Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves (2023) Review
COMRADIERY is the theme behind Dungeons and Dragons; the game and movie. Despite the story often being used as a placeholder for much of the experience, sharp writing and charming personalities hold together the overall meat of the movie to create an easy-going adventure for newcomers and veterans alike.
Confident Bard Edgin (Chris Pine) and his trusted Barbarian friend Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) are imprisoned following a betrayal from one of their comrades. After their inevitable escape, the two hear of a relic which holds the power to solve all their problems, but in order to do this, they must enlist the help of old friends like the pessimistic Sorcerer Simon (Justice Smith) and new friends in Paladin Xenk (Rege-Jean Page) and Druid Doric (Sophia Lillis). But little do the party know their riches are being guarded by unforeseen dangers that can only be stopped if everybody learns to work together; a task that may prove to be impossible.
Despite the board game possessing a large fandom, general audiences wouldn't know much about the lore of Dungeons and Dragons. Directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein recognised this would be a problem and decided to keep niece references to a minimum as the appeal of the movie is watching this misfit party work together in a mythical setting. The balance between fantasy and comedy is near-perfect and reminiscent to when James Gunn's original Guardians of the Galaxy was released. The idea of introducing unknown characters and presenting them in a comedic light proved to be a smart choice that benefitted the film in terms of quality and made it a household name today. Although Dungeons and Dragons doesn't have the same superhero appeal and name recognition to that of Marvel, only time will tell whether this adventurous party will be remembered by viewers long after this initial release.
The story isn't what this film is about - it is carried by the profound chemistry rightly showcased between our main cast. Chris Pine leads our merry band of warriors in one of his most charming performances to date, playing a delusional Bard who overestimates his skills and believes he is the glue keeping this group together; a beautiful bit of foreshadowing that receives pay off. Michelle Rodriguez carries much of the action in her isolated badass role that balances the over-confidence shown in Pine's character. But perhaps my favourite performance in the movie came from one of my most beloved actors working today: Justice Smith. His lack of self-confidence felt incredibly sincere and perfectly suited his character arc that played an integral role in the plot's progression and didn't feel forced. Sophia Lillis and Rege-Jean Page were also great with what they were given, especially Lillis who has seen a deserved stock rise ever since her coming out performance in The Whale.
Dungeons and Dragons is the perfect mix of fantasy and comedy, proving itself to be a movie fans of the board game can be proud of without having to constantly defend the environment and characters to those unfamiliar with the table top game. Companionship plays a heavy role in the film's enjoyment, with Chris Pine and Justice Smith standing above the rest in terms of true emotional weight. The film feels like the perfect game of Dungeons and Dragons: every player feels integral to its progression and provides enjoyment for all involved, but especially the spectators.