter and get back at Forge, the heroes enlist the aid of their former allies, while seeking out new comrades in the forms of shapeshifter Doric (Sophia Lillis, IT), and Xenk (Regé-Jean Page, Bridgerton), a self-righteous paladin. Standing against the heroes in her desire to raise an undead army is Forge’s adviser, Sofina (Daisy Head, Shadow and Bone), whose status as a Red Witch makes Edgin’s quest all the more personal.
As Edgin, Chris Pine is at his roguish best, setting the tone early on with a wild, vivid recap of his backstory that doesn’t end well for his and Holga’s parole hearing. His inherent playfulness gels well with Rodriguez’s gruff warrior, and while neither steps out of their respective comfort zones, it’s fun to see how their established personalities play in a well-realized fantasy setting. Whereas the cast of 2000’s Dungeons & Dragons movie all acted like they were in different genres, the stars of Honor Among Thieves were all properly briefed on this film’s being more The Princess Bride (1987) and Stardust (2007) than Lord of the Rings.
Hugh Grant pretty much steals the film with his foppish Forge, clearly relishing the chance to portray the duplicitous character, but he isn’t the only A-lister on hand, as there was one cameo that had the audience roaring with laughter, yet somehow fit right into the colorful world that Goldstein and Daley have laid out for moviegoers.
Chock-full of creative wit, the screenplay introduces a multitude of fantastical creatures (where can we get an owlbear?), lands, and spells that invite audiences to explore the lore behind them. In addition, Goldstein and Daley have included a seemingly endless series of references, winks, and nods to the overall franchise that somehow isn’t alienating for anyone who can’t tell a halfling from a gelatinous cube. The result is a film with the energy of a well-crafted theme park attraction, taking viewers on a ride they won’t regret embarking on.
Legacy Effects (The Mandalorian, Avengers: Endgame, Avatar: The Way of Water) does a bang-up job in ringing the world of D&D to life, utilizing a blend of CGI and practical effects. From a bewildered bird man to a (more-than-) chonky red dragon, the resulting creatures have a credible weight and heft to them that complement the real-world shotting locations. While one can’t imagine the deliberations on which monsters to include, the ones featured here make for a fine menagerie of fantastical fauna.
Featuring an all-star cast having a ball while balancing family-friendly action with (equally-) innocuous comedy, Honor Among Thieves is a fun, fantasy adventure that the whole family can enjoy. And if it gets a whole new generation interested in seeing what the game is all about, this definitely won’t be the last time we see Dungeons & Dragons on the big screen.
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