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MOVIES: Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves - Review

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Here to dispel the myth that all fantasy must be grimdark; Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves gives us a refreshing, if by-the-numbers heist movie set in the world of the roleplaying game; which I’ve played at least once – so whilst I’m no expert, it’s cool to see the basic premise: a band of adventures going on a quest; and played with in the way that you can imagine a typical session playing out. This is from John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein – who you may remember for the stellar 2018 film Game Night, so expect some fun humour here.

The premise is simple: the rag-tag duo of Chris Pine’s bard Edgin and Michelle Rodriguez’s badass warrior Holga must infiltrate a castle governed by Hugh Grant’s Forge Fitzwilliam to rescue Edgin’s daughter, Kira (Chloe Coleman) and make off with a load of treasure. And whilst there – they realise that a greater sense of evil is waiting for them – Daisy Head’s Sofina the Red Wizard has Forge in her thrall; and is hellbent on taking over the world. It’s a standard fantasy fair and returns to the ‘90s era of fantasy filmmaking – there’s plenty of familiar tropes here almost to the point of predictability, if you’ve read any fantasy book you’ll know exactly where this thing is going and that’s not helped by the fact that if you’ve seen one trailer you’ll have seen the entire film. There’s no sense of surprise, but sometimes, there doesn’t need to be.

I really liked the attention to making this secondary world feel lived in and real; far too often most fantasy feels like it’s just filmed in front of a green screen but Honour Among Thieves does the bare minimum to create a lived in world and it pays off so much; there are dodgy moments of CGI including a groan-worthy slow-mo set piece, but by and large; compared to most Hollywood blockbusters, it’s well-executed; and part of that is because of how much it believes in its world – it spends time with its characters’ journeys and we see them on their quest. It takes time to immerse yourself in a world and the length of the journey sees that unfolding before us – and the film does allows the time to get caught up in the characters’ sense of perspective and side-quests that give them growth. Everyone here has an arc; and Honour Among Thieves, as a result of that – gives them a story to tell – they feel believable no matter the fantasy creature. In addition to the core duo of Pine and Rodriguez, whose deadpan chemistry is on point and ties the whole thing together: Justice Smith plays a budding wizard with self-confidence issues, and Sophia Lillis plays a shapeshifting rebel capable of turning into any animal at will. Also worth shouting out: the effortlessly cool and collected Rege-Jean Page, who makes his screen presence felt at every turn.

The film’s predictability is its biggest weakness and you’re probably going to forget it the following day – but at the end of the day for what it sets out to do there’s no harm in that. It’s breezy Saturday afternoon fair for when you’re all caught up on your favourite shows. It remembers to give us your fair share of Dungeons and Dragons and whilst I would’ve liked more connection with the roleplaying tabletop aspect of the game, it gets over that barrier and makes it accessible to a wide range of newcomers who may discover the franchise because of it. It fits into the same category of films like Jumanji – but accomplishes its goal far much better than The Rock’s vehicle.

A high fantasy comedy can be a hard balancing act to get right and whilst maybe there’s one too much quippy one-liner here in a way that almost robs the movie of its sincerity; the key word is almost – it treads a very fine line between poking fun at itself for being high fantasy and believing in its own creation. And that’s what’s key to making it work – cut the exposition (although you can read that as a player reading off their character sheet); avoid the need to give everything a backstory, continue to give this franchise the charm that it needs – and you’ll have me back for as many times as they want to make more of these. If you want your fantasy Ocean’s Eleven by way of Lord of the Rings, this is the one for you.

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