Another Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Review

Ever since Iron Man came out in 2008, the non-Disney studios have been desperate to build their own cinematic universe franchises. Outside of one or two arguable exceptions, these attempts have fallen flat on their faces. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves certainly has a Marvel-style franchise on its mind. It aims for the same sort of action that Disney has put out for the last fifteen...

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Ever since Iron Man came out in 2008, the non-Disney studios have been desperate to build their own cinematic universe franchises. Outside of one or two arguable exceptions, these attempts have fallen flat on their faces. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves certainly has a Marvel-style franchise on its mind. It aims for the same sort of action that Disney has put out for the last fifteen years full of big CGI, a heavy sprinkling of wisecracks and a dash of heart. Honor Among Thieves doesn’t entirely nail all those targets in the bullseye but it gets close enough to do the one thing a lot of those would-be franchise kickoffs forget to do; be a pretty good movie in its own right.


For Beth Rimmel's EN World review of Honor Among Thieves, click here!


Edgin the Bard (Chris Pine), Holga the Barbarian (Michelle Rodriguez), Doric the Druid (Sophia Lillis) and Simon The Sorcerer (Justice Smith) come together as an ensemble definitely cast in the Guardians of the Galaxy mold of unlikely heroes who have personal motivations to steal from bad guy Forge (Hugh Grant) and maybe save the world after, time permitting. The plot feels appropriate for a D&D with an overarching story that has quests to fulfill before it resolves. There are plenty of lore drops, the spellcasters using magic by calling out their proper D&D titles and a tease of an even Bigger Bad that definitely feels like the kind of thing they want to resolve in a few years and a few movies.

However, Honor Among Thieves works best when it borrows from an entirely unexpected franchise: Ghostbusters. That film works because the lore and worldbuilding are played relatively straight with the humor coming from the reactions of the working class heroes to all this weird supernatural stuff. That’s where the line is drawn in this film, where characters will casually drop names and places from all over the Forgotten Realms before letting the leads riff on them for a bit. Pine definitely has the best lines, though Rodriguez gets a few laughs as Pine’s surly straight man that occasionally dips into “let’s just kill ‘em all” power gamer. It’s one of the keys to the authenticity of the experience. Throw a big scary monster at most veteran D&D players and they’ll crack a few jokes as they roll initiative.

That authenticity extends to the various plans our heroes come up with in the course of the film. Though the film has really leaned into the fantasy heist movie branding, you won’t find any convenient flashbacks or tropes like “actually that bad guy was with us the whole time” here. Instead, the group comes up with a plan, whiffs a few die rolls executing the plan, then changes to an entirely different plan. There’s also a few unexpected uses of magic and magic items in the film where you can almost hear the DM’s sigh of exasperation as the good guys use the item in a way that circumvents their carefully laid out plot.

This theoretical DM gets a little bit of revenge with the appearance of Xenk the Paladin (Rege-Jean Page). This character appears in an extended second act cameo and feels like a character from a much different D&D movie. More specifically, it feels like a character from an earlier campaign who overshadows the rest of the group. Luckily, most of these moments are played for laughs, and Page is game to tackle making a classic Lawful Good character likable even if the rest of the group roll their eyes when he’s delivering lore.

Xenk’s shorter arc highlights one of the slight weaknesses of the film. Doric and Simon don’t get character traits beyond their initial ones of “earnest eco-warrior” and “sorcerer with terrible dice luck”. The leads reflect a few different philosophies of players and backstory. Edgin is mostly there to crack jokes even though his backstory is central to the film, while Holga’s player has brewed a romance that only she wants to work on. Grant is fine in his role as scummy ex-associate willing to sell out anyone for a gold piece, but his character makes a couple moves that feel less like character choices and more like “because then we’d end early for the evening after you all died.”

Also, for a film that’s supposed to be a twisty heist there aren’t really many surprises in the script: no sudden betrayals, no fake sellouts or any other staples of the heist movie. Even the low point of the second act where everyone threatens to walk away gets resolved in just a few minutes thanks to a self deprecating speech by Pine. Ultimately this works to the films' advantage as it never feels like its two hour run time. I love those regular nine hour extended viewings of Lord of the Rings like everyone else, but I’ll be excited to pop this on as a comfort movie when I want some fantasy adventure and not devote the whole day to it.

D&D: Honor Among Thieves is a family friendly action comedy with franchise dreams that hits the right notes for fans of the game and folks who just want to see Chris Pine play a lute. It may bring more players into the game. It may not. But it’s good enough to bring younger family members who might want to know about game nights or older members who always wondered what went on in the basement.
 

