“Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is This Year’s Biggest Surprise


Screengrab from “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.”

Chances are, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves wasn’t your most anticipated movie of the year. Making a D&D movie in the first place is a fool’s errand. The last adaptation of the popular tabletop role-playing game was laughed off the screen as a career low point for all involved. Once you strip Dungeons and Dragons of player interactivity and real-time interaction, you’re left with an overly dense fantasy world without significant sociological subtext. 

This makes it all the more surprising that Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves proved to be such a cinematic delight. With directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein at the helm, Honor Among Thieves is a rousing example of big-budget popcorn fun that perfectly encapsulates the source material’s greatest strengths. 

Honor Among Thieves stars Chris Pine as Edgin Darvis, a charismatic bard with a silver tongue and quick wit. Moonlighting as a petty thief, Edgin finds himself imprisoned after a job gone awry. Two years later, Edgin escapes hoping to reunite with his daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman), only to realize that he’s been double crossed by his former partner, Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant). Now, Edgin must assemble a new party for a daring heist to save his daughter and steal the score of a lifetime. 

Daley and Goldstein are highly underrated studio filmmakers, and their direction proves instrumental in pulling off the film’s breezy tone. The dialogue crackles with wit, rarely dragging in terms of comedic efficacy. At no point does the narrative meander in favor of aimless ad-libbing, for almost every minute is packed with some kind of joke. Furthermore, the directing duo put their all into creating an authentic fantasy world, complete with quality costume design and impressive practical effects. Such dedication results in some brilliant gags. The film subverts genre expectations with hysterical irreverence.

Much of the comedy within Honor Among Thieves stems from the contrast between its setting and characters. Unlike many films within the fantasy genre, this is not a story of heroic knights but of bumbling fools. Edgin and his motley crew are woefully incompetent, stumbling through a hero’s journey. Their penchant for failure turns the simplest tasks into highly amusing detours, frequently marred by bad luck or poor planning. In that sense, the film feels like a realistic D&D campaign, and I mean that in the best way possible. 

Of course, such an irreverent approach to storytelling works best with a game cast. Thankfully, Daley and Goldstein are working with a gifted ensemble, all performing at the top of their game. Chris Pine’s irresistible charm makes for a magnetic lead, and he’s got pitch-perfect chemistry with his co-stars. Michelle Rodriguez performs well in the action sequences and delivers a gruff performance without clashing with the film’s tone. Justice Smith proves especially funny as a highly insecure sorcerer, while Hugh Grant makes for an irresistibly smug villain. Everyone seems to be having a good time with the material, and their enthusiasm is infectious.

Honor Among Thieves is a breath of fresh air in an age of slap-dash studio comedies and soulless blockbuster cash grabs. It’s not perfect, running a little over-long at 2 hours and 15 minutes, but who cares when the product is so much fun? Daley and Goldstein have made a film that successfully captured the appeal of Dungeons and Dragons. Packed with laughs and a top-tier ensemble cast, Honor Among Thieves is a rousing success as both an adaptation and a triumph of skilled studio filmmaking.