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.

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+
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels

The writers said so in an interview.

As I said, I was really hyped about the movie until they said that. It’s basically what killed the MCU.


I’ll take toxic masculinity over toxic idiocy every day mate. Sorry that my existence is offensive for you and the movie creators. I suggest that you’ll do what I intend to do with the movie and just ignore me, I’ve been to war, I saved lives, I sacrificed and worked hard to make people lives better, if that’s toxic in your eyes well that’s on you, and nothing you can say will make me ashamed of myself and my “toxic masculinity“.
I think you need to broaden your horizons.
Ended far more.

Without toxic masculinity there wouldn't be any war.

But I guess then you would be out of a job.
I think you need to broaden your horizons.
 

log in or register to remove this ad


I have not seen the film yet and want to avoid spoilers, beyond what is in the trailers and what is in a typical review. So let's not get into too much detail about what is or is not in the movie.

I will say that I think healing magic is narratively problematic because it significantly lowers the stakes. This is a criticism that I have of Legends of Vox Machina, where characters suffer grievous injuries only to be readily healed (or revivified) by Pike or Keyleth. And I like that show a lot, but being too accurate to how healing works in D&D would not be great in a movie.

I mean, imagine if they actually ran combat like in D&D, with characters routinely being knocked out and almost killed, only to be up and at it a few seconds later after a quick healing word from the bard. It would be incomprehensible.

In general, I don't think it is a great idea to be too faithful to the mechanics of the source material when working from one medium to another. It sounds like the film is faithful to the themes and zeitgeist of D&D, without getting too stuck on the details of a tabletop game. When folks complain that Elgin doesn't seem enough like a D&D bard because mechanics, I have trouble taking that criticism seriously.

Edit: Just read a review that called it "Bardians of the Galaxy." Clever! Also, I loved Guardians of the Galaxy so this is another good sign.
When it comes to healing magic:
I would have liked it if near the end someone had asked Doric that as a druid she could use her healing magic, with her saying her healing isn't powerful enough for the wound in question (or actually trying but, indeed not having enough healing power).
 
Last edited:


Clint_L

Legend
Unlike The Legend of Vox Machina, they aren't attempting to portray D&D with that much accuracy, they shoot for more the feel and interplay between characters. A TV series can have more in it, and as a cartoon it feels more ... appropriate ... I guess? In any case, at least they didn't have to run around finding "magic dust". :hmm:
There is a certain irony here, since The Legend of Vox Machina is technically not attempting to portray D&D because copyright reasons ("Oh no, we are being attacked by an "Onlooker" that is definitely not anything like a D&D "Beholder" [wink wink]).
 

I saw it tonight. It's solid, and enjoyable. It's not something I'm likely to watch again and again or that'll generate an obsessed fanbase and result in quarter of a million fanfics on AO3, but I had a good time, and there's some genuinely clever bits. They do play fast and loose with the strict D&D rules a bit (forget wildshaping into an owlbear, she can wild shape HOW many times before a short rest?), and there are a few minor plot holes, but nothing too intrusive or irritating. They did spoil a fair number of the best jokes in the trailers though.
 

I saw it tonight. It's solid, and enjoyable. It's not something I'm likely to watch again and again or that'll generate an obsessed fanbase and result in quarter of a million fanfics on AO3, but I had a good time, and there's some genuinely clever bits. They do play fast and loose with the strict D&D rules a bit (forget wildshaping into an owlbear, she can wild shape HOW many times before a short rest?), and there are a few minor plot holes, but nothing too intrusive or irritating. They did spoil a fair number of the best jokes in the trailers though.
I feared that they spoiled too many jokes, but I found out that those were often only a part of the whole joke...

I think I will definitely watch the original language version as soon as it is possible.
 

jhallum

Explorer
I didn’t see the movie, I’m going off the director’s comment.

After the MCU phase 4 debacle those kind of comments are a huge red flag for me.
Lets be fair: You're going off of a series of click bait articles that SAYS they said it that are designed to get you to read their articles by saying outrageous things. I've stopped reading most gaming media if they have more Ads than content on a single page, all of the ones posting this are guilty of that.

PS: Edgin is a rogue (ok, a bard that has no spells, aka a rogue with a lute). Best not play a rogue if you agree with the articles that he's emasculating, since you may be emasculated.
 


One thing that I’m seeing in a lot of reviews is that rather than trying to be too serious, the film includes serious themes but is always focused on fun in the way that a good session is. It seems like the writers have a good sense of what makes D&D work.

Getting writers who respect the source material seems like such an obvious choice, yet it doesn’t always happen.
Humor is something often overlooked when it comes to its effect on a movie. It greatly swings mood, tone, and most importantly, viewpoints' on how the themes impact the story.
I was hesitant at their approach at first, but I am happy they are using humor, even if it's a bit overused. The reason is it will cast a wider net. Then in future D&D endeavors, at least in my hopes, they can turn things more serious. Have a mixture. If you look at the Avengers, they did the same thing. The first Avengers had about 9 or 10 jokes. That's it. Then, as they progressed, they focused more and more on humor, until Endgame. And even that had a lot more humor than the first Avengers movie.
I hope D&D does the opposite. Attract a wide audience, then have a few fatalistic episodes, then maybe back to humor.
 
Last edited:

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Top