Movie Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Film based on the popular fantasy role-playing game doesn't take itself too seriously—huzzah!

One day, along with describing such relics as corded phones, cassette tapes, and Timex watches, we will be telling our grandchildren about a time when geek culture was not mainstream culture and, in fact, those who played a fantasy game called Dungeons & Dragons were relegated to musty, wood-paneled basements and considered the outcasts of society.

I know it’s hard to believe now, because geek culture is culture. But it’s true. I even knew some of these early pioneers of cosplaying sorcery, dragons, and derring do back in the day—they always had good snacks. (Alas, I never played the game myself. Was too busy ruling the school as a cellist with braces.)

Considering the success of Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, et al. it’s actually shocking that it took this long for a second Dungeons & Dragons film to be made (the first, made in 2000, was something of a bomb). I’m happy to report that the film is great—and you don’t need to know anything about D&D to enjoy it.

Better still, rather than engaging in self-serious, pseudo-Shakespearean world building, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a winking, rollicking good time.

Chris Pine, proving once again that he is the Best Chris ™, plays Edgin Darvis, who was a member of the Harpers, an underground league of justice, of sorts, until his wife is killed by a Red Wizard and he is left to raise their baby daughter on his own. He falls into a state of dissolution and hooks up (platonically speaking) with an honorable and muscle-bound thief named Holga (Michelle Rodriguez), who helps him raise his daughter, Kira. They also join forces with an insecure young sorcerer, Simon (Justice Smith) and a rapscallion con man named Forge (Hugh Grant). (This cast, amirite?)

Honor Among Thieves is essentially a “one last heist” film, with the genre’s traditional unintended consequences. In this case, the last heist is breaking into a tomb or an ancient castle or a catacombs or whatever the hell it is (sorry, not good with these details) to find a “resurrection tablet” that has the power to bring one person back to life. Of course, Edgin wants to bring his wife back. Instead, he is foiled by a Red Wizard and sent to prison with Holga. He has no choice but to trust Forge, of all people, to care for Kira (Chole Coleman).

The film actually starts with Edgin and Holga making their case in front of a parole council. Edgin is absolutely convinced that missing councilmember Jarnathan—a giant bird-man, is it turns out—will be particularly receptive to his tale of woe and he keeps breaking the fourth wall to inquire about Jarnathan’s whereabouts.

Ultimately, they do escape, with Jarnathan’s help (sorta) and immediately set out to find Kira. She’s still living with Forge who has managed to con his way into becoming a lord—and while he does have some paternal affection for his young charge, he’s a terrible human, lying about Edgin, aligning himself with Red Wizards, and using his newfound status to rob people blind.

But getting Kira out of his clutches will not be easy, so Edgin and Holga have to recruit their old buddy Simon, who could actually be a pretty good sorcerer if he just got over his self esteem issues. Simon is crushing on the tiefling druid Doric (Sophia Lillis), who becomes the fourth member of their ragtag team. (Don’t know what a tiefling druid is? Look it up! I did!) (Basically she’s a shapeshifter with cute fox ears.)

There are so many bits of delightful inventiveness along the way. The crew has to awaken the dead to retrieve some vital information, but once they rouse the skeletons they are only allowed five questions. Needless to say, Edgin keeps inadvertently asking questions.

Sample dialogue:

Edgin: “I have four more questions left, right?”

Dead guy: “Right.”


At some point, the team joins forces with the impossibly brave and heroic Xenk (Bridgerton hottie Regé-Jean Page), who is a perfect foil character for the perpetually glib Edgin, as he is extremely literal minded and has zero sense of irony.

Again and again, the film finds the perfect joke, the perfect set piece (some involving dragons, natch), that little extra zhush to make a scene sing. The cast, of course, is brilliant. Early in his career, Hugh Grant played earnest, floppy-haired young men, but he’s just so delicious as a baddie. Michelle Rodriguez, freed from the shackles of the Fast and Furious series is touching as the tough but vulnerable Holga. Her friendship with Edgin provides the emotional core of the film. (There’s an absolutely adorable moment where he serenades her on his mandolin after she has experienced a personal setback—look for a funny cameo in that scene—and she reluctantly chimes in, until they’re both grinning and singing at full voice.) And Chris Pine was born to play this kind of tongue-in-cheek, Han Solo-esque hero. Dude is just a straight-up movie star.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves was a blast. Not sure if hardcore D&D Heads are going to love it, but I sure as heck did.