Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Review

D&D is a funny, upbeat and enjoyable heist film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is accessible for everyone, but has key flaws that detracts from the overall experience.

Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons

SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT

There is an obvious answer this film needs to answer: Who is this film for? Is this film for the experienced D&D players who were bitterly disappointed by the widely hated the trilogy from early in the century? or is this film for the person who has never played D&D and is looking for a fun fantasy action film to whet their appetites?

A typical set of D&D dice. Photo Credit: Oliver Picton

The answer is neither, but will appeal to both. The real group of people this film is for Stranger Things fans. Being a key part of the Stranger Things show, Dungeons and Dragons has seen a huge boost in popularity in the past few years and has thrust the game very much into more of the mainstream mindset. This being the case, with backing from accomplished writer and director John Francis Daley, the film tries to go the distance and make a film that anyone, with any amount of knowledge can come and enjoy. And it does, but it does have some faults.

As someone who only has played a handful hours of D&D and by no means is well versed, the best thing about D&D certainly for me, is the imagination grabbing and also having fun with your friends.

Photo Credit: Oliver Picton

That is the first major positive for the film: the cast. The cast have so much chemistry together and feel like friends who are playing together. Chris Pine is witty and a strong lead and pairs excellently with the rest of the cast. The scenes with the expertly crafted over-the-top Regé-Jean Page are some of the best in the film. When the film starts to delve into territory not safe for the average viewer, Pine is there to bring us back with jokes and one-liners that are never forced or out of character.

Having spent years being the typical charming hero, Hugh Grant is having so much fun playing slimier, rougher antagonist and it shows amazingly on screen. Justice Smith also is great in his role as the self deprecating sorcerer Simon and the on-screen tension between himself and Sophia Lillis‘s character is perfect and show a great charcter development throughout the film.

Of the cast, Michelle Rodriguez is probably the weakest, limited to being the emotional wretch in the film’s final act rather than a character you grow to love and care about. However, the relationship between her and Pine is one of the strongest features of the film.

Image Credit: Flickr

Now onto the other aspect, the grabbing of the imagination and storytelling. This movie is a good fantasy film, but oh my word is there so much exposition. Playing the game, where you are told of the environment through your Dungeon Master is very different to have it being shouted at you whilst the case stand around a table, or sit on horses for five minute when a much more interesting plot point happens off screen.

It’s decisions and script writing like that comes across as weaker than the other real story telling devices that are used, such as the voice over scenes that open and close the film.

The rampant exposition ultimately has the effect that we are the viewers, are being told to believe in this world rather than actually believing it ourselves, taking away from the film overall. That is the biggest shame for me I think, as this easily could have been the best part of the film, having such a simple story, the background and world could have spices things up a little bit more.

The sound design of all the various blades, dragons, arrows are great and really cut through the generic battle music that can be found lacing the films action scenes, which are well put together but not really standout. That being said, there is an excellent long take chase scene featuring shapeshifting and is incredible to watch play out. Cinema goers are really being spoiled with long take shots in movies this year, and D&D is an good edition to the roster (as is John Wick 4, which you can read our review of here)

D&D also uses some spectacular locations, and establishing shots of the surrounding feature volcanos and glaciers and show off the width and breadth of the world and that sense of scale is a great asset to the movie. This does have the unfortunate effect of when a character just so happens to know exactly what to do or who to see, coming across contrived and extremely convenient which could have been more original.

Overall the film is good. It’s enjoyable for novices and experts of the game, and will encourage those who are curious to explore the worlds of D&D. That being said, the film relies on dense exposition and clucky conveniences to do some of the heavy lifting when the nearly perfect cast but simple story fall down.

Rating: 7/10

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