By Bradley Lane
A live action film based on the massively popular Dungeons & Dragons tabletop role-playing game has been in the works for nearly a decade. This lengthy development period included a lawsuit over the film rights, multiple writers and scripts, and then finally a transition in the directorial team behind the film. Films like these have a reputation for being disjointed and fractured thanks to how many different perspectives and tones have been expressed on the way to making the completed project. Fortunately, the directing duo behind the finished film, Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, have managed to make something that feels fun even if it is familiar, and enjoyable, even if it isn’t more than the sum of its parts.
Drawn from the mountains of lore established by the long-running TTRPG, Honor Among Thieves is a classic D&D story with a cinematic narrative twist. Like most D&D campaigns, it begins with a ragtag group of adventurers with competing motivations forming a tentative alliance to take down a shared enemy. What adds a new dimension of emotionality is our main protagonist Edgin’s relationship with his estranged daughter, and his personal quest for redemption as he fights to regain her trust after his last heist went terribly wrong.
The reason to see the D&D movie is the excellent chemistry among its central cast members. Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Justice Smith and Sophia Lillas all have great comedic timing with one another that elevates what would be a by-the-numbers adventure comedy into something much more enjoyable. Additionally the action set pieces are filmed with an ambition that makes them stand head and shoulders above their Marvel Cinematic Universe-esque contemporaries. At the core of this film there is also a deep respect for the source material that tonally represents the same improvisational and chaotic fun that a great D&D campaign has in spades.
However, this is not a perfect film. Despite doing their best to make it all work together, the various different drafts of the script manifest a lack of cohesion that makes the story feel episodic and disconnected. Oftentimes it feels like the pace is racing from one box to check off to another which means it never outstays its welcome, but also doesn’t give the audience time to really connect to the characters in a meaningful way.
What truly sets this apart from its contemporaries though, is that it has heart. This movie is a sincere expression of the joy that a game has provided players for decades and distinctly sets itself apart from its irony-soaked contemporaries. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is now available to rent or buy on all VOD services. – 3.5/5 stars