Review: 'Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves' is a Delightful Surprise
by Manuel São Bento
March 31, 2023
Fantasy is undoubtedly one of my favorite genres. With incredibly iconic franchises like The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, everything that involves fantastical, imaginative adventures captivates me in a special manner. However, my knowledge of the famous tabletop role-playing fame that originates this big screen adaptation is honestly little to none. I'm familiar with the concept and structure of the game itself, but I've never participated in any campaigns. My own personal expectations increased with the especially positive early response to this movie, making me hopeful for a new fantasy flick I might genuinely enjoy. So I am pleased to report that Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a delightful surprise.
The premise of this fantasy movie is divided into two parts: the first is focused on obtaining a particularly powerful object and the second is about the group invading a castle and rescuing Kira (Chloe Coleman), the daughter of the protagonist, a bard named Edgin (Chris Pine). Obviously, other details surround and interconnect these missions, but the main plot doesn't deviate from this primary path, even leaving aside storylines and secondary characters for future, inevitable sequels. Personally, I can't wait for them!
Even though I walked into the theater anticipating a somewhat enjoyable movie to begin with, directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (directors of the hilarious Game Night before this), who co-write the screenplay with Michael Gilio (Kwik Stop), blow up the scale of what I expected. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves has so much going for it that it's hard to choose where to start, but the charming cast with undeniable chemistry deserve the initial acclaim because, without this group of actors & actresses, the formulaic narrative with lots of MacGuffins in the mix would have been much less interesting.
All of these actors possess exceptional comedic timing, elevating the numerous scenes of extremely efficient humor. Honor Among Thieves is, above all, a comedy that induces never-ending laughter from the audience in a full theater, something that, frankly, I haven't experienced in some time. There's a scene in a graveyard that I will rewatch – and ostensibly laugh at – dozens of times. That said, the flick is also an adrenaline-fueled, high-energy, action-packed adventure with magic, dragons, elves, and much more. The visual effects should make certain superhero blockbusters envious, as will composer Lorne Balfe's truly epic score.
I'm glad to see Sophia Lillis on screen again, especially in such a relevant role as Doric, a druid capable of transforming into several animal forms and who decides to help the group in order to revitalize her own enclave. Justice Smith continues his surprising evolution as an actor, this time playing Simon Aumar, a sorcerer with self-esteem issues, who still gets right back up whenever he falls. The two actors have many amusing interactions, as they help each other overcome personal obstacles.
The leading badass of this enjoyable Dungeons & Dragons movie is none other than action legend Michelle Rodriguez. The actress plays Holga, a barbarian exiled from her tribe for having given in to love, but appearances aren't deceiving; Holga features in the best fight scenes, facing soldiers in long sequences with impressive stunts for a film where CGI-heavy action was expected; a good balance between true locations and green/blue walls deserves to be commended. Regé-Jean Page doesn't get as much screentime playing Xenk Yendar, but like his counterparts, he contributes immensely to both action and comedy.
Curiously, it's the more experienced Hugh Grant who doesn't fare as well in this one as Forge Fitzwilliam, a greedy con artist aided by Sofina (Daisy Head), a very powerful and deceptive wizard. Don't get me wrong, Grant's performance is exactly what the filmmakers wanted from the actor, but his character is so caricatured that he stands out too much compared to the "naturalness" of the core group. Many one-liners work brilliantly with Chris Pine and everyone else, with Grant and Head not so much.
Nevertheless, Pine steals the spotlight. In Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, the actor offers all of his charisma and personality to Edgin, a simple bard trying to correct the mistakes of the past. All the characters are relatable and quite funny, dealing with their own arcs and narrative events with just the right amount of irony and sarcasm that fit perfectly in the light atmosphere crafted by the directors. But Edgin's past carries more emotional weight than it seems, and the balance between dramatic storylines and a comedic environment isn't easy to control.
Thankfully, the cast, especially Pine, manage to bring more heart to a movie that absolutely needed some genuine emotion. Honor Among Thieves may not delve too deep into its more sensitive themes of parental abandonment and grief, nor would anyone ask that of a flick made to entertain a young target audience, but even with brief amount of commentary on this topic, it manages to convey positive messages amid so many adventurous, sometimes chaotic moments throughout.
Honestly, I hold no major issues with Honor Among Thieves. Yes, it's predictable and the entire second act revolves around a full-on MacGuffin that turns out to be completely irrelevant to the plot itself, but without the incessant search for that object, certain important scenes wouldn't have occurred and thus a particular character wouldn't end up with their full arc. It's not a film that makes me leave the cinema with a list of negatives, but an experience that leaves me utterly delighted… and surprised by how utterly delighted I was.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is one of the best fantasy films from the past few years. Chris Pine is the MVP of an incredibly charming cast with such natural chemistry that many of the comedic moments become truly hilarious – the graveyard scene will be replayed over and over again. An adventure blockbuster in all its purity, containing action set pieces filled with fantastical elements and accompanied by remarkable visual effects and a terrific score. One of the most fun, enjoyable, surprising theater experiences of the year so far. Impossible not to recommend it to any type of moviegoer.
Manuel's Rating: B+
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