Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Movie Review

To say that the original 2000 Dungeons & Dragons movie was a critical failure is an understatement. By contrast, if the new movie, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves isn't a cinematic natural 20, it's at least a 19. PLEASE NOTE: This review contains spoilers!

DnD HAT Poster 2.PNG

Old and New​

The contrast between the two movies isn't just drastic, it also highlights why one succeeds while another failed. Courtney Solomon, producer/director of the 2000 film, used very little recognizable D&D content, chose Izmer as the location, and changed a lot of what it did use. The tone tried to be epic and funny in an unfortunate combination that did neither.

For D&D:HAT, producer/director/writers John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein capture the feeling of a good D&D campaign – adventure, heroics, humor, and enough heart to make you care about what happens to the characters. While firmly grounding movie in Faerun's Sword Coast, it's never heavy handed. Characters don't name every spell or item used unless it's relevant and logical.

Xenk and Edgin.PNG

Set in the Forgotten Realms​

No actual knowledge of D&D or the Forgotten Realms is needed to enjoy the movie, so if you want to bring non-gamers to see it, they'll be just fine.

At the same time, the movie effortlessly establishes how Faerun is different from other fantasy settings like Middle-Earth or Westeros. Aarakocra, dragonborn, and tabaxi are just a few of the species depicted in addition to elves, tieflings, dwarves, etc.

The movie starts in Revel's End in Icewind Dale and soon provides a perfect in-story reason to recap Edgin (Chris Pine) and Holga's (Michelle Rodriguez) back story. This, along with how they met Forge Hugh Grant) and Simon (Justice Smith), are covered in detail in the prequel novel, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves: Road to Neverwinter, but the movie explains everything you need to know if you haven't read the book. Soon, a personal yet epic quest begins to find the objects necessary to right a wrong, stop a plot by the Red Wizards of Thay, and reunite Edgin with his daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman), taking them to Neverwinter, the Underdark, Uthgardt Elk Tribe territory, and more.

And just like most D&D campaigns, plans are made and go astray before the crew improvises a solution. There's even one part that subtly reminds me of players ignoring a DM's plans to go off and do something else.

Simon brings Doric into the team, despite her reservations about humans. In her prequel novel, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves: Druid's Call, a mysterious, human-led, well-financed group are cutting down a forest. The book's unresolved question of who and why is answered in the movie.

Daley and Goldstein are long-time D&D players, and it shows in how they constructed the story and brought Faerun to life. Yet while the movie mostly follows D&D rules, it does indulge in “the rule of cool” a few times, most notably Doric's ability to wildshape into an owlbear. A reason was provided for it in her prequel novel, but they're really doing it because it does look awesome. In fact, there's one scene where owlbear Doric thwamps a character in a way that might become as popular in pop culture as Hulk's thwamping of Loki.

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Why Are They Working Together?​

The trailers raised questions as to why Regé-Jean Page's paladin would be working with a crew of thieves. The movie explains it well, and Page is terrific as Xenk, perfectly establishing how paladins are both useful and annoying. Scenes between Page and Pine also beautifully illustrate how different two Charisma-based characters can be.

I also love how they depict Holga. At a table, barbarians are often played as just brute force fighters. Holga shows how situational awareness, practical ingenuity, and brute force are even more effective combined.

The movie contains both actor and character cameos I won't spoil. Just pay attention to some of the other characters in the games sequence for some of them.

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Should You See It?​

Based on the terrific job they did with the Spider-Man: Homecoming script, I was hopeful that Daley and Goldstein would pull off a good D&D movie. They actually exceeded my expectations. The movie is incredibly fun, and I genuinely laughed out loud at some dialogue. It simultaneously tugged at my heart in places, and in legitimate ways since it had laid the groundwork beforehand.

The movie is a self-contained story that leaves a ton of room for sequels. If one or two can match this, not only will it be a well-established franchise, but could also spin off into other parts of the D&D multiverse.

Stick around for a mid-credit scene that's just perfect in every way.

I can't wait until D&D:HAT is available for purchase. I know there are things in the background that I didn't quite catch. The mix of being an incredibly fun movie with being able to rewind it to catch all the Easter eggs and casual references makes it a must-buy for me.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves hits a perfect tone and blend of adventure, heart, and humor. A+
 
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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels

dave2008

Legend
Thank you for the review!

While I wouldn't give it nearly as high a grade, I agree with most of your points, and it is leaps and bounds better than the 2000 movie. My biggest gripe is with the length of the movie and pacing. I think it would be a much better movie if they cut 30 min or so. You also didn't mention some of the subpar practical effects (tabaxi). Overall I would give it a grade closer to a B-
 
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EthanSental

Legend
Supporter
Darn, I didn’t stay through the credits in the Amazon screening, but I’ll stick around when I go to the full release in a week or so.

@dave2008 mentions something I thought as well, like a couple spots where it felt like a Jim Henson creatures from dark Crystal animatronics. Other that that slight “old” tech feel, I enjoyed the overall movie and to bell curve his grade :) I’ll say a A-!
 

Stormonu

Legend
Yeah, the "unnaturalness" of the Tabaxi and the visual effects for Halflings were the only two things that stood out as a negative.

Also, the guard distraction is probably one of the best funny parts in the movie (that fits right into things overall), that just keeps going and getting funnier as it does so.
 

chaoshead87

Explorer
I took everyone that was willing from my three gaming groups and I was the only one that didn't love this movie. I thought the pacing was soooo sslllooooowww...ugh. Overall the movie was alright but even the action scenes seemed slow. The story was alright, nothing special, you could see everything coming BUT I feel that it did capture a D&D story told around the table pretty accurately. I'm sure everyone has seen the trailer with the speak with the dead spell, well almost that exact scene happened at my table so my players absolutely loved that scene.
 


Nathaniel Lee

Adventurer
I thought that the movie was great. I liked that it had dramatic moments, but didn't take itself too seriously... that it had humorous moments, but didn't fall into the trap of wink-wink nudge-nudge making fun of the source material. I thought the action sequences played out pretty well. I think they did a great job of really leaning into the roles of the different classes in the party, and really played up their different contributions to the story. I especially liked that there were lots of nice allusions to the source material, and that often times they fit "naturally" into the world that they were building: not every single monster was the centerpiece thing that the party had to fight and conquer, some were just pests or livestock. I kind of liken it to Detective Pikachu in the sense that nobody in the world really questioned the validity of things: it was all just part of their reality. But what this movie does loads better than that one is present a film that even people without any notion of the source material can still enjoy as a fun fantasy romp... the familiarity with the source material just enhances the experience.
 



GMMichael

Guide of Modos
. . . Yet while the movie mostly follows D&D rules, it does indulge in “the rule of cool” a few times, most notably Doric's ability to wildshape into an owlbear. A reason was provided for it in her prequel novel, but they're really doing it because it does look awesome. . .
A+ is high praise. Nick Cage would be impressed. Is the above quote really the only thing resembling a flaw?
 

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