Dungeons and Dragons Honor Among Thieves Movie Poster Cropped


Let’s get the big question out of the way. Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is good. It is not just a good fantasy movie. It is a good movie period. I feel it important to make this distinction given my own history as the sort of critic who unironically enjoys Deathstalker 2 and because of the rather sordid history of Dungeons and Dragons when it comes to cinematic adaptations.

Dungeons and Dragons Movie Posters

Most are familiar with the first Dungeons & Dragons movie from 2000, which was an infamous bomb largely remembered today for cameos by the likes of Tom Baker and Richard O’Brien. A sequel, Wrath of the Dragon God, was produced in 2005. It was truer to the source material, but hampered by being produced for the SyFy channel. There was also a third film in 2012, The Book of Vile Darkness, which never got an official release in the United States and only available on a region-free DVD. (Word is the movie is full of sex and violence, so Wizards of the Coast is content to let the third film stay forgotten rather than ruin their family friendly image.)

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is another beast entirely.

Dungeons and Dragons Honor Among Thieves Party

I believe the reason that Honor Among Thieves works so well is because, at its core, it is a heist film that just happens to be set in a fantasy world rather than a fantasy film. I do like fantasy films, but some of them have a tendency to be trope-heavy and either overwhelm the audience with minutiae or present themselves as generic action films that replace the guns with swords.

The film opens with a prison break, as the bard Edgin (Chris Pine) and barbarian Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) try to catch up with their old ally Forge (Hugh Grant) who escaped after the job that got them imprisoned after they were all betrayed by the wizard Sofina (Daisy Head). To their surprise, Forge has used his ill-gotten gains to set himself up as the ruler of the city of Neverwinter and turned Edgin’s daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman) against him. He’s also working with Sofina, who has her own dark agenda for Neverwinter.

Dungeons and Dragons Honor Among Thieves Forge Hugh Grant

This pushes Edgin and Holga to assemble a new crew, with the twin goals of looting Castle Never’s treasure vault at the height of a major festival and proving to Kira that she was not abandoned. Their party includes second-rate sorcerer Simon (Justice Smith) and a tiefling druid named Doric (Sophia Lillis), who doesn’t like humans much but dislikes Forge and what he’s doing to the forests outside Neverwinter even more. The party also briefly joins forces with the paladin Xenk (Regé-Jean Page), who is the guardian of a magic item they need to get past the vault’s defenses.

Directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who co-wrote the script with Michael Gilo, Honor Among Thieves plays out like a fantastic Oceans 11. The plot features a number of missteps, with the heroes often overcoming the mistakes made by their own shortcomings. While this plays to the classic “team of misfits becoming a found family narrative” that pushes the Fast and the Furious and Guardians of the Galaxy films, it also perfectly replicates the feel of a Dungeons and Dragons game, where one bad dice roll can lead the story in new and unexpected directions.

Dungeons and Dragons Honor Among Thieves Underdark

It should be noted that the film also does a fantastic job of drawing off of the Forgotten Realms setting, presenting core concepts but rarely explaining them. We see such creatures as displacer beasts and mimics in the arena of Neverwinter, but the narrative does not stop to explain what these things are. We are simply shown what they are.

This is a great way of introducing newbies to what Dungeons and Dragons is like, though some players have quibbled about some of the liberties taken for the sake of the story. Doric, for instance, is fond of transforming herself into an owlbear, despite the druid’s wild-shape ability as written not allowing them to become magical beasts or monstrosities. This overlooks that one of the core rules of Dungeons and Dragons is that game masters have the right to rewrite the rules or create their own class abilities and magic items for the sake of a good story. And Honor Among Thieves is that.

Dungeons and Dragons Honor Among Thieves Sofina and Owlbear

Anyone who is interested in learning more about Dungeons & Dragons and other role-playing games would do well to check out their local game store or local library. There are also a number of on-line options for those who prefer playing at a distance. I’d also be happy to answer any questions people might have, being an experienced player and dungeon master. Even if games are not your thing, I think most will enjoy what Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves has to offer.

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