Between HBO’s megahit series The Last of Us and the surprise success of both Sonic the Hedgehog films, you could almost say we’re in a golden age of game adaptations. On the tabletop side, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves only further solidifies this streak.
The film comes from writer-directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley and stars Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, and Hugh Grant. Pine portrays the bard Edgin, a former spy imprisoned with barbarian Holga (Rodriguez) as a result of a failed heist they pursued alongside their teammates, sorcerer Simon (Smith) and rogue Forge (Grant). Two years later, an escaped Edgin and Holga, betrayed by a former comrade, find themselves taking on a new conquest: retrieving Edgin’s daughter Kira (Chloe Colman). However, they also come into conflict with the Red Wizards, who once nearly brought about their downfall and plan to do much worse.
The movie follows a lot of the expected fantasy-adventure tropes (a ragtag bunch of misfits pursuing a treasure but finding something more important along the way). However, it exudes an undeniable charm that sets it apart, largely due to Pine’s performance. Pine Nuts (of which I am proudly one) will revel in his quick wit and rugged charisma as Edgin. We are first introduced to him knitting a pair of mittens in a prison cell and dryly addressing a new cellmate, giving him a “tour” of said cell (including where to piss), subverting the kind of introduction you’d expect from a similar protagonist. Edgin is a deeply flawed character, dishonest and overshoots with his own plans, negative traits for someone who calls himself a planner. However, he’s written so well that he’s just sympathetic enough to root for. Pine elevates this role, perfectly encompassing the snarky hero with a heart of gold archetype.
Though Pine shines the brightest, he splits the load with his cast mates. Rodriguez provides a great foil as Holga, a quieter, tough-as-nails barbarian who takes on the vast majority of the (wonderfully shot and choreographed) fight scenes. However, she gives just as much heart to the film as Pine. Grant thickly lays on his own signature charm as Forge, making his sliminess all the funnier, but used in just the right dose to not feel tired. Smith portrays an endearing awkwardness as Simon and Lillis act as an effective straight woman as shapeshifting druid Doric; one of the biggest missed opportunities of the film is exploring Doric’s glossed-over backstory and the druids’ mistreatment. Rounding out the cast is Page as paladin Yendar, who could rival Amelia Bedelia in how literally he takes everything. Page successfully averts the potential cringiness of this running joke through an understated but engaging performance.
As someone almost entirely unfamiliar with the game, my lack of knowledge didn’t inhibit my enjoyment of the film. Despite playing the typical tropes of a fantasy adventure mostly straight, the narrative feels earnest while also displaying self-awareness of its own absurdity. It contains high fantasy elements like the titular dragons and magic but stays grounded enough that you connect with the characters and resonate with their issues. Creative shots and action set pieces further elevate the film. The film uses numerous rotating and upside-down shots, but they service the atmosphere and action sequences and never feel pretentious.