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Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves // Film Review

Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves was a serious roll of the dice.

For a $150 million blockbuster, D&D is about fifteen years behind modern action trends in all the best ways. The thrills lean for inventiveness over ‘cool factor’, the comedy is self-aware without being derogatory and its characters are thoroughly unpretentious, mere archetypes to be filled by an ensemble of stellar performances. It’s the kind of romp which became an unprofitable casualty of an era of franchise-ware that was too often embarrassed by its own nature.

The film stars Chris Pine (the best of his name) as Edgin Darvis, a bard who joins forces with several misfits including barbarian Holga (Michelle Rodriguez), sorcerer Simon (Justice Smith) and tiefling shapechanger Dorik (Sophia Lillis) to depose the greedy Lord Forge (Hugh Grant), who has brainwashed Edgin’s daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman) against her father. Forge is protected by a powerful red witch named Sofina (Daisy Head), who has a dark past known only by a gallant hero named Xenk (Regé-Jean Page), and it is only he who knows the location of the mythical helm which can counter her powers.

It’s nonsense, plain and simple; a series of clichés mashed together so shamelessly that they’re almost inviting sniffy reviews from every posh publication on the planet. And that might have been the case, if D&D wasn’t so irresistibly affable. Every line is told with enough charisma to crack a statue, and each of the film’s episodic sequences culminates with a hand of creative flourishes that put every comic book film this side of Guardians of the Galaxy to shame. Regé-Jean Page is the highlight as the insufferably noble paladin who imposes moral lessons on anyone who will listen, but there are no weak links in this cast. It's this sappy reviewer's guarantee that you'll fall in love with every one of them by the movie's end.

Key to this exhilarating energy is the film’s obvious love and respect for its source material. Directing duo Jonathan Goldstein and John Frances Daley are perhaps best known for Game Night, the 2018 murder mystery movie that gave us Rachel McAdams cheering for death, and this is a clear evolution of that film’s deliciously original ‘game board’ style of storytelling. Each of the film’s half-dozen or so scenarios (which are strung together to give us the above ‘plot’) resembles exactly the kind of conflict with which a table of players would be faced in Dungeons & Dragons, down to the escalation brought on by a brilliantly human combination of logic and stupidity.

It is a film more concerned with sustaining wit and emotion through individual scenes over the grand arc of its storyline and potential future instalments (many will find the film's use of a subtitle daunting, but it should be said that the film works as a total standalone). My concern is never whether Forge will be deposed, but rather how Engin and the gang will outwit the current contraption he has set for them, or indeed make it worse. The same can unfortunately never be said for the likes of Thanos and the rest of the Marvel lot.

The movie never rises above a pleasantly good time, but in this age of suffocating franchise fatigue, that’s basically a Crit 20.*

*I promise the movie is funnier than I am.


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