Dungeons & Dragons is quite the rage these days when it comes to gaming. You step into the shoes of a character, part of a team, with a game master who throws your group into all sorts of thrilling challenges. It seems like such a simple task to use these building blocks to create an exciting adventure story for the big screen. But that hasn’t really worked out well, except for that cheesy children’s animated series. So, when we, avid D&D players, went to see the film D&D: Honor Among Thieves, I entered the cinema with relatively low expectations.
Humor Goes a Long Way
I must say, it turned out better than I expected, mainly because this film both takes itself seriously and doesn’t. Other attempts took themselves too seriously and thought they needed to tell an epic story, with the only highlight being the over-the-top acting of the bad guy. However, in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, the humor felt genuine and recognizable from our gaming sessions. After all, a game is only truly enjoyable when a player can appreciate the humor in the character’s actions and the events unfolding around them. Playing a perfect hero, you see, can be deadly boring.
In the film, we follow a team of not-so-heroic individuals. They are opportunists and thieves who don’t always do the right thing and aren’t particularly good at everything they attempt. You see, D&D isn’t a game where you “win” anymore; you just hope your character survives. With this group, you genuinely wonder if everyone will make it to the end of the film. I won’t spoil anything, but they don’t seem particularly competent. The bard who only thinks of himself, the magician who barely knows any spells. Luckily, they have a lot of luck, and the film doesn’t end after just fifteen minutes. Total Party Kill is not on the table (TPK is a term used when a game ends with the death of all characters…)
There were other factors that made me hesitant to have high expectations for the film. I’m not a big fan of Chris Pine. He didn’t convince me in the new Star Trek films (but apparently, there are very few actors who can truly nail Kirk: Shatner and Paul Wesley do a great job). His contribution to Wonder Woman made that film even duller, and I can’t recall any other films with him. But… he’s more than fine in this film. He has a comedic talent that enhances his acting skills. Yes, I almost became a fan!
Additionally, Michelle Rodriguez plays a character who could easily fit right into my D&D campaign. I must admit, it gave me the idea to wish for a flaming war axe for my character (and my DM actually gave it to me!). And I never thought I’d see Hugh Grant in a fantasy film (although I could have suspected it after his appearance in Cloud Atlas). The performances of the actors are good, but mainly because you can see that they genuinely enjoyed making this film.
Not Fans, Still a Good Experience
But is the film enjoyable for people who have never played D&D and have no intention of doing so? Yes. If you’re into fantasy, then this is just a fun and amusing film. I’m thinking of fans of Harry Potter (but older than 12). Or if you read a lot of fantasy books. Because although you’ll get more out of the film as a D&D fan, you won’t miss anything if you don’t notice those things. The story is solid but not overly layered. So, you can relax and not worry about potential plot holes. Take it as it comes and enjoy the humor (and be open to it).
Now, for a slightly more serious note: what personally appealed to me was that a significant part of the plot revolves around a father-daughter relationship, and it feels genuine. There aren’t many films about fathers and daughters, especially not in this genre. But it’s becoming a trend (see also The Witcher). It’s refreshing to see that it’s not always about sons trying to prove themselves to their fathers or fathers losing their sons. Instead, it’s about a father distancing himself from his daughter because he believes she’s better off without him, or he’s better off without her. And there’s genuine sadness behind it. But, again, it doesn’t delve too deep. You can still relax and enjoy. Perhaps this is a good film to watch with your father.
Tip: Also, check out Vox Machina!