‘Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’ review: Does this fantasy adventure finally capture the magic of the game?

Since its creation in 1974, Dungeons and Dragons It has been a haven for fantasy lovers to explore their imagination by joining in quests and battles against monsters and magical threats. For nearly 50 years, the tabletop RPG has sparked controversy, forged friendships, and influenced hit shows like Strange thingsGravity Falls, vox machineand Weird and nerdy. When it came to cinema, though, where a string of less-than-memorable films came from 2000 to 2012, no one had grasped the magic of the game…until now.

Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves has arrived at SXSW Opening Night, and it’s the kind of epic fun fans have been waiting for.


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That Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves about?

Chris Pine leads a star-studded cast as Edgin, a bard who, when he’s not singing sweetly (often as a distraction), is plotting a heist with his band of adventurers. Her group includes Holga (Michelle Rodriguez), a barbarian whose battle ax is as sharp and damaging as her dry wit; Simon (Justice Smith), a half-human sorcerer who has great magical ability but needs to build up his confidence; Xenk (Bridgerton‘s Regé-Jean Page) a noble champion, combining integrity with a bit of cunning conceit; and Doric (Sophia Lillis), a Tiefling druid, whose shape-shifting abilities create some of the best action sequences in this adventure.

Together, they must take on self-proclaimed “con man” Forge (Hugh Grant), a rogue who has teamed up with a menacing red wizard. Sofina (Daisy Head), the menacing red sorceress in question, possesses flashy lightning spells, but they come second only to her intense glowering power. Edgin’s quest is to rescue her teenage daughter (Chloe Coleman), an impressionable young woman who has fallen prey to Forge and Sofina’s influence. Along the way, this company will encounter powerful monsters, curious creatures, and some wacky cameos too amazing to count here.

What are you doing Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves be right about D&D?

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Fans of the game will be delighted to see how co-writers and co-directors John Francis Daley (of weirdos and nerds fame) and Jonathan Goldstein brought vivid creatures from the Monster Manual to life, such as the Displacer Beast, a ferocious owlbear, a “chubby” but deadly red dragon, and even the comically dangerous Jelly Cube. Staying true to the joy of experiencing the game itself, the filmmakers have been careful to maintain the details of these familiar designs, while allowing the animation to have a great bounce in its gravity.

Throughout the film, there are life-or-death moments and even jump scares. But this bounce, this sense of play, helps keep things light and fun so that Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves It can be enjoyed by adults and children alike. Inclusion is an important element of the film, which welcomes all kinds of fantasy fans, whether they’ve played D&D or not. If so, you’re likely to whoop and clap your hands when you recognize specific spells, items, and creatures. If you’re a level nothing in this world, the script, by Daley, Goldstein, and Michael Gilio, quickly provides enough context so you don’t miss out on the fun.

Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves It has terrific action sequences.

A dragon is about to attack three adventurers in

Credit: Paramount Pictures

It’s better, right? It’s not just that this movie stands up against a myriad of fantasy movies (some of which are loosely inspired by its source material), it’s that Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves it’s also up against the countless action sequences its players have imagined in their heads for decades. Dungeon Masters can vary, but Daley and Goldstein do a spectacular job weaving together melee combat, spellcasting, and banter.

There’s fire, swordsmanship, shapeshifting, and clever stunts. And within each setting, there’s a refreshing variety. Some encounters are forceful action, with Fast and Furious Alumni Rodriguez’s barbarian offers exactly the kind of value and kapow you’d expect from such a casting. Other sequences have a whimsical twist, with a transforming escape scene that has the energy of Pixar. ratatouille. Still, other sequences feature scares with ominous swirls of dark magic and tearful confessions. Tonally, the film transitions from the comic to the exciting to the tender and vice versa with ease. And frankly, these detours are necessary to illustrate the essence of the game.

Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves capture the game at the heart of D&D.

Regé-Jean Page in

Credit: Paramount Pictures

These changes in tone are caused by the conflict between characters who have very different attitudes (and lineups(Opens in a new tab)). This group dynamic not only sparks the film but also reflects the fun of playing characters among friends. The barbs between the bard and the barbarian have a sister sharpness. The arrogance of the villain’s monologue displays a charming spectacularity. The awkward romance between two party members reflects the babblings of a player character whose heart is pure but whose charisma is low. Essentially, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves it’s genuinely fun along the lines of the game because of how it embraces the complications and comedy of a great group dynamic. And props to the cast for that.

From star trek (2009), Pine has crossed the line between silly and gallant with the agility of an acrobat. Here, he’s game to play ballad-throwing fool in one scene, then earnest hero in the next. Rodriguez is her contrast to her, earnest but wild to her where he’s wandering and goofy, hitting her catchphrases with as much precision as she does her—well—punching. Smith is vibrantly goofy, bringing humor and heart, while Lillis delivers a stoic yet moving performance as a traumatized misfit out for revenge. Meanwhile, Page practically shines as Lawful Good, but brings a sly levity to a role that could have gone stale in the wrong hands.

In contrast to this jaunty band, Head is legitimately harrowing as a witch with war on her mind. She throws her body completely into spells and facial expressions that might be exaggerated in a more serious fantasy. Here, however, they make her the perfect opposite of Grant’s loquacious rogue, who is an unrepentant scene-stealer above any other kind of stealer.

Grant has been living as a comically exciting bad guy in movies like paddington 2, Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerreand now Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. And it is an international treasure for its service.

Hugh Grant in

Credit: Paramount Pictures

In a movie full of funny moments, Grant scores the most, thanks in part to his mischievous, mature and seductive smile. As he threatens execution and delivers offbeat compliments with the same bon vivant enthusiasm, there’s a joy in his performance that’s positively contagious. “Scoundrel but professorial,” he says with a chirp over Edgin’s appearance, “you seem like a cultured fisherman!” He has such a high level of charm that you might be tempted to root for him despite all the villainy.

A brilliant choice for SXSWopening night, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a fun crowd pleaser, packed with action, comedy and spectacle. Its filmmakers deftly balance tones and character arcs to give everyone their hero moment, but never get bogged down by the weight of so much history, lore, and legacy. This is an unapologetic game, one that is sure to be enjoyed by both D&D devotees and newcomers alike. Simply put, this movie is one wild ride that you don’t want to miss.

Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves was reviewed from its world premiere at SXSW 2023; It will open in theaters nationwide on March 31.

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James D. Brown
James D. Brown
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