For years, the concept of adapting the vast and immersive canon of Dungeons & Dragons into a successful feature film seemed insurmountable — but there’s no denying that the tabletop role-playing game has been given a new resurgence lately, thanks to various campaigns being played out on streaming. Even celebrities like Joe Manganiello are proud to boast their status as D&D players, and successful web series such as Critical Role have been given the animated treatment, so if there were ever a time for Hollywood to try rolling the dice again on a new D&D movie, it would be now. Enter Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, which hails from directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (Game Night), who also co-wrote the screenplay alongside Michael Gilio (from a story he crafted with Chris McKay). The duo brings their existing, goofy comedic sensibilities to an expansive fantasy world, a crowd-pleasing combination that respectfully nods at diehard fans while remaining just accessible enough for any newbies.


It wouldn’t be a D&D campaign without a cast of well-defined but somewhat misfit characters, and at the head of the group is Chris Pine‘s hapless bard Edgin Darvis, whose backstory gets spooled out for us rather quickly and in a quite memorable fashion. He’s come a long way from his former gig as a sworn member of the organization known as the Harpers; in fact, he and his much more reticent partner, barbarian Holga Kilgore (a terrifically dry Michelle Rodriguez), are currently doing time in a wintery prison on charges of “thievery and skullduggery.” The two career criminals have been Robin Hooding their way through various heists ever since the death of Edgin’s wife at the hands of a Red Wizard, all with the aim of supporting Edgin’s young daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman), so being caught on their last heist wasn’t really ever the plan. Orchestrating an escape from prison so that Edgin can track down Kira — who’s been living under the guidance of fellow ne’er-do-well, Forge (a quite shifty Hugh Grant) — is only the beginning of this adventure that soon comes to involve paladins, halflings, a diabolical necromancer, a delightful owlbear, and more surprises too good to spoil.

It’s inaccurate to label Honor Among Thieves a bonafide star vehicle, not when each actor takes the strengths through which they’ve made their careers and wields them to the best of their ability here. Pine exudes every ounce of charisma that first earned him the role of Captain James T. Kirk and a name in the pantheon of Hollywood Chrises, but Edgin is a much more luckless character than anyone we’ve seen him play before, which leads to some of the film’s funniest beats. Similarly, Rodriguez gets to lean full-tilt into her capacity for action while making Holga a blunter instrument for comedy in her repartee on-screen with Pine. Justice Smith becomes their third, more unwitting partner-in-crime as Simon Aumar, a young sorcerer who doesn’t always have the greatest confidence in his abilities. Rounding out the group is Doric (Sophia Lillis), a tiefling druid and resistance fighter with wisdom beyond her young years, who has her own personal reasons for getting involved with this motley crew.

Image via Paramount Pictures

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And then there’s Regé-Jean Page, who was clearly only showing us the start of what he could do when he rode into the Regency world of Bridgerton three years ago. As paladin Xenk Yendar, a warrior of legend with good looks to match, Page enters into a clear charm-off battle opposite Pine where the real winners are all of us who get to watch them on-screen together. Next to the rest of our less-than-noble characters, Xenk is the straightforward, cut-to-the-chase, noble type, saving infants and protecting the important magical relic that the group needs in order to continue their quest. He may not understand sarcasm or modern colloquialisms, but he successfully manages to utter such phrases as “ill-gotten booty” with a completely straight face. By the end of our all-too-brief time with Xenk — who’s clearly intended to serve the very important role as guiding NPC — he’s not only won over the biggest skeptic in Edgin, but also nearly walked away with the entire film solely on the power of Page’s inherent magnetism.

The biggest appeal of Honor Among Thieves, then, lies in its characters and the journey they undergo together, rather than their target destination — which is also the biggest draw about D&D in the first place. In spite of the arguably perilous situations this group finds itself in, there’s also a lot of room left for laughs, and the film’s writers know how to utilize jokes that not only ease the tension but keep the story from descending too hard into darker places. In the hands of another script or a different franchise entirely, Edgin’s story would be a tragic one, suffused with man-pain about the loss of his wife and his failures as a father, but Honor Among Thieves isn’t written to make his narrative the sole priority. Each character’s motivations and issues are given equal weight. Holga’s history isn’t only wrapped up in being a surrogate mother to Kira; she’s also dealing with the aftermath of her failed marriage to a halfling, which resulted in her being exiled from her own people. Simon has struggled all his life to measure up to his ancestors, powerful sorcerers in their own right, but his magic often fails more than it succeeds. Doric, who was abandoned by her birth parents, has sworn herself to the Emerald Enclave and now dedicates herself to resisting everyone who would threaten her new family. Ultimately, all of their individual stories come together in surprising ways, especially since these characters wind up fighting against a shared enemy in the formidable wizard Sofina (Daisy Head), who serves as acolyte to a shadow-lurking baddie.

Image via Paramount Pictures

Honor Among Thieves wouldn’t work half as well as it does without a natural affection for D&D itself, and that element shines through in nearly every scene. Goldstein, Daley, and Gilio have recognized that successfully adapting this franchise doesn’t mean flinging every possible Easter egg or piece of fanservice at the wall to see what sticks. Instead, there’s a thoughtful, playful deployment of each and every cameo that pops up within this movie’s campaign, with jokes inserted more in the capacity of loving winks than mocking finger-pointing. It all ramps up to the film’s final boss battle that sees our heroes drawing on every single skill they can in order to gain the upper hand and save the world from imminent destruction, a strategy that undoubtedly calls back to the greatest aspects of the game. (In fact, don’t be surprised if you leave the theater with a growing curiosity about how to start a campaign of your own.) Whether you’re an uninformed novice or an established fan, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves serves up enough unabashed silliness, memorable characters, and epic storytelling to invite anyone into its entertaining realm.

Rating: B+

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves had its world premiere at SXSW 2023 on March 10 and is slated for theatrical release on March 31.

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