A Review of Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
Despite being one of the most culturally enduring intellectual properties of all time, Dungeons and Dragons has never really made its way into film. There’s the really awkward Jeremy Irons one from the 2000s and its straight-to-DVD offspring, but it is unlikely that anyone is going to legitimately claim those as personal favorites outside of ironic humor. Perhaps this is a fault of Dungeons and Dragons inherently being a little bit derivative as a classical fantasy greatest hits collection. Whatever the reason, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves seeks to right these wrongs by delivering a charming experience that perfectly captures the spirit of the Forgotten Realms in a fun comedic light.
Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves made the best possible first impression by thoroughly surpassing expectations that it would be a dumpster fire, instead proving to be both charming and engaging, especially for being an adaptation of a piece of media that is intrinsically difficult to adapt. It is charmingly written, holds a lot of love for the source material, and has a great cast. Pretty much all of the performances are excellent, with Regé-Jean Page’s character really standing out as fantastic. The comedy is a little hit-or-miss, but there is enough chemistry among the cast and a good-natured attitude that keeps the film going.
The biggest strength of Honor Among Thieves is its subtle world building elements, such as the Tabaxi puppet and little Rust Monsters climbing around buildings. A deep and passionate love and care for this universe emanates from the design team. The repeated use of practical effects is shocking in an era where everything is largely dominated by CGI. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of CGI (although it looks fairly competent, especially in the case of a rather adorable rotund creature), but little elements like the utilization of partly puppet-based costumes for more fantastical humanoid creatures is very commendable. It’s also pretty cool just to see places like Icewind Dale and creatures like the Displacer Beast on screen, and that smoothes over the occasional rough patch. These kinds of moments with incredibly cool creatures and locations serve as nice moments for both existing fans of the game while also being cool enough to draw in the uninitiated. You can absolutely lose yourself in the film’s beautifully realized world.
The only thing holding Honor Among Thieves back is its reliance on Marvel-esque tropes popularized about a decade back. The quippy dialogue works some of the time and isn’t overly off-putting, but it does feel very derivative of modern broad appeal cinema culture, and sometimes the jokes don’t land. Dialing back the hit-or-miss comedy back a little bit and maybe cutting one or two extremely Marvel-esque scenes would have gone a long way. This issue could definitely be worked on in sequels now that the IP feels like it no longer has to prove itself to a mainstream audience. The sequel should keep the upbeat comedic tone ; it’s just that the very distinctive dialogue writing style feels a little bit overdone.
Overall, Honor Among Thieves is charming for its beautiful world and fun characters with great performances, despite some MCU-esque awkwardness. There is a tangible love for the source material and a great deal of effort put into realizing the world. Fans would watch about another three of these with pretty much no questions asked, and it will be fascinating to see what they do with an inevitable Magic: The Gathering film.