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

ad_hoc

(they/them)
Chris Pine's speech is the same as the speech Chris Pratt gave in guardians about being a bunch of losers.

In an action comedy I think it is good to not dwell on a down beat for too long.
 

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Overall it was fun.

It did feel derivative of Marvel in terms of the dialogue and comedy. That's fine, but I'm getting a bit weary of it. It's starting to feel a little lazy in terms of writing. It can be funny, but it's not really how people talk.

The pacing was a bit weird. I think they kind of drew out the setup for the whole thing. It was like 40 minutes before we knew what the quest even was. I feel like some of it could be cut.

The Bard was good. Doing things that Bards do, holding the PCs together. I got frustrated by how they repeatedly replayed the same scene with his daughter, and I don't feel like the payoff with the shapeshift worked. I would've liked to see more magic from him. Overall, though, I liked the character and the portrayal.

I almost felt like the Barbarian was under-utilized, although she actually had a lot of screen time. I think I just really liked this character, or maybe Michelle Rodriguez. I like her role in the story and her relationship with the other characters. Works very well with the Bard character.

I didn't care for the Sorcerer's character. He had a personality, but it wasn't really fun to me. He got a character arc, but I didn't like it much. The actor was great and did a great job selling the character, I'm just tired of "the unsure apprentice finds his feet" as a character. It's always used to justify the magic-user to be awful for the first 80% of the film and then turning into a super arcane badass. I wanted something better. I don't know that I feel like his transformation was really earned by the end of the movie.

I didn't really care for the Druid's character, either, although I liked the actress. I don't want to say that she was only there for the spectacle, but that was kind of the impression that I got. She was not well-developed, and I don't think she really got an arc. She made me wish Druids were half-casters with much better wild shape. I don't think there will ever be a Druid in any future edition that can't turn into an owlbear. Which is cool!

I liked the Paladin. He very much fit the traditional mold of a D&D Paladin, right up to dumping Int. I've seen people describe him as overconfident, but given how unreasonably competent he was, I'm not sure if I'd call it overconfidence. The fact that he toes the line of being totally obnoxious was perfect, mainly because he manages to do it without being preachy or condescending. I think his costume could have benefitted from not being made of so much plastic.

The Rogue was... eh. I think he was well-written and well-placed in the story, but I think Hugh Grant has been typecast into precisely this character. I wasn't surprised or interested in anything he did because of it. If he were portrayed by anyone else who also wasn't British, I would've been much happier.

The Wizard was fine. Pretty normal villain Wizard.

The effects were really good. A surprising amount of the effects were practical, which was nice to see! They don't always hold up well, but I liked that the did that. The only effects I didn't like were the Halfling characters. They felt a little underpolished. They were fine, but they always felt like they were paper dolls stuck to a green screen?
 


ad_hoc

(they/them)
Overall it was fun.

It did feel derivative of Marvel in terms of the dialogue and comedy. That's fine, but I'm getting a bit weary of it. It's starting to feel a little lazy in terms of writing. It can be funny, but it's not really how people talk.

The pacing was a bit weird. I think they kind of drew out the setup for the whole thing. It was like 40 minutes before we knew what the quest even was. I feel like some of it could be cut.

The Bard was good. Doing things that Bards do, holding the PCs together. I got frustrated by how they repeatedly replayed the same scene with his daughter, and I don't feel like the payoff with the shapeshift worked. I would've liked to see more magic from him. Overall, though, I liked the character and the portrayal.

I almost felt like the Barbarian was under-utilized, although she actually had a lot of screen time. I think I just really liked this character, or maybe Michelle Rodriguez. I like her role in the story and her relationship with the other characters. Works very well with the Bard character.

I didn't care for the Sorcerer's character. He had a personality, but it wasn't really fun to me. He got a character arc, but I didn't like it much. The actor was great and did a great job selling the character, I'm just tired of "the unsure apprentice finds his feet" as a character. It's always used to justify the magic-user to be awful for the first 80% of the film and then turning into a super arcane badass. I wanted something better. I don't know that I feel like his transformation was really earned by the end of the movie.

I didn't really care for the Druid's character, either, although I liked the actress. I don't want to say that she was only there for the spectacle, but that was kind of the impression that I got. She was not well-developed, and I don't think she really got an arc. She made me wish Druids were half-casters with much better wild shape. I don't think there will ever be a Druid in any future edition that can't turn into an owlbear. Which is cool!

