To begin with, the film Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves has only one dungeon and dragon, and they are not even in the same scene or location. So, loses point on that already. And in case it was not apparent, the preceding statements are obviously sarcastic as the movie is a rather enjoyable romp that uses the standard story clichés, archetypes, and tropes to execute an entertaining and engaging narrative about found family, second chances, and unexpected heroes. Basically, what any actual player of the popular tabletop roleplaying game should expect from a DnD adventure.
That is not to say that the film is perfect or that it is the best film of the year. Honestly, far from it as there have been, and definitely will be, better films this year, but it is unquestionably an intentional, well made, and expertly executed fantasy film that actually wants you to see what is happening on screen. Lo and behold, this film shows that you can have fantastical adventures in actual daylight visible to the human eye. As well, while there are obvious CGI enhancements and sequences, much of the film was made with practical effects and costumes and on location sets instead of green/blue screens and sets in a warehouse somewhere in California or Georgia. Genuinely, whether you believe or care about the cast’s and/or crew’s interest in the source material, you cannot deny that everyone involved put in their best efforts in making a quality film.
The narrative of Honor Among Thieves is a pretty standard set up. A bard/warrior, Edgin (played by Chris Pine aka the Best Chris), and his barbarian bud, Holga (played by Michelle Rodriguez), have to escape from an inescapable prison after a failed heist job trying to acquire a powerful resurrection relic (really just your basic McGuffin). Once they have managed to con an early release, they return home and try to find the bard’s daughter, who he left behind to attempt the original heist, and reunite their rag tag family. Unfortunately, their former “friend”/fellow thief, Forge (played by Hugh Grant), is the one who betrayed them and has managed to ascend to new heights and riches and titles with the help of the Red Wizard Sofina (played by Daisy Head) who has her own agenda. Realizing they are outmatched, the pair decide to get a team together to steal their former colleague’s riches, the bard’s daughter who is now a ward of the betrayer, and foil whatever plans he and the Red Wizard are forming. They find another old friend, Simon (played by Justice Smith), a powerful sorcerer/artificer who has a major self esteem issue that impacts his magical abilities. He leads them to another ally, a Tiefling druid named Doric (played by Sophia Lillis) whose shape shifting abilities will come in handy for their needed purposes.
From there, we get a few side quests, like resurrecting some of Holga’s deceased barbarian clansmen in order to interrogate them and finding a magical helmet necessary to undoing many of the magical traps and locks on the vault they are trying to break into. Along these side quests, the party meets a Thane Paladin named Xenk (played by Regé-Jean Page) of great renown and famous for his many heroic exploits. He leads them into the Underdark to the magical helmet and gives them further insight into the plans and machinations of Sofina and her ilk. It is within the Underdark that we find the sole dragon in this Dungeons and Dragons movie, but it works for what we are seeing. Magical McGuffin #2 in hand, the party returns to Neverwinter, sans Xenk, to enact their plan, takeout Forge and Sofina, retrieve Kira (played by Chloe Coleman) aka Edgin’s daughter, steal Forge’s ill gotten gains, and potentially save the day. Which is exactly what happens. Throughout the final act, each individual character has the completion of their specific arcs. Simon finally finds his courage and is able to perform his magic at will even against a powerful wizard like Sofina. Doric learns to trust, some, humans and is able to save her people’s home through that trust. Holga makes peace with her past by fully embracing her present. Edgin realizes that he has to let go of his wife as she has fully passed and focus on his daughter and the found family he has made.
So, yeah the movie is basically full of tropes and clichés, but it still manages to be an engaging and well executed story within those tropes and clichés. The chemistry of the cast is apparent from the onset. Each character gets their moment and time to shine. The humor actually works even if you are unfamiliar with a lot of lore or DnD stuff. There are plenty of Easter eggs and callouts for players and fans of the game. But above all else, you can tell from interviews and behind the scenes footage and the press tours that everyone involved in the film respected the source material and was very concerned with due diligence and making a good film which this movie absolutely is. You don’t need to have seen a bunch of past movies or read several books or even have played a single second of a DnD campaign to watch and enjoy this film. Just an open mind, a decent tub of popcorn, and maybe a couple of friends to really have a good time with this one.