It’s been nearly 23 years since the last time a feature-length adaptation of Wizards of the Coast’s much-loved fantasy roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons made its way to the big screen. After spending half a decade in production hell, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein’s long-awaited D&D reboot Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves finally hits theaters this weekend. Though the wait may have been long, I dare say it’s well worth it. Honor Among Thieves boasts a winning combination of classic adventure, witty dialogue, and well-choreographed action sequences. And Chris Pine’s charismatic turn ties all of this together.
Starring Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, Hugh Grant, and Rege-Jean Page, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves follows bard Edgin (Pine) and barbarian Holga (Rodriguez). The pair are best friends and thieves who raise Edgin’s daughter Kira together in the wake of his wife’s death. When Edgin’s thieving ways get the better of him, rogue Forge (Grant) stabs Holga and Edgin in the back, taking a bounty of riches and custody of Kira for himself. Together, Edgin and Holga set out along with a gathered party of unlikely heroes including wizard Simon (Smith) and shapeshifting druid Doric (Lillis) to stage a heist on Forge’s vault and take back what’s rightfully theirs.
Admittedly, Honor Among Thieves is a monster (pun intended) of a film. With a runtime ten minutes shy of two and a half hours, this lengthy fantasy-adventure asks quite a bit of its audience, in terms of both story and worldbuilding. Though the specifics of this fantasy world aren’t by any means new, the film takes great pains to honor the game and its avid fanbase of tabletop players. This means taking the time to nod to game mechanics, locations, and creatures wherever possible. Honor Among Thieves‘ attention to detail gives it a welcome earnestness and sort of credibility often lacking in gaming adaptions; however, it does make for an at times arduous watch if you’re not actively keeping an eye out for Easter eggs.
The story itself does tend to wind and amble. It has a strange pace for what on paper could’ve been a relatively straightforward heist flick. But the departures and side quests do end up serving as some of the film’s most memorable sequences. This is especially true of Rege-Jean Page as Xenk Yendar, a noble (achingly handsome) Paladin whom we meet nearly halfway through the film. Then, he exits almost as swiftly as he enters it. For those 20 minutes he’s onscreen, though, Page chews scenery and dominates his scenes. He boasts a startling charisma and undeniable charm that work in tandem with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor.
Page is so good, one can’t help but wonder about the film’s determination to seemingly write him out after he serves his narrative function. Why not just keep him around for the rest of the adventure? It’s a shame he doesn’t have more screen time; however, the door is wide open for Xenk to return in the future. And, of course, absence only makes the heart grow fonder. The other major scene-stealer is Hugh Grant as backstabbing rogue Forge. It’s a role he was seemingly born to play, channeling grating charm and camp to the nth degree.
Forge and Page’s performances feel very much in line with the tone Chris Pine sets as leading man Edgin: charming, committed, and more than willing to make a fool of himself where appropriate. It’s gratifying to see a cast so aware of the tone of the movie they’re in, fully realizing the potential of Daley, Goldstein, and Gilio’s script. Admittedly, though, not all characters are created equal. Though nobody is “bad,” Sophia Lillis as Doric does tend to get the short end of the narrative stick. Every other member of the party (including one-and-done Xenk) gets a chunk of time towards their backstory. But Doric is repeatedly underutilized, and mostly relegated to an arbitrary, uninspired romantic subplot with Simon.
The subplot of Simon pursuing Doric and wearing her down despite her previous rejections feels remarkably reductive for a film whose other major male/female relationship sees Edgin and Holga platonically living together and co-parenting Kira as best friends, partners, and nothing more. Though of all the performances, Rodriguez’s is likely the weakest. Holga’s personality lends itself to stilted dialogue and gruff delivery, and the shortcomings of her performance are for the most part salved by the fact that she shares most scenes with Pine.
Still, even with a relatively choppy structure and some frustrating subplots, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is an undeniable crowd-pleaser. It’s the type of unabashedly joyful action-adventure flick that feels like a remnant of a bygone age. Though it may struggle with pacing and an arbitrary villain, a trio of endlessly charming and deliciously ridiculous performances from Grant, Pine, and Page make Honor Among Thieves a worthy holder of the Dungeons & Dragons name.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves hits theaters on March 31.