I liked the Paladin. He very much fit the traditional mold of a D&D Paladin, right up to dumping Int. I've seen people describe him as overconfident, but given how unreasonably competent he was, I'm not sure if I'd call it overconfidence. The fact that he toes the line of being totally obnoxious was perfect, mainly because he manages to do it without being preachy or condescending. I think his costume could have benefitted from not being made of so much plastic.

The Rogue was... eh. I think he was well-written and well-placed in the story, but I think Hugh Grant has been typecast into precisely this character. I wasn't surprised or interested in anything he did because of it. If he were portrayed by anyone else who also wasn't British, I would've been much happier.

The Wizard was fine. Pretty normal villain Wizard.

The effects were really good. A surprising amount of the effects were practical, which was nice to see! They don't always hold up well, but I liked that the did that. The only effects I didn't like were the Halfling characters. They felt a little underpolished. They were fine, but they always felt like they were paper dolls stuck to a green screen?

I had a better experience than you but agree with a lot of your review.

The real costumes really fit the tone, giving it a fun 'we aren't taking this too seriously vibe'. I also wasn't a fan of the halfling effects esp. when he shakes her hand and his hand is the same size as hers.

Simon was the weakest part of the movie for me, esp. when he hits on Doric. They have no chemistry and it was just uncomfortable.

I was fine with Doric not having a major arc. She had herself figured out and that was refreshing. Her intro scene sets this up with the lampshade on the damsel in distress. It was just the awkward romance sub plot I didn't like with her.
 

I had a better experience than you but agree with a lot of your review.

Oh, I had a lot of fun with it. I've just developed a dour disposition in my middle years. Too many Internet discussions, probably.

As a fantasy movie I'd give it a B+, but as a D&D movie it's a solid A. Way better than it has a right to be for what it is. The writers and producers clearly wanted to make it D&D. That was a lot of fun.

The real costumes really fit the tone, giving it a fun 'we aren't taking this too seriously vibe'.

That's true. The Paladin's armor is the only time where costumes or make-up stood out to me as detracting from the overall experience. It just looked like vinyl to me instead of metal. It went a little beyond the level of camp (?) or style that the rest of the movie had. Not horrible, but it stood out.

I also wasn't a fan of the halfling effects esp. when he shakes her hand and his hand is the same size as hers.

Yeah. It felt like they didn't quite know how to shoot that.

DoP: "We'll fix it in post!"
Editor: "There are limits to magic!"

Simon was the weakest part of the movie for me, esp. when he hits on Doric. They have no chemistry and it was just uncomfortable.

Yes. She seems expressly disinterested, and the two have very little interaction. They really needed one or two interludes. Like if Doric had expressed that she was still interested in Simon but had left because of the danger from Neverwinter or Thay to the Emerald Enclave, that would've worked. We don't know anything about their old relationship. Or if they had done the traditional "oops we fell on top of each other and have a moment of chemistry" thing that would've helped, too. Either the wagon heist or during attunement that would've worked. Simon gets to save Doric from the dragon, and that felt like another missed opportunity for an interlude. Even if she would just smile or laugh at his jokes.

It feels like there must have been a scene cut.

I was fine with Doric not having a major arc. She had herself figured out and that was refreshing. Her intro scene sets this up with the lampshade on the damsel in distress. It was just the awkward romance sub plot I didn't like with her.

I do like her introduction. Her character is at least a good spectacle.

Maybe it's just the romance. It just felt like she needed something. She says she just doesn't trust humans, but... why? She's the only character that talks about race at all. Well, apart from Jarnathan being an Aarakocra being relevant.
 

I didn't really care for the Druid's character, either, although I liked the actress. I don't want to say that she was only there for the spectacle, but that was kind of the impression that I got. She was not well-developed, and I don't think she really got an arc. She made me wish Druids were half-casters with much better wild shape. I don't think there will ever be a Druid in any future edition that can't turn into an owlbear. Which is cool!
You can get a similar effect on 5e druids with a small rules tweak. Get rid of free wildshaping. Have each wildshape cost a spell slot. The CR of the creature depends on the spell slot used, with 1st level spell slots allowing you to transform into CR 0 and CR 1/8 creatures.
 

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