Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves made me tear up a bit at the end. It was an involuntary reaction, I certainly didn’t intend for it to happen, but it’s something that occurred nevertheless. Against my better judgement, I came to care about these characters and whether they managed to make it through the end of the movie. So, in the words of Rick and Morty, “You son of a bitch, I’m in.”
The movie isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination but it is recognizably and explicitly Dungeons and Dragons. Which is a harder thing to embody than many people might think. Dungeons and Dragons isn’t a setting by itself but a method of creating and playing a setting. This is the problem of previous adaptations because you can play any fantasy setting with D&D rules but you can’t just say, “Dungeons and Dragons is the setting.” Here, it’s the Forgotten Realms and I kind of wish they’d called it Forgotten Realms or Neverwinter Nights because either of those titles would have been appropriate as well.
Energy-wise, this is a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie for better and worse. I honestly compare this most to Paul Rudd’s Ant Man movie in terms of rough mixture between family melodrama, quips, and action. Well, this has a lot more dragons in it and I’ll give that is an impressive boost over Ant Man. It’s a movie about a failed father trying to reconnect with his daughter, a heist, and an oddball crew of misfits. So let’s say Ant Man meets Guardians of the Galaxy meets dragons. Which, yes, is probably why I love this movie against my better judgement. Neither of those films are my favorite Marvel films but throw in an owlbear and the Red Wizards of Thay? Yeah, now we’re cooking with fireballs.
The premise is somewhat overly complicated at the start with, essentially, an entire movie’s worth of backstory in the prologue that could have been the first part of a trilogy. Edgin Darvis (Chris Pine) is a Harper who turns to thievery after his do-goodery gets his wife killed by the Red Wizards. He ends up as heterosexual but platonic partners with Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) and raises his daughter, Kira, with her. Hearing there’s a magical tablet that can raise his wife from the dead, Edgin robs the Harpers and gets sent to magical prison with Holga when the heist goes wrong. They break out and decide to get Kira back from their partner who, obviously, betrayed them but is raising the girl as his own.
This is just the prologue.
The movie is mostly a heist film with our leads recruiting bumbling sorcerer Simon Aumar (Justice Smith) and kickass Tiefling druid Doric (Sophia Lillis) to help take down Lord Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant) as well as his Red Wizard partner Sofina (Daisy Head). They go from action scene and comedy scene to action scene to comedy scene with the movie never really taking a break. Some of the comedy is stupid like a scene where they waste their Speak with the Dead questions while other comedy is stupid but entertaining as hell (Holga’s ex being a halfling? Eh. Holga’s ex taking up with another Amazonian barbarian? HILARIOUS).
The movie is utterly drenched with fanservice and you’ll be unable to turn off your brain from the, “I recognize that, they said the thing, I recognize that, reference to that thing I know!” Memberberries (i.e. things you remember from your childhood) are a pretty low form of humor perfected by Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Iron Man but it works on the nerd side of my brain. When they mention Simon is Elminster’s descendant, I went, “Yeah, him and half of Faerun” and realized they’d gotten me.
I feel almost bad about how mad I am for unabashedly loving this movie. I am deeply cynical about Hasbro’s handling of D&D and mad at them for a dozen things ranging from the OGL to the novels being abandoned. However, this movie has an morbidly obese red dragon, the cast of the Eighties Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, and Szass Frigging Tam (who is the villain of my current D&D campaign).
What am I supposed to do with that? I can’t stay mad at a movie trying this hard to entertain me. The cast is a bunch of bumbling misfits and everyone looks like an idiot but Doric (Michelle Rodriguez gets a lot of mileage out of being a dumb barbarian), yet I can’t complain about that since it’s my style of humor too.
They’re also competent when it counts. I even like Hugh Grant in this as he basically shows what he would have been like if he’d play Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets. Literally my only complaints are the fact that I wasn’t aware Faerun was enlightened enough to have prisons with a healthy pardon system and the fact movie dragged in literally two places.
See the film.