Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves authentically captures the magic of a real-life D&D campaign. It's filled with comedy and creativity, but those less attached to the IP may get distracted by the holes in its writing.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is an excellent representation of what it feels like to play D&D. It’s a high-energy heist stuffed with monsters, fantasy combat, and creative magic – plus more quips and jokes than there is gold in a dragon’s hoard. You could also call it a great advertisement for Dungeons and Dragons, but it’s hard to be cynical when the film offers such sincerity and silliness in equal measure. Honor Among Thieves displays an authentic love for D&D that should leave long-time players feeling seen.
The film begins in the frozen wastes of Icewind Dale, where Edgin the DnD Bard (Chris Pine) and Holga the DnD Barbarian (Michelle Rodriguez) engineer a crafty escape from prison. They quickly join forces with the inept Sorcerer Simon (Justice Smith) and the revolutionary Druid Doric (Sophia Lillis). The extremely perfect DnD Paladin Xenk (Regé-Jean Page) adds some temporary variety to the DnD classes on display.
Their quest? To take down former friend and new Lord of Neverwinter, Forge Fletcher (Hugh Grant), as well as his wizard associate Sofina (Daisy Head). They’ll also need to rescue Edgin’s daughter and thwart a magical conspiracy at the same time – all in a day’s work for your standard D&D character.
Many of the core cast are playing the exact role you’d expect them to: Chris Pine relies on charm to solve all his problems, Regé-Jean Page gets to go full Mr Darcy as Xenk the Paladin, and Michelle Rodriguez is a tough-as-nails fighter (though she does have the most convincing personal relationships in the film, too).
Most of the film is spent hopping from place to place, recruiting allies, establishing backstories, and kicking butt in combat. It’s one part showreel for the world of Dungeons and Dragons and one part comedy sketch show.
The gags, and the actors selling them, are the main thing that makes Honor Among Thieves compelling. Despite playing smaller roles, it’s Hugh Grant and Regé-Jean Page who get the biggest laughs. Justice Smith also carries a lot of the comedy as the world’s least confident (and effective) DnD Sorcerer.
What’s really impressive is how director/screenwriter duo John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (as well as fellow screenwriter Michael Gilio) weave details about D&D into the jokes. Classic Dungeons and Dragons spells like Speak With Dead, Prestidigitation, and Major Illusion are expertly deployed for levity. Even some of the more fantastical DnD races get dedicated gags. Every fumble (and the quip that follows) feels like it’s ripped straight from a real tabletop game.
The clever implementation of D&D mechanics extends past the comedy scenes, too. Creative use of the setting’s magic and strong visual effects generate unique and enthralling set pieces. Sophia Lillis’ Doric is at the heart of these scenes, milking her DnD Druid powers for maximum dazzle (even if the DnD movie gets the rules wrong sometimes).
All of this, combined with a handful of easter eggs for die-hard D&Ders, makes Honor Among Thieves an enjoyable ride for fans of tabletop RPGs. I’m just not so sure it will hold up for everyone else. While it has all the features of a fantastic D&D campaign, these don’t always make for a fantastic film.
When held up to the light, the writing is often thin. Character motivations are flimsy, with individuals joining and leaving Edgin’s crew for reasons that have little sense or impact. Edgin as a character, in fact, feels uninteresting and two-dimensional, regularly playing second lute to others in his entourage who can wow the audience with magic or flashy fight scenes.
The pacing also leaves a lot to be desired. As previously mentioned, the film gives a great showreel of the Forgotten Realms, D&D’s primary setting, but the speed at which it hops from place to place often leaves you out of breath. The film’s final section wraps up far too quickly, which isn’t a sentence anyone should say about a film that’s already over two hours long.
Honor Among Thieves showcases many of the tabletop RPG’s greatest feats, and it feels tailor-made to tickle people who love D&D as well as those who want to try it. It’s a lot of fun, but you’ll have to forgo one treasure that still lies waiting in D&D’s dungeon: deep, impactful storytelling.