Who hasn’t wanted to go adventuring with a band of merry mess-ups? Fighting fat dragons, snarky ex-friend overlords, and scary women who can do a costume quick-change? You’ve got your chance when you go see Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves!
I’ve been living with, but not playing, D&D for many years, since one of my brothers started playing in high school, and my son Andy has worked his way to Dungeon Master. And of course, it was a staple on The Big Bang Theory. So sure, I’m familiar with the broad strokes of this fantasy game, like probably most of you are who would think about going to see this film. But if you’ve been reluctant because you don’t know the intricacies of mages and don’t want to be consumed by the number of dice you have to use, you’ll still completely love this movie!
— Dungeons & Dragons Movie (@DnDMovie) April 8, 2023
Chris Pine plays Edgin Darvis, a man who wants to do right (he insists that his band of thieves doesn’t hurt anyone), and loves his wife and daughter. But his wife is killed by a band of real baddies bent on taking revenge for the do-good activities of the Harper Guild, of which Edgin is a member. And in his grief, he gathers together a group of friends to rob the Harper’s vault and steal the Tablet of Reawakening, among other bounty, believed to be able to resurrect someone just once – and he intends, of course, to use it on his now long-dead wife. But you know it – nothing goes right, Edgin and his warrior friend Holga (Michelle Rodriguez), are captured and jailed somewhere in a snowy, freezing land.
Rodriguez is great in this role – strong, kind, skilled, and truly kick-ass. She’s a beefed-up, armor-wearing best friend, the kind you always wanted (but NO, your best friend doesn’t have the arm strength to lift an axe). Pine could be playing an ancestor of his James T Kirk role – same energy, but perhaps a little toned down, brash, funny, adventurous. However, I’d have to disagree with Holga’s assessment of Edgin – his lips aren’t really too big for his face.
Hugh Grant plays one of the baddies here – formerly a friend, part of Edgin’s band of thieves, but really only out for himself. After Holga and Edgin break out of jail, he’s found to have set himself up as the new Lord NeverWinter, as well as the new “dad” of Edgin’s daughter. Having seen Grant play a similar character recently in Jason Statham’s recent film Operation: Fortune, one wonders if he has finally decided to only play scene-chewing, double-dealing, self-centered baddies.
My game-playing son Andy commented on the movie for me, which he saw twice during opening weekend. A scene that made us all laugh was on a bridge, when Xenk Yendar (who was a princely-dressed wizard kind of character, played by Bridgerton heartthrob Regé-Jean Page) gave complicated, detailed instructions to cross. Which of course, were immediately foiled by a misstep. “Step on only each even-numbered stone, 2, then 4; until you get to the center, then step on every odd-numbered stone…. oops, the bridge is gone” kind of thing.
Andy said, “Knowing that the cast all played a ‘several hours long’ session of D&D together during the rehearsal process, and knowing that the script was written by people who understand the game, you can appreciate the conveniences of writing in the film instead as intentional. Every Dungeon Master has had the party completely and utterly fail an important puzzle, shrug their shoulders and offer a magic item on-the-spot as a solution (which is exactly what happened), and then had that magic item be overused for a long period of time, solving problems that you had expected more creativity to. With this in mind, it feels less like eye-rolling, lazy writing, and more a meta-joke.
“This film otherwise shows the knowledge of its writers, with several spells being pulled directly and concisely from the game & being out on screen, to amazing iterations of famous locales (famous to followers of the game, I’d guess, but they’re not necessary to know), to meta jokes about the system, such as implying every character’s intelligence is their lowest stat, a common decision of players as it generally offers the least useful abilities.”
OH! And there are two books available that go with the movie – The Druid’s Call and The Road to NeverWinter. If they’re as fun as the film, they’ll be worth reading.
I’d love it if this had several sequels, as long as their intelligence had a high value, like this one. It was just a fun, fast-paced, film that didn’t take itself seriously. There were so many silly details, and funny sequences (like a graveyard scene where you could ask a dead person 5 – no more, no less – questions and they’d be dead again – how hard is it to count to 5? Apparently…) that I could watch this a couple more times and still find new things to laugh at. It’s not an Oscar contender, but that’s perfectly ok with me (and frankly, I would have given it an additional half star, but our system doesn’t work that way and I don’t have a half-star-giver gadget to pull out of my cape).
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