In the realm of tabletop gaming, there exists a captivating fantasy adventure known as “Dungeons & Dragons.” This immersive game revolves around a self-proclaimed master storyteller known as the “Dungeon Master.” Within the confines of this imaginative world, daring exploits and thrilling quests take shape, allowing competing teams of players to embody a myriad of fantastical beings, ranging from graceful elves to cunning gnomes and formidable half-orcs. Once considered a pursuit solely embraced by the devoted and geeky, Dungeons & Dragons remained niche compared to the later surge of mainstream popularity bestowed upon geek culture by the advent of comic-book movies. Nevertheless, it is rather astonishing that the illustrious realm of Hollywood has been slow to rekindle its fascination with this whimsical, high-fantasy universe after a series of somewhat lackluster film adaptations in the early 2000s.
Enter “Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves,” a remarkable production that harks back to the golden era of fantastical films, evoking memories of beloved classics like “The Princess Bride,” “Labyrinth,” and “Willow.” However, it does so without succumbing to overt nostalgia. This cinematic endeavour captures the essence of the game’s essence, appealing to the very core of those dedicated enthusiasts who delight in whiling away their evenings engrossed in the joy of rolling dice, strategizing intricate battle plans, and immersing themselves in the delightful folly of assuming outlandish character voices.
In the realm of gaming, Dungeons & Dragons thrives on the delicate equilibrium of its gameplay. A formidable team of players understands the importance of leveraging individual strengths while compensating for weaknesses. Similarly, “Honour Among Thieves” has assembled a cast capable of effortlessly encompassing the essential elements of humor, sincerity, and action. Chris Pine assumes the role of Edgin Darvis, a charismatic bard, imbuing the character with the same roguish charm that has endeared him to audiences in works like “Into the Woods” and “Wonder Woman.”
However, the film does stumble into a trope known as “dead wife syndrome.” Edgin is a single father, shouldering the responsibility of caring for Kira (Chloe Coleman) following the tragic demise of her mother at the hands of enigmatic adversaries. Yet, to the film’s credit, this stereotypical narrative is subverted by the presence of Michelle Rodriguez as Holga, Edgin’s loyal barbarian companion. Rodriguez’s performance brings unexpected tenderness, softening the character’s rough edges. Together, this trio offers a fresh perspective on non-traditional families.
Following a thwarted heist, Kira finds herself under the care of Forge Fitzwilliam (played with delightful gusto by Hugh Grant), who cunningly convinces her that her father is a negligent and materialistic figure who has abandoned her. It becomes Edgin’s mission to expose Forge’s lies and retrieve a mystical artifact that holds the potential to reunite his fractured family.
Directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley demonstrate keen insight by recognizing the shared mechanics between Dungeons & Dragons and the heist genre: assembling a team, acquiring an object, and defeating a villain. Their film maintains an energetic pace reminiscent of “Ocean’s Eleven.” Edgin gathers his team, including a self-doubting sorcerer (Justice Smith), a shape-shifting druid with trust issues (Sophia Lillis), and a noble-minded paladin who strictly avoids colloquialisms (Regé-Jean Page). While these characters embody broad archetypes, the cast’s performances are so fittingly chosen that no one feels compelled to force their portrayal.
Fans well-versed in the lore of Dungeons & Dragons, from identifying mimics to encountering owlbears, will find themselves right at home with Honour Among Thieves. However, this film does not limit itself to catering exclusively to the hardcore enthusiasts. And rightly so. The cultural impact of D&D extends far beyond the specifics of any particular universe. While the game possesses its own set of rules and codes, it actively encourages players to unleash their creativity, forging unique characters and crafting their own extraordinary adventures. At its core, Dungeons & Dragons is a narrative instrument that empowers individuals to become masterful storytellers.
This very essence of joy and boundless imagination seamlessly permeates the vibrant and dynamic world of Honour Among Thieves. Within its lively domain, one encounters garrulous corpses, managerial eagles, and pint-sized yet fearsome dragons. In a blockbuster landscape that has sadly grown predictable and mundane, this film arrives as a breath of fresh air, conjured forth from the magical wand of a spellcaster. It invigorates the senses and offers a much-needed respite from the tedium, infusing the cinematic realm with exhilaration and novelty.