One of the many cool things about Dungeons & Dragons is the unlimited number of tales and scenarios the tabletop game facilitates. An exercise of imagination and storytelling, no two campaigns are the same and there are very few things a player cannot do.
Knowing this, I was a bit skeptical as to how a movie based on the classic role-playing game would work. Isn’t making a movie based on D&D akin to making a movie based on the fantasy genre in general? Doesn’t it work precisely because of how unspecific it is?
I needn’t have worried, as the makers of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves include plentiful, specific lore that thoroughly roots their film in the D&D universe. Not only this, but they also skillfully capture the same joyful spirit of hanging out with friends and going on a dice-driven tabletop adventure.
Like any good D&D campaign, Honor Among Thieves works primarily for two reasons. One, the Dungeon Masters (who are, in this case, the writers and directors) clearly know the universe they are playing in and create a story that is both fun and engaging.
Two, the characters involved are brought to life through players (our actors) who are all-in on the premise and exude a fun energy that is thoroughly contagious.
Honor Among Thieves is funny, charming and exciting, a journey that strikes a perfect balance between earnestness and not taking itself too seriously.
Perhaps it was the fact that I was familiar with the property this film is based on beforehand, but it really did feel like I was watching the imaginary avatars of an actual group of friends projected onto a screen.
The crew argues when an unforeseen challenge arises just like those in an actual game of D&D would. The end goal of the movie is simple, yet tangents and sideque sts keep arising in a way that will feel very familiar to any role-playing enthusiast.
I would not have been surprised if the film cut to people in “the real world” who had been controlling the characters all along at some point (I’m glad they didn’t do this, as it would have ruined things.
I just wouldn’t have been surprised). Divorced from this familiar, somewhat meta feeling, Honor Among Thieves would still work well enough on its own with its witty lines and cool action, but this barely-perceptible (or perhaps completely imagined on my part) wink to the real-life game elevates things quite a bit.
My only real complaint was the sheer amount of D&D terms the film throws at the audience without giving them a breather, which was a bit overwhelming for me. I am familiar with the game but have never actually played it (I have dabbled with Pathfinder, a close cousin), and there were a couple of times where I felt like I was locked out of a few story beats because I am definitely no expert.
But as I said earlier, the end goal of the film is a simple one, so as long as I kept my eye on that and simply enjoyed the fun as it was unfolding, this was not a gamebreaker.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is in theaters now.