Movie Review: Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

The popular roleplaying game returns to the big screen with a refreshingly bright and breezy adventure.


My favorite thing about “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is that I could see it very clearly.

We are on the tail end of a cinematic era (at least in terms of Hollywood blockbusters) that loved the drab and dim. Some offenders are worse than others — Marvel merely plays around with darkness, while DC was born in it — but by and large, the last decade or so has been marked by action that was very difficult to see.

Fortunately, we’re moving on. Last year’s two biggest films, “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water,” offered bushels of bright and detailed action. This week sees the release of “Honor Among Thieves,” a hopeful franchise-starter, and it positively glows; there’s never a gloomy day in this universe, and even scenes set in the titular dungeons are crisp and clear.

It’s bright in its attitude, as well. Unlike previous attempts to convert the ubiquitous tabletop game into other media, “Honor Among Thieves” is breezy, funny and adventurous; there’s more “Indiana Jones” than “Lord of the Rings” in this fantasy.

Our tale concerns the sometimes thief and occasional bard Edgin Darvis (Chris Pine), a swashbuckling adventurer dealing with a major loss. He used to be something of a dogooder-for-hire, but after his beloved wife was killed by some sinister wizards, he turned to a life of crime — ostensibly to find a magical macguffin that could bring her back.

That took time away from his parenting, however, even if his daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman) has found a surrogate mother in Edgin’s new buddy, a barbarian named Holga (Michelle Rodriguez). When a heist goes sour, Edgin and Holga end up in prison — and Kira is left in the hands of smarmy con man Forge (Hugh Grant).

From a plot perspective, it’s a deft move to keep things direct — break out of prison, reunite with family, save the day — so that room can be made for colorful side characters, exotic adventurers and a good bit of slapstick. (A series of Q&A sessions with reanimated corpses is a hilarious highlight.) Wisely, the story also mirrors the charm of the game itself. Edgin and Holga find allies (they’re swiftly joined by misfits played by Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis and Regé-Jean Page), try high-concept schemes and chase useful treasure. Rather than mire itself in the mythology of its source material, “Honor Among Thieves” instead aims to replicate the spirit of the actual game.

Credit for that focus goes to the directing and writing team of Jonathan Goldstein and John Frances Daley (who worked off of a story by Chris McKay and Michael Gilio). Goldstein and Daley are primarily comedy writers — they’re the duo behind “Horrible Bosses,” the “Vacation” reboot and “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” among others — who have dabbled in franchise fare, writing the well-received “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” I wouldn’t have pegged them as likely candidates for an assignment like this, but they proved ideal for the task. I’m eager for more.

My Rating: 8/10

“Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” opens in theaters this Friday.

Categories: Sean Collier’s Popcorn for Dinner