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.

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

Iosue

Legend
I have not seen the movie yet, but I’ve always assumed that in this particular campaign, Edgin’s bardic magic was just fluffed as being non-magical.
 

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Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
For people talking about Elgin ... This is not a movie that's trying to replicate D&D exactly.
The druid only does wild shape stuff, the sorcerer is struggling to accept his magic. Having Elgin cast bard spells (or the druid for that matter) would have detracted from the pressure on Simon and the importance of him fully embracing his magic.

Xenk did cool stuff, but it was pretty subtle, not casting Bigby's Hand flashy spells.

The target audience is not D&D players, or at least not only D&D players. The goal was not to accurately depict everything D&D PC's do, but to capture the spirit and feel of the game.

I think they did a pretty good job of that.
Yeah after a certain battle I kept thinking ‘ - hey Druid healing spell? It didnt happen, which made for a better story so yeah

I’d rank it up there with the Ant-Man movies on a Marvel scale :)
 


Stormonu

Legend
I have not seen the movie yet, but I’ve always assumed that in this particular campaign, Edgin’s bardic magic was just fluffed as being non-magical.
I think it's more a case for Hollywood that if it isn't Harry Potter, the character must be "mundane" to be relatable. You can't have the main protagonist wield magic because it would solve all their problems (which funnily enough, is lampshaded/mocked in the movie).

It's like the rule that any helmet must be removed/destroyed in the movie by the climax so you can see the actor's face.
 



Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
If I was going to stat Edgin for 5E, he’s definitely a high Charisma rogue (thief subclass) with Expertise in the Performance and Persuasion skills.

As others have mentioned, Doric the druid also doesn’t use magic other than wild shape.
 



Von Ether

Legend
For those curious as to the three scenes that scream "D&D players to me"

  • Perhaps the most obvious to me is the whole gelatinous cube scene. "So gelatinous means it's going to take a minute to fill in an empty space. If I shapeshift into being a snake ..."
  • The other two are the use of the "portal gun" wand and whole grave yard scene, never mind the clip. And I could totally see a table get discussing things and totally forget they left a "living" corpse with one unanswered question left.
  • Also could see a GM on fire making up those silly battlefield stories.
 
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