Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
A charming thief and a band of unlikely adventurers embark on an epic quest to retrieve a long lost relic, but their charming adventure goes dangerously awry when they run afoul of the wrong people.
Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Justice Smith, Sofia Lillis, Hugh Grant, Regé Jean-Page, Daisy Head
As many others are reporting, Dungeons and Dragons: Honour Among Thieves is a genuine blast and one that you absolutely should not miss in theatres if you have the chance to go and see it on the big screen.
Despite the film not quite being absolutely perfect, I do think there are a fair few elements that I personally find myself to be mixed on. Mainly, the film is both too long and not long enough; with its overuse of narrated flashbacks and MacGuffins that don’t quite feel relevant until the third act, there are times where it feels as if Dungeons and Dragons isn’t necessarily moving too slow, but simply doing too much. While (most) of these things do end up feeling important by the end, the constant back and forth as well as the borderline too much adventure feel slightly redundant. This is only made worse when one or two emotional beats in the third act don’t hit quite as well as you’d expect (and need) them to, due to them being rushed over here and there so we can make room for more action before and after the fact. It’s not too detrimental, mainly because the biggest emotional beats do genuinely work, but there are also scenes in the third act where the plot set up feels quietly jarring because so much is being built up with such a swift pace.
From that, there are multiple smaller nitpicks I have that I’m still mixed on. Whilst the majority of the film is genuinely quite funny and only adds to the immense entertainment value that comes with seeing this on the big screen, some jokes don’t quite land, particularly in the slightly rushed opening act. As well as that, the villain(s) also don’t do much for the majority of the film, and often feel forgotten about in the grand scheme of things for the sake of all the genuinely exciting action sequences that happen on the journey. Outside of Chris Pine’s character, there’s not really much of a connection between the cast of characters and the villain, which leads to somewhat of a disconnect from the audience, too. However, with that being said, Daisy Head does a serviceable job as the character—though she feels like the weakest link here due to what she’s given. Other nitpicks come in to play here and there, too: you could argue that outside of certain sequences that the score is a little generic, and that the visual effects and CGI occasionally falter and are hard to take seriously, but neither of these things mattered enough to pull me out of an otherwise immersive and widely entertaining experience.
With all that said and done, it’s time to talk about the many, many positives this film does have. As I keep reiterating, Dungeons and Dragons: Honour Among Thieves is nothing short of entertaining, and perhaps the most fun blockbuster to grace our screens in a very long time. I’ve never played D&D, and if I’m being completely honest my only knowledge of that universe comes from the anecdotes used for the villains in Stranger Things. Naturally, that meant I was worried going in to the film—perhaps I wouldn’t enjoy it as much as others had been, or I wouldn’t care about the word we were being introduced to.
I can thankfully say that none of that even remotely mattered the entire time I was watching this near perfect fantasy, family, comedy blockbuster; it almost immediately begins building this fruitful world that I think actually I’d love an entire franchise of—yes there’s room for improvement, but it already feels like such a rich location full of life that has beyond enough potential to explore. It’s world building proved to be, personally, more than effective, sucking me right in to this universe, and coming out understanding plenty of the lore at hand. This only lends to the plethora of fun and adventure to be had whilst watching, it’s no Lord of the Rings, but it’s only as fun as it is to explore this place because of how much care is put in to it.
The other element making this film so fun, even outside of the absolutely brilliantly charismatic cast full of chemistry with each other, with all of the key members nailing the comedic timing (seriously, Chris Pine is brimming with leading man energy for this entire inevitable franchise), is the camerawork. Yes, in the current state of big budget studio-made blockbusters more often than not plagued by a lack of directorial flare and creativity (excluding a thankfully increasing number of exceptions), this film has a genuine directorial style and creative crew behind it. Full of tracking shots, smooth transitions, fluid camera movements and dynamic zooms, Dungeons and Dragons might not have flawless visuals or distinctly beautiful colour grading in every shot, but it’s trying to (and succeeding in) doing something different, and something much better than the majority of studio releases in recent years.
This is what makes the film feel so lively, and action so exciting to watch, which only helped by how likeable this ragtag group of adventurers and thieves truly are. There wasn’t a single character, outside of maybe our wizarding villain, that I didn’t remotely care about, and with all the heart this film has, it would be hard for that to be the case. Even though some of the dialogue isn’t perfect, it still means the heart is there and makes us care for the characters we’re watching. In that sense, it reminded me a lot of Guardians of the Galaxy, especially in the last hour or so of the film as these characters learn to like each other and have their own small journeys as they band together to fight the leading threat.
For a sequel, I’d like to see the journeys feel more substantial, but for a film with such a big task it still goes lengths to make us (and them) care. So, again, it’s no filmmaking masterclass like The Lord of the Rings, and it’s definitely not (yet) on the vast world building and character efforts of that series or the Wizarding World, but it’s a refreshing change of pace to have such a well made in multiple areas blockbuster that (despite me being more lenient as a result of it) I’m happily giving a high rating for more than just its fun factor.