Adapting the global phenomenon Dungeons & Dragons to the big screen has been arduous to say the least. Following the charming children’s animated series from the 1980s and the much maligned film from 2000, this latest adaptation languished in development hell for 10 years before finally being released into the world. It isn’t the sort of production process that should bode well for Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, but thankfully the film is as much of a delightful fantasy romp as you would hope.
Set in the fantasy world of Faerûn, the film follows Chris Pine’s bard, Edgin who, after being imprisoned for a heist goes wrong, escapes from prison alongside his barbarian friend Holga (Michelle Rodriguez). Together, they put together a team, including Justice Smith’s amateur sorcerer Simon and Sophia Lilis’ druid and resistance fighter Doric, to save Edgin’s daughter and stop a conspiracy that threatens the city of Neverwinter.
The plot itself isn’t ground-breaking and adds nothing new to the fantasy genre, and at times it feels predictable. Despite this though, the film is still a lot of fun. It’s the sort of swashbuckling adventure that has been sorely missing of late amidst the slew of superhero flicks dominating the big-screen.
The principal cast mostly deliver engaging performances, with Pine holding it all together by bringing a lot of heart and wit to the role of Edgin. Hugh Grant’s turn as the rakish Forge feels like one of his caricatures from Paddington 2 which is absolutely fine. Regé-Jean Page somehow manages to continue being effortlessly charming during his fleeting appearance as the hyper-literal paladin Xenk.
That said, there are some let downs: Daisy Head’s villainous necromancer Sofina feels both one-note and underutilised. Similarly, Lilis never really gets a show off her acting skills as her biggest moments often come when she transformed into an owlbear or other creature. Both of these are more a result of the scripting though, with both the victims of time constraints.
That’s ironic considering the film’s lengthy runtime. Fortunately, it moves at a rapid pace as the group venture from one mishap to another while searching for magical artefacts to aid in their upcoming heist. It never feels as though the film is dragging its feet and there’s always a well put together set piece right around the corner. It’s during these that Barry Peterson’s cinematography is able to shine, especially during one scene showcasing Doric’s ability to transform into various animals. There’s also thankfully a mix of both CGI and practical effects throughout, helping to ensure the more fantastical denizens like dragonborns and the avian aarakocra don’t feel completely out of place.
The main question for Honor Among Thieves is whether it can satisfy both fans and newcomers alike, and the answer is yes. For fans, the references and nods to the game’s long history are sure to satisfy while still feeling wholly new. For the uninitiated, it’s still a joyful film serving as a whistle-stop tour of the fantasy world with exposition delivered in a manner that never feels clunky. For the first-step in what will likely be a wholly new franchise, this is a very solid start.
At cinemas nationwide now