There are some RPGs that will always stay with you. For some it’s Fallout or Skyrim and for others it’s a game like Cyberpunk. One of the games I can never really say “no” to is Dungeons & Dragons. Creating your own adventure with a group of friends online or offline and building your own character and solving the biggest problems together or defeating legendary enemies has an addictive effect on me.
Role of the die
That epic scale and experience is what Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves attempts to convey as well. We follow Edgin (Chris Pine) who, along with his party consisting of Barbarian Holga (Michelle Rodriguez), Druid Doric (Sophia Lillis) and Sorcerer Simon (Justice Smith), is out for revenge. During their campaign, they enter familiar Dungeons & Dragons areas such as Neverwinter and the Underdark. For fans of the tabletop RPG, it’s a feast of recognition and you’ll frequently find that something that goes very wrong is a result of a bad dice roll. Think of getting stuck between some rocks while walking or Edgin slipping on a table full of treasure in an adventure, something D&D players recognize as a failed Dex check.
So we get a “session 0” of each character in which we learn more about the background.
The world of Dungeons & Dragons lends itself incredibly well as a backdrop for a movie. Different races and peoples make the rounds, and Honor Among Thieves could so be an adventure book with scenarios you can play through at your own table as well. The setting literally comes from the D&D books and the structure of the film also resembles a campaign consisting of several sessions. For example, we get a “session 0” of each character in which we learn more about the background, a clever way that quickly reveals why each character joins Edgin.
Interpret the rules
Unfortunately, this style of storytelling also causes choices to occasionally go a little too simple. Characters don’t all get the charge and depth they deserve as a result, and choices do get dismissed very quickly. During a tabletop session you accept certain choices that are possible thanks to a very high roll of the dice, in a movie you still wonder why on earth, for example, Doric goes along with Edgin and the rest of the group. On the one hand, this allows the film to strongly convey the experience of a Dungeons & Dragons session, but it doesn’t always work well as a film.
I am someone who has often played Dungeons & Dragons and therefore know the rules, world, locations and monsters. With this, I possibly accept everything that happens in the movie a little faster. If you are not at all familiar with D&D, you should adjust your expectations a bit. Indeed, the story may then feel a bit choppy, which as a D&D fan feels like several sessions are being played out. The choices that are made are sometimes illogical, as we don’t see the role of the die, and there are plenty of other examples that don’t actually quite make sense. The Big Bad, for example, is somewhat teased, but seems to literally stay in the shadows for a second part.
Incidentally, the inevitable final battle against the film’s villain does work incredibly well. Without any knowledge of Dungeons & Dragons, this just looks cool and all the characters come off very well while fighting. In addition, it is clear that the actors had a lot of fun during filming. Especially the chemistry between Doric and Simon splashes off the screen and the interaction of the party with Paladin Xenk (Regé-Jean Page) are the highlight of the film.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a fine adventure film that players of the RPG will appreciate more than those who have no knowledge of the game at all. The chemistry between the actors splashes off the screen and makes for an entertaining film. The story feels a little choppy here and there and is actually just too long, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Honor Among Thieves has become an entertaining fantasy film.