Honor Among Thieves makes Dungeons & Dragons fun for fans and newcomers alike.
Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023) Review By Mark McPherson
Published on March 30, 2023
Rating 4 /5
Honor Among Thieves is a Dungeons & Dragons movie that nails the appeal of the tabletop game. The heart of its allure lies in the campaign's creativity and comradery formed around the adventure. With that in mind, this fantasy adventure film is an exciting and fun breeze rather than a lore-laden slog.
The premise centers around misfit thieves that have found a noble calling. After years of working for organizations, they’ve grown to distrust and stealing from people for greedy gain, they turn their attention to saving the land and protecting their close-knit family. At the core of these heist experts is Edgin (Chris Pine), a bard expert at planning capers, who has a way with lyrics and brandishes a lute as his weapon. He lost his wife to a red wizard and raised his daughter alongside his thief group, which includes the brash barbarian Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) and the meek paladin Xenk (Regé-Jean Page). So when Edgin learns of a magical artifact that could revive his wife, he risks swiping it.
The quest for resurrection grows more complicated when the reunited group learns of their former colleague Forge (Hugh Grant) rising to power as a city ruler. After he steals away Edgin’s daughter, it’s revealed he’s working with darker forces for his greedy gains. The mission for gaining the reviving artifact will require some extra help, leading to the recruitment of the dead-pan druid Doric (Sophia Lillis) and seeking the guidance of the blunt sorcerer Simon (Justice Smith). Their adventure will take them everywhere, from a dungeon occupied by a bulky dragon to a dangerous maze of flesh-eating cube monsters.
This movie is overflowing with witty lines and fantastic character chemistry, thanks to a full screenplay and direction by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley. My biggest worry was that such a fantasy franchise would become so lost in its world that it would seem far too imposing to become a fun adventure without some homework. But in the same way that James Gunn made audiences resonate with a talking raccoon and tree in Guardians of the Galaxy, Honor Among Thieves will make audiences care about the plight of a paladin with confidence issues and a tiefling druid with trust issues that can transform into an owl-bear hybrid. You don’t have to update your knowledge on the campaigns of Neverwinter and Baldur’s Gate to appreciate the excitement, although the namedropping will no doubt please some fans.
The only major issue with a film like this is that it has such a large cast, and not all of them get the best arcs. Doric, for example, seems to have a small hill to conquer with her distrust of humans. All she needs is a dangerous situation, a human in need, and a monster to slay, making her good to go. Xenk also has some confidence issues with living up to his legacy, which is unique but reduced to some connections with his past that sadly seem reduced to off-screen and internal conflicts. Of course, this movie runs nearly 2.5 hours, so there’s a lot to cram into this picture. It’s more compelling for just how well these characters play off each other than it is having each of their arcs fully defined.
The visual effects of this film are also a major treat. They’d have to be for a picture that involves zombie spells, undead warriors, dragon slaying, animal transformations, and wands that create transportation portals. There’s also a seamless ease to these sights that rarely find characters standing in awe at everything. It’s a very lived-in world, to the point that a barbarian prisoner breaking the legs of a vicious orc seems like an everyday occurrence.
Honor Among Thieves makes Dungeons & Dragons fun for fans and newcomers alike. The cast is in top form, the script richly robust, and the sights a genuine thrill. It’s hard to say if a film like this will generate any new buzz for the classic tabletop game, but it’s sure to paint a much better perception than the previously lackluster theatrical D&D movie. It’s hard not to be fascinated by a film that involves an owl-bear monster smacking about a red wizard or a tubby dragon rolling about a dungeon trying to munch the intruders.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.