Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Movie Review
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Movie Review Metadata
I was fortunate enough to be in the audience for Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves on opening night during SXSW 2023 at the historic Paramount Theater. Holding the slot for opening night SXSW is no small feat and many notable films have held that position have gone on to do great things, including the 2022 opening night feature, Everything Everywhere All At Once, which went on to win a few Oscars, and in 2019, Jordan Peele’s US. Due to connections and incredible luck, I was able to secure fancy industry seats that allowed me to bypass that legendary and impossible line.
One day I’ll have to tell you about the lines at SXSW because they deserve their own space.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves isn’t a complicated tale, and you don’t need to know what a saving throw is or how to roll for initiative. At the heart of it, as well as the OG role-playing game it’s based on, is a story of mystical quests, magic, and betrayal.
Former spy and thief, Edgin (Chris Pine) has led a randomly nomadic life with his young daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman) and barbarian BFF Holga (Michelle Rodriguez). Teaming up with Simon (Justice Smith), a sorcerer who could be much, much better at his craft, they’re convinced to pull off a heist that would net Edgin not only riches, which are nice and all, but an amulet that would resurrect his dead wife. He loves and misses her a lot, and in a world of magic these things are entirely possible. The job goes sideways and after a stint in prison, Edgin and Holga discover former ally and current rogue, Forge (Hugh Grant) has been raising Kira as his own and spreading lies about her father and why he went to prison. It doesn’t hurt that he’s now wealthy beyond reason and Lord of Neverwinter (go with it, it’s fun). Edgin, Holga, and Simon recruit a shape-shifting druid Doric (Sophia Lillis) and track down a paladin, Xenk (Regé-Jean Page) to take down the Lord of Neverwinter. Little do they know the secret behind his wealth and power is a Red Wizard named Sofina (Daisy Head), whose personal deal with Forge could mean the end of Neverwinter and undead slavery for all within its borders.
This is the literal definition of High Fantasy and what separates Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves from something like say, the Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003) is you don’t need an advanced degree in Tolkien to understand what’s happening. If you’ve never picked up a 20-sided die or you quickly looked up “paladin” (sure, you just wanted to make I spelled it right), it’s fine. Screenwriters Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, and Michael Gilio craft a story as accessible as any popcorn flick. Edgin wants his wife and daughter back, Simon wants to be a sorcerer his ancestors could be proud of, Doric wants to save Neverwinter for the Othered magical creatures (yes, speciesism is alive and well in Neverwinter), and Holga really just wants to beat the crap out of people. It’s not assumed you’ll know who these characters are, and they aren’t so clever or infallible that you can’t see their faults. As the story progresses, we learn about them organically and through the story instead of massive flashback info dumps that are often clunky and pasted in. For as many characters as Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves boasts, those inserted insights pad time and take away from the adventure. Fortunately, this is all adventure, and not a minute is wasted.
The adventure doesn’t take away from the emotional heart of the story, which is important because while these thieves are using magic, they’re also using smarts and inherent goodness to persevere. We want these good guys to win if only to smack the smarmy grin off of Forge’s face. There are short notable side quests, I believe normal genres call them B and C storylines, but they all have a direct line back to the main story, so there’s no concern of a dangling plot or forgotten storyline. There is a lovely linear narrative under all of that fighting, and speaking of fighting – the fights don’t go on and on. They’re fights like normal people (with magic and shape-shifting abilities) would have, making their outcomes even more impressive.
Above all, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, is fun. The comedy is sharp and campy, the camaraderie among the band is strong, and it’s super kid-friendly. Even with the scary wizards and dangerous dragons, this is a movie you can take the family to see. Sure, there is stabbing, zombies, and a few fatal injuries, but nothing kids aren’t already watching on Nickelodeon (probably).
I’m not saying Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves will make you want to dust off your college edition for weekend game nights, but this is a movie that gently takes you by the hand (or claws, we don’t judge) and reminds you of all of the wild, silly, reasons you love high fantasy action books and movies. It’s a joyful tale that leaves enough easter eggs for the hardcore fans without making new fans feel left out.
There’s no gatekeeping in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves and that is refreshing to say.
If you’ve been praying this wouldn’t suck the scales off a behir, like the 2000 toilet swirler that drowned our hopes in the Great Sea, you’re in luck. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is worthy of the hype. We may not get a sequel or a trilogy, let’s not go crazy, but it has certainly renewed my faith in high adventure movies we can watch with a big bucket of popcorn and have a great time.
This was only supposed to be a capsule review, but Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is really too good for that, so we’ll treat it like I treat my other reviews.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023) is rated PG-13 for violence against ogres, broadsword fights, death by magic, resurrected zombies, displacer beasts, wild magic, smacks to the head, and of course, dragons.