The Movie Guru: ‘Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’ a retro fantasy delightMar 30, 2023 10:31AM ● By Jenniffer Wardell
Credit for photo ©Paramount
“Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is the ‘80s fantasy movie you never knew you were missing.
In addition to beautifully capturing the spirit of the classic role-playing game, the new movie also evokes the energy of old-school fantasy at its best. You don’t have to have played Dungeons & Dragons to appreciate this kind of classic adventure story, complete with a great sense of humor and genuine emotional moments. Add fantastic real effects, a fun cast and great world building, and you have a story fantasy fans will want to watch again and again.
The movie starts with a prison scene that sets the stage for a group of adventuring thieves. A job done for all the right reasons goes horribly wrong, and now two members of the party must get their lives back. Old friends and new allies help things along, kicking off a journey that will leave them facing monsters, dragons and all kinds of deadly traps. A traitorous friend and a red mage complicate that plan considerably, forcing the group of adventurers to decide what really matters most.
The movie has a good sense of humor, but it also takes itself completely seriously. That means there are plenty of lighter moments, but they never get in the way of serious scenes where the stakes get high and people’s lives are on the line. There are a few moments where you might even get choked up, and the ending is fantastically satisfying on both an emotional and narrative level.
Hardcore D&D fans will appreciate all the little references to the in-game universe and related materials, all of them worked organically into the story. Missing them won’t dampen your enjoyment of the story, but catching them makes the experience even richer. The same is true for subtle structural touches to the story that reflect how an actual D&D game would unfold, recognizable to fans but integrated so seamlessly that regular viewers won’t even notice.
The cast is great, with Chris Pine doing an especially good job as the team’s bard. Bards have always been persuaders in fantasy as much as they are musicians, and Pine has exactly the right mix of manipulativeness and sincerity to be just right no matter what the moment. Michelle Rodriguez is also fun as Holga the barbarian, managing to be both threatening and warm depending on what’s needed. The two actors manage the perfect sibling dynamic, longstanding partners who care deeply for each other but also want to strangle each other sometimes.
Though the movie does have good CGI, what’s even better is that they also use old-school costuming and puppetry. The non-human side characters are almost entirely created through costume molding, evoking ‘80s fantasy and offering a refreshing change from the uncanny valley of bad CGI. Good costuming is a treat for the eyes, and doesn’t need to look precisely real to look right.
Though the ending doesn’t leave anything hanging, the door is left open for another adventure with these people. I, for one, am looking forward to it.
Grade: Three and a half stars
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Utah Film Critics Association. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at [email protected].