Movie Review: Dungeon & Dragons: Honor Amongst Thieves (2023)

If you want to know more about the highest-grossing film based on a tabletop game, then you are on the right page! Set within the Forgotten Realms campaign backdrop in the D&D Board game universe, the movie stars Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, and Hugh Grant. Utilising a fantasy heist comedy narrative, the film follows a band of unlikely adventurers who embark on an epic quest to retrieve a lost relic, but things go dangerously awry when they run afoul of the wrong people. It has been described as a mix of Game of Thrones, Princess Bride, and Spinal Tap.

The Basic Plot

The movie follows Edgin Darvis, a charming thief and former Harper, who leads a band of unlikely adventurers in a quest to retrieve a lost relic. However, things go dangerously awry when they run afoul of Forge Fitzwilliam, a former ally turned ruthless lord, and his mysterious partner Sofina. Along the way, they encounter various creatures and challenges from the D&D world, such as dragons, beholders, mind flayers, and traps.

Getting into the lore

In the beginning

A fantasy tabletop role-playing game (RPG), Dungeons & Dragons was created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson in 1974 and published by Gygax’s company, Tactical Studies Rules (TSR). In 1997, TSR was acquired by Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro, which has been publishing D&D and its related products ever since. D&D was derived from miniature wargames, with a variation of the 1971 game Chainmail serving as the initial rule system. The game allows each player to create their own character and embark on adventures within a fantasy setting, guided by a Dungeon Master (DM) who acts as the referee and storyteller. The original D&D has gone through several editions and revisions over the years, each with its own rules and features. The current edition is the 5th edition, which was released in 2014. D&D has also spawned various spin-off board games that use some of its elements and themes, such as Dungeon!, Dragon Strike, Castle Ravenloft, and others.

What is it

In case you require a heads-up, D&D is a fantasy game where you create a character and join other players in a story led by a Dungeon Master (DM). You need some rules, dice, and a way to communicate with your friends. You can play online using voice or video chat and online platforms that offer virtual tools. You must also use a Dice, whether physical or virtual. You choose your character’s race, class, background, abilities, skills, and equipment. The DM describes the scenes, plays the characters you meet, and controls the monsters you fight. You tell the DM what you want to do, and the DM tells you what happens.

The Rules

The rules of D&D are divided into four parts: creating a character, playing the game, adventuring, and magic. The rules provide guidelines and options for players and Dungeon Masters (DMs) to create their own characters, scenarios, and stories. The flexible nature of the rules allows each group to modify, add, or remove rules to suit their preferences and style. Some groups may use house rules, which are unofficial rules that they agree on before playing. Official rules of D&D are also influenced by feedback from the players and fans, who may suggest improvements or corrections to the official rules. The game developers may also test new rules or concepts with the public before publishing them.

The Dice

D&D dice are the tools for determining what happens in the game. They have different shapes and numbers of sides, from d4 to d20. They can be made of various materials and colors, and have different effects. These can be bought individually or in sets, which usually have seven dice of each type. You can also get mystery sets, which are random and cheap dice that may be unique or rare. D&D dice are essential for playing the game and creating your own stories

What remains the same as in the games

The movie features various races from the D&D world, such as humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes, halflings, tieflings, dragonborns, and orcs. Classes from the D&D game, such as bard, barbarian, sorcerer, rogue, wizard, fighter, cleric, and paladin are shown using their class features in combat and exploration. We see some of the spells from the D&D game, such as fireball, magic missile, invisibility, charm person, sleep, and teleport. The movie includes some of the iconic monsters from the D&D game, such as dragons, beholders, mind flayers, goblins, kobolds, and zombies. The movie also introