SXSW Review – Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
Dungeons & Dragons has long been a game played by kids who grew into adults or just adults who fell in love with the gameplay and imaginative scenarios. Personally, I never played the game; my only exposure is through films and television shows. For some reason, film studios continue to bank on the popularity and fan base of the game. There is already a film, 2000’s Dungeons & Dragons, which I vaguely remember, but do not remember seeing. Twenty-three years later, we have another film, and there is no doubt of the large sum of money thrown at it to make it a success (maybe…probably).
The film is a passion project for screenwriters and directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (fresh off of Spider-Man: Homecoming). They spoke at the SXSW screening about how long it has taken to get it to the audience. The film is anchored with comedy and fun, setting itself apart from the 2000’s adaptation. It does not take itself seriously, and I do not think the audience will either. The story is not told linearly; it sets up important characters visiting their backstory or how they got to a particular place in life.
While Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023) has a main character in Edgin (Chris Pine), the film is a team effort, with supporting cast members being as crucial to the story as Edgin. Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) is Edgin’s best friend and helps raise his child platonically. When things become too tough to manage financially, Edgin and Holga turn to stealing, forming a band of thieves, including Simon the sorcerer (Justice Smith) and Forge (Hugh Grant). Taking on a client in Sofina (Daisy Head), the team gets themselves into a predicament that lands Edgin and Holga in prison and Edgin’s daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman) without parents. He promised Kira that he would return, but he failed. Edgin and Holga break out of prison and go on a quest to find Kira. The band gets back together (minus Forge) to finish another quest adding in shapeshifter Doric (Sophia Lillis).
There is no wrong way to adapt Dungeons & Dragons into a story, as they all vary with the imagination of the Dungeon Master. Basically, just keep it in the fantasy genre and center it around a quest (I think). Honor Among Thieves accomplishes this whole-heartedly with an adventure through all the lands and incorporating all the beasts and people inhabiting it.
Regé-Jean Page makes an interesting appearance as Xenk, a half-immortal, half-mystic human (again, questioning if I am getting this right). Xenk is an important part of the team’s quest, leading them to a magical helmet. His inclusion in the story is a bright spot with his stoic character, deadpan delivery of lines, and inability to understand sarcasm. Page has not been in many projects post-Bridgerton, and this film demonstrates that he is not just a romantic lead or a dramatic actor. He can do fantasy and comedic roles just as well.
I had issues with the film because some of the jokes fell flat, and Edgin’s quips did not always land. The runtime seemed a bit long at over two hours, and the last third of the film dragged but should not have as the film was coming to its climax and ultimate battle. Shave off 30 minutes, and the film would have been better for it.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves will succeed with game fans. It is a lot of fun, minus the issues with it. I see a missed opportunity in marketing it to families, even with the PG-13 rating. The audience would be much broader if it were knocked down to PG. It has everything kids look for with dragons (even a chubby one), knights, witches, wizards, and good fighting against evil. There are some themes that feel directed at children, but I guess we all need a reminder of what is important. Honor Among Thieves is a good time, just not the ultimate comedic fantasy film that fans are maybe expecting it to be, and that is still a pretty good time spent in the theatre with one “stellar” cameo.