A charming thief and a band of unlikely adventurers embark on an epic quest to retrieve a lost relic, but things go dangerously awry when they run afoul of the wrong people. (from IMDb)
Although the controversial fantasy roleplaying board game, Dungeons & Dragons, released in 1974, I was first introduced to the franchise by way of its 1982 Intellivision video game, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons - a benign, simplistic and painfully pixelated adventure game. As I got older, I had heard that Dungeons & Dragons, the board game, like the similar Magic card game, was evil if not entirely Satanic. Because of that, naturally, I steered clear of the franchise altogether, but I never took the time to look into anything that had to do with it to see what it was about. The game series spawned three feature films that began with 2000's Dungeons & Dragons, with sequels in 2005 and 2012. I hadn't seen any of them (to be honest, they looked terrible), so it came as a surprise when 2023's reboot, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves kicked things off again afresh.
2016 shone a new light on the D&D franchise when smash hit Netflix series Stranger Things made the show center a lot around the lore of Dungeons & Dragons. The TV series even spawned a Stranger Things-themed re-release of the classic board game.
So, as a movie, what is Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves? My overall knowledge of Dungeons & Dragons lore really is limited to distant memories of the 1982 game (look it up, it's hilariously simplistic in design) and the little insight that Stranger Things gave viewers. According to my 12-year-old son, though, there's still a club for D&D in his school presently, which seems to suggest that the game is still quite popular. But spiritually? I can't say with any certainty what lies beneath the game's mythology.
From the get-go, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves has the look and feel of a big blockbuster movie. Star Trek and Wonder Woman's Chris Pine leads a pack of ragtag outcasts on a quest through the world of Dungeons & Dragons, and the entire thing is handled pretty tongue-in-cheek. Pine plays Edgin, a former member of the Harpers who became a thief after his wife died. His closest friend is a female warrior named Holga, played by Michelle Rodriguez (Fast & Furious franchise / TV's LOST), who is a bit like a Chewbacca to Edgin's Han Solo (with the latter being much more inept). Regardless, Edgin is indeed the brains of the operation, with his other main skill being his ability to sing and play the lute. Joining their quest is a dimestore, wannabe wizard named Simon (played by Justice Smith) and a shapeshifter named Doric (Sophia Lillis), who also was at one time the object of Simon's affection. This team of misfits band together to help Edgin rescue his daughter and hopefully resurrect his late wife in the process.
Pine is a delight as Edgin, and the film never takes itself too seriously, bringing to mind classic 80's fantasy adventures like The Princess Bride, The Neverending Story, Willow, and Clash of the Titans. But where another 80's fantasy movie, Dragonslayer, kind of took its time to be entertaining or interesting, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is almost nonstop adventure, with a tilt toward the humorous. It does have its fair share of heart to help it stand out, too, with the friendship bond between Ed and Holga being a strong point, and the relationship between Ed and his daughter, Kira. "Magic," as a fantasy concept, is certainly a big part of the story, with Simon representing more of the "good" kind of magic, and some pretty creepy evil witches representing the "bad" side. As a whole, I'd say the movie does well to make "good" and "evil" pretty defined, even if, say, Edgin's moral code isn't the purest (he's a thief, after all). The most evil characters want to turn the population into zombies and take over / destroy the kingdom, so I'd say the "bad" is pretty clear. There's no mistaking it. However, personally, I felt a little uncomfortable (spiritually speaking) with some of the visuals and such involving the witches, so I think it's safe to recommend viewers proceed with caution when considering this movie for watching. (I understand everyone's threshold for content they're comfortable with is different, so do what you will with my opinions, of course.)
Again, evaluating the movie as a whole, I'd say probably my only real gripe would be that the film might be just a hair too long. A couple scenes feel like they could have ended a little sooner than they do, yet a sequence like the cemetary interrogations never stops being funny as it progresses. (There's even a post-credits scene that relates to that sequence.) Aside from that, there were just a few moments that felt oddly borrowed from other popular movies. One scene during the climactic battle closely resembles the circular camera-pan of the assembled heroes in 2012's Avengers, and before that thought has a chance to leave our minds, we see a large, hulkish beast throw around a villain like a rag doll -- similarly to how Hulk thrashes Loki in the same film. The only downside to such seemingly stolen moments is that it robs the movie of feeling like its own thing. The "hero" shot would have probably been pretty passable in the longrun, if the Hulk homage didn't feel so blatant.
Content-wise, aside from the magical aspects that will likely polarize some audiences in a spiritual sense, there is a little bit of profanity, with 5 uses of the "S" word, 7 of "d*mn," and a couple of "S.O.B," "b*stard" and "pr*ck." It appears that the only potential blasphemy was one use of "Oh G-d," however. There are some violent and somewhat gruesome visuals, but it all pretty much falls within the PG-13 banner. For example, a random soldier wearing a metal helmet is seen being decapitated at a distance during a fight. Another random character is seen being sort of sliced in half at the waist in a flashback, but the scene cuts quickly away from it (We then see the victim's skeleton is missing its legs). Another fight shows a man violently defeating a horde of bad guys, with his last motion being the slicing of a man's throat -- of which we see from behind. We then do see the bloody wound as it magically heals up. Otherwise, everything else is pretty much just cuts and scrapes with some minor blood being shown.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves certainly isn't the best thing you'll see at the cinema this year, but it's no doubt a good time. Regarding of some of the iffy magical content and spiritual misgivings viewers may have from it, I highly recommend exercising caution and leaving it up to your own discretion how you feel about it. Overall, though, by the story's end, I personally don't think the movie glorifies any evil magical elements, and otherwise makes the fight of good versus evil pretty cut-and-dry. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is ultimately a fantasy adventure / comedy that fans of the genre are likely to really appreciate.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 5/26/23)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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