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Rob Wieland

Rob Wieland

Zarithar

Adventurer
I love how the directors joked about "emasculating" the male characters (causing the usual suspects to lose their minds—which I think was the point) but then you get the paladin breaking bad and being OP.
That whole quote was blown way out of proportion as well by critics who opined that the film was going to have a "woke" agenda. Many of them are backpeddling now and I am enjoying seeing that happen.
 

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Vincent55

Adventurer
The Mandalorian is a great show and if they built upon the show or quite trashing starwars and do them right. I fear this movie will go over big and then they will resort to their old habits and trash it like Star Wars. But I have not seen it yet so I will reserve my opinion until after, but after they did the vett dirty I am not liking them very much.
 

I love how the directors joked about "emasculating" the male characters (causing the usual suspects to lose their minds—which I think was the point) but then you get the paladin breaking bad and being OP.

no that was dumb and bad marketing, I want the movie actually make money so we get more of them and if you make large part of the audience feel disrespected and unwanted that won't happen. They walked it back in the interview, but it was too late. Honestly both sides frustrate me, your side doesn't get why that was wrong, and even mean, and the other side is like a dog with a bone and the rest of us are in the middle trying to keep the tempture down and the fun flowing.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
View attachment 279878

Ever since Iron Man came out in 2008, the non-Disney studios have been desperate to build their own cinematic universe franchises. Outside of one or two arguable exceptions, these attempts have fallen flat on their faces. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves certainly has a Marvel-style franchise on its mind. It aims for the same sort of action that Disney has put out for the last fifteen years full of big CGI, a heavy sprinkling of wisecracks and a dash of heart. Honor Among Thieves doesn’t entirely nail all those targets in the bullseye but it gets close enough to do the one thing a lot of those would-be franchise kickoffs forget to do; be a pretty good movie in its own right.


For Beth Rimmel's EN World review of Honor Among Thieves, click here!


Edgin the Bard (Chris Pine), Holga the Barbarian (Michelle Rodriguez), Doric the Druid (Sophia Lillis) and Simon The Sorcerer (Justice Smith) come together as an ensemble definitely cast in the Guardians of the Galaxy mold of unlikely heroes who have personal motivations to steal from bad guy Forge (Hugh Grant) and maybe save the world after, time permitting. The plot feels appropriate for a D&D with an overarching story that has quests to fulfill before it resolves. There are plenty of lore drops, the spellcasters using magic by calling out their proper D&D titles and a tease of an even Bigger Bad that definitely feels like the kind of thing they want to resolve in a few years and a few movies.

However, Honor Among Thieves works best when it borrows from an entirely unexpected franchise: Ghostbusters. That film works because the lore and worldbuilding are played relatively straight with the humor coming from the reactions of the working class heroes to all this weird supernatural stuff. That’s where the line is drawn in this film, where characters will casually drop names and places from all over the Forgotten Realms before letting the leads riff on them for a bit. Pine definitely has the best lines, though Rodriguez gets a few laughs as Pine’s surly straight man that occasionally dips into “let’s just kill ‘em all” power gamer. It’s one of the keys to the authenticity of the experience. Throw a big scary monster at most veteran D&D players and they’ll crack a few jokes as they roll initiative.

That authenticity extends to the various plans our heroes come up with in the course of the film. Though the film has really leaned into the fantasy heist movie branding, you won’t find any convenient flashbacks or tropes like “actually that bad guy was with us the whole time” here. Instead, the group comes up with a plan, whiffs a few die rolls executing the plan, then changes to an entirely different plan. There’s also a few unexpected uses of magic and magic items in the film where you can almost hear the DM’s sigh of exasperation as the good guys use the item in a way that circumvents their carefully laid out plot.

This theoretical DM gets a little bit of revenge with the appearance of Xenk the Paladin (Rege-Jean Page). This character appears in an extended second act cameo and feels like a character from a much different D&D movie. More specifically, it feels like a character from an earlier campaign who overshadows the rest of the group. Luckily, most of these moments are played for laughs, and Page is game to tackle making a classic Lawful Good character likable even if the rest of the group roll their eyes when he’s delivering lore.

Xenk’s shorter arc highlights one of the slight weaknesses of the film. Doric and Simon don’t get character traits beyond their initial ones of “earnest eco-warrior” and “sorcerer with terrible dice luck”. The leads reflect a few different philosophies of players and backstory. Edgin is mostly there to crack jokes even though his backstory is central to the film, while Holga’s player has brewed a romance that only she wants to work on. Grant is fine in his role as scummy ex-associate willing to sell out anyone for a gold piece, but his character makes a couple moves that feel less like character choices and more like “because then we’d end early for the evening after you all died.”

