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.

Doric Simon Edgin Holga.PNG

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.

DnD HAT Poster 1.PNG

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


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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
No one is" emasculated" in the movie more than in any typical comedy. The writers were making a joke.


They looked like normal proportioned humans just shrunk down, made with greenscreen technology from the year 2000.

There is a faction of D&D players who envision Halflings as normally proportioned humans, who just to be happen 3 feet tall and it seems the directorMs of the movie are part of that faction. Because in the same movie they had I would think a gnome, that looked fine and more halflingy than the halflings.
As it should be.
The problems with the halflings isn't an FX problem so much as a lore one. It's the thing that was noted when they tried re-doing them in 4e.

A normally proportioned "2 to 3-foot tall" Halfling is REALLY short and small. Hobbits look "better" because 1) they tend to be kinda pudgy, and 2) they're actually "3 to 4 feet tall." Merry and Pippin's heights are noted, by Pippin, as being 3'6" and 3'7", respectively, before the Ent Draught kicks Pippin up to 3'8". That may not sound like much, but it's a big difference in terms of how "reasonable" they look in reality.

By way of comparison, Willow actors Warwick Davis and Phil Fondacaro (Vonkar) are both 3'6", Billy Barty (who played the High Aldwin) was 3'9", and both Hervé Villachaize and Danny Woodburn are/were 3'11". Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) is a towering 4'4". And they all have dwarfism, which tends to make them all a bit more heavily built than a D&D halfling.

Standard D&D Halflings are, frankly, ridiculously small, and nothing you do can make that look totally natural.

But because of him I totally believe the directors when they say they didn't emasculate Edgin out of "wokeness."
Right, nor did they emasculate him at all.
 

JohnSnow

Hero
The directors actually discussed this a bit. If there's a sequel with the same characters that Edgin would be explicitly shown to cast spells.
They actually also said in one interview that they tried to have all the characters played by a different "type" of player. I'm not 100% sure about all the rest (what follows are my guesses), but I know they said that Edgin's is the charismatic "casual player" who hasn't paid too much attention to the rulebook beyond the Bard class description. So he uses his Bardic inspiration and his face skills...and that's about it.

Doric's player is the "slightly-too-into their tragic backstory" type who picked druid because they really like Wildshape. They also find poring over the spell list a bit boring, so they almost exclusively use Wildshape.

Holga's the player who is basically there to enjoy combat and break stuff, but came up with the crazy backstory about the Halfling husband and being kicked out of their tribe because they think it's funny.

Simon's player is the hardcore gamer who's playing a charismatic character to be something they aren't in real life. This is why Simon doesn't come across as charismatic. Alternatively, the player is just following their own character development arc that they have developed for Simon, and the DM is rolling with it. They might, or might not, be involved with, or have a real-life crush on, Doric's player. The player also knows wayyyy too much about Faerun and asked the DM if Simon's sorcerous powers could derive from having the character be descended from Elminster.

(I have played with all of the above types. I'm sure you have too).
 
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Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Holga's the player who is basically there to enjoy combat and break stuff, but came up with the crazy backstory about the Halfling husband and being kicked out of their tribe because they think it's funny.
Or they're using one of those books full of random tables to flesh out their characters, and have committed to accepting every choice rolled, even especially when they're kind of silly.
 

Stormonu

Legend
I just found the Making of Honor Among Theives book in the local bookstore and thumbing through it, it had some great concept art for both the halflings and tabaxi, which makes me doubly frustrated with how they came out looking in the movie.

Beyond that, the only other thing that was that if Edgin had been an actual bard, it would have been nice to see him using some magic - but that probably would have taken away from the subplot with Simon. I guess in the end Edgin is a rogue with the Charlatan background?
 

JohnSnow

Hero
I just found the Making of Honor Among Theives book in the local bookstore and thumbing through it, it had some great concept art for both the halflings and tabaxi, which makes me doubly frustrated with how they came out looking in the movie.

Beyond that, the only other thing that was that if Edgin had been an actual bard, it would have been nice to see him using some magic - but that probably would have taken away from the subplot with Simon. I guess in the end Edgin is a rogue with the Charlatan background?
Nah, his player is just too lazy to read the spell part of the PHB. 😜
 


We'll I enjoyed it, a fun romp, certainly not great cinema but enjoyable. My (no interest in DnD, fantasy, etc) wife really enjoyed it too. It was particularly awesome for me to see so much of DnD brought to life, in a non crappy way - creatures and spells.

Also enjoyed the Easter eggs

As a nerd playing red box in the early 80s, I'd have never guessed how awesome that nerds have it now.
 

wellis

Explorer
Do you think Honor Among Thieves may become a sort of slow flop? Honestly, releasing it shortly before the Super Mario movie probably wasn't the best decision.

I know it only has been two weekends, but I suspect it would've had less competition if it had released mid-April.
 

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