jcarojames‘ Spoiler-Free Review of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
Release Date: 2 April 2023
We can relax now, nerds: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is exceptional.
Despite the fact that John Wick: Chapter Four was unsurprisingly placed in the prominent auditoriums, on Sunday April 2nd I found myself in a sold-out matinee hidden towards the back of the building. It was 3PM, and the audience of all ages were chattering excitedly – some citing positive reviews, some apprehensive about past adaptation failures, and some just there to drool over Chris Pine (no judgment – I did that too).
As the trailers wrapped, our feature presentation opened with a Game of Thrones-esque prisoner transfer of (probably) an orc into a black-walled ice-jail. The first thing that made me nearly gasp out loud was practical effects! It was a delight to realize that I wasn’t in for two hours and fourteen minutes of The Hobbit; this was going to be Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings (more or less). We were quickly introduced to Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez – err, I mean: Edgin and Holga. Their dynamic was laid out in the trailers, so no surprise that Ed is charming and sarcastic, and Holga is quiet and done-with-your-sh*t. Their introduction scene seemed like a classic setup: new-orc-guy starts harassing Holga and Ed says something along the lines of I wouldn’t do that if I were you – you can see where this is going. But what I didn’t expect was how brutally Holga would deal with the new-orc-guy, and from there the tone was absolutely set. What followed was two hours of genuine hilarity, over-the-top D&D-style schemes and shenanigans, and a ton of nods to Dungeons & Dragons proper.
The movie was plotted out exactly like a somewhat extended one-shot, down to characters trying ridiculous plans that either go alarmingly wrong or alarmingly right (you know Michelle Rodriguez rolled a nat-20 on that potato throw).
In Honor Among Thieves we know we’re getting a band of how-could-these-guys-possibly-be-connected characters and are introduced to them one by one, getting just enough backstory for each to have you saying okay, I guess this makes sense. In Honor Among Thieves we are given a human bard (Edgin), a human barbarian (Holga – although she really should have been a dwarf), a half-elf sorcerer (Simon), a Tiefling druid (Doric), and a DMPC (dungeon-master-player-character) dual-classing Paladin/Wizard (Xenk). A handful of other recognizable races and classes are seen throughout the film, like the not-at-all-creepy-realistic Tabaxis (at least they didn’t go all Cats on us), some possible gnomes and wood elves, and Ed’s daughter Kira who will most likely be a rogue if we get a D&D 2.
The best part of experiencing Honor Among Thieves in a theater full of excitable dorks was the audible murmuring when things like “Waterdeep”, “Wild Shape”, and “Sword Coast” were mentioned. An enormous amount of visually recognizable spells and abilities were used throughout the film – many even spoken by name. Notably, an entire battle sequence between two opposing Bigby’s Hands. For me, the best easter eggs were the Critical Role references. Although Doric is a very human-looking Tiefling (I guess they just didn’t want to paint Sophia Lillis blue every day?) her character and appearance had me thinking did they really just put Keyleth in this movie? (And yes, Marisha Ray and Sophia Lillis did hang out at the premier together, surely comparing wild shape and punching techniques.) Oh, and who doesn’t love the smell of Fresh Cut Grass, etc, etc…
When all is said and done, Honor Among Thieves is a beautiful, hilarious homage to classic and modern D&D. Hell, even if you’ve never even heard of Dungeons & Dragons, this is an objectively excellent film. Maybe Doric has too many spell slots. Maybe the depictions of some locations and races aren’t accurate to the Handbook. But ultimately, who cares? We finally got what we wanted: an adaptation that respects the source material and its audience and offers up one heck of a good time.