Also, for a film that’s supposed to be a twisty heist there aren’t really many surprises in the script: no sudden betrayals, no fake sellouts or any other staples of the heist movie. Even the low point of the second act where everyone threatens to walk away gets resolved in just a few minutes thanks to a self deprecating speech by Pine. Ultimately this works to the films' advantage as it never feels like its two hour run time. I love those regular nine hour extended viewings of Lord of the Rings like everyone else, but I’ll be excited to pop this on as a comfort movie when I want some fantasy adventure and not devote the whole day to it.

D&D: Honor Among Thieves is a family friendly action comedy with franchise dreams that hits the right notes for fans of the game and folks who just want to see Chris Pine play a lute. It may bring more players into the game. It may not. But it’s good enough to bring younger family members who might want to know about game nights or older members who always wondered what went on in the basement.
There are betrayals and sellouts . . . they are just in the backstory rather than the main plot. Forge was part of the "family", and betrayed them on the mission that got Sofina her artifact and Edgin and Holga thrown into prison. You get more of this if you read the prequel novels, but they do make it clear during the film, even if the betrayal doesn't hit hard as we hardly know any of the characters when we learn about it.

Even Sofina is another betrayal, although this one is less clear in the movie. Sofina doesn't just hire Edgin and the crew to rob the Harper stronghold, she's a past associate who's garnered a degree of trust with the group.

The movie would be stronger if these betrayals were given more focus in the actual film rather than the prequel novels, but that's a nitpick for me. Having read the prequel novels and comic, I enjoyed the story more and felt more of the "heist" vibe.

Similar issues with Doric's backstory. It's barely mentioned in the film, but is given an entire novel.
 

Azzy

ᚳᚣᚾᛖᚹᚢᛚᚠ
no that was dumb and bad marketing, I want the movie actually make money so we get more of them and if you make large part of the audience feel disrespected and unwanted that won't happen.
Large? I think you overestimate the amount of men who have a knee-jerk reaction to quips like that.

They walked it back in the interview, but it was too late. Honestly both sides frustrate me, your side doesn't get why that was wrong, and even mean, and the other side is like a dog with a bone and the rest of us are in the middle trying to keep the tempture down and the fun flowing.
Mean? Really? That's a serious stretch.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I really enjoyed the heck out of that movie. Hit the right notes, and captured the essence of D&D as far as I'm concerned. I was especially impressed with the worldbuilding beats. They made a setting as ridiculous on the face of it as the Forgotten Realms feel like somewhere people would actually live.
 

Vincent55

Adventurer
Ok, after watching the movie, i thoroughly enjoyed it, it had no slow parts and every bit played into the overall adventure, it was a GREAT movie and had a very D&D feel (5e that is) as it was set in the forsaken realms magic was of course all around. Too many magical items that honestly if were in a real game would have been so abused soooooo abused. The paladin sucked hard, but all the other characters were great, so much jammed into the one adventure. Seems like they skipped the lower levels and went straight to the mid to higher ones, I feel the bard was such a subtle character that many may not have known he was using his abilities unless they knew what a bard was in the game. But the others were very well represented and loved all the little easter eggs with creatures and such, the rust monsters had a quick part if you were paying attention. I have to say i will buy this one as soon as it is released on DVD it is a keeper, well done Disney now don't screw this up like the starwars movies.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Supporter
Mod Note:

Just a reminder to all- let’s not go farther down the road of American political culture in discussing pop culture, please.
 

Noddy Beholder

Explorer
That whole quote was blown way out of proportion as well by critics who opined that the film was going to have a "woke" agenda. Many of them are backpeddling now and I am enjoying seeing that happen.
I saw a lot of posts on Twitter that quoted the article as "proof" and then suggested that I go watch John Wick instead. So many did this, I began to suspect they were the product of a misjudged and heavy handed guerrilla marketing campaign :p

I went to see the film yesterday and loved it! Sadly no freebies where I am (East Yorks) :(
I hadn't expected to like Simon that much, he didn't come across well in the trailers, but I was pleasantly surprised on seeing the full film.
On leaving the cinema, I felt like I immediately wanted to play a game of D&D, even if I'm not allowed to.
 

I really enjoyed the heck out of that movie. Hit the right notes, and captured the essence of D&D as far as I'm concerned. I was especially impressed with the worldbuilding beats. They made a setting as ridiculous on the face of it as the Forgotten Realms feel like somewhere people would actually live.
I not only give you a thumbs up but also an extra quote to say, that I am happy that you enjoyed the movie as much as I did.
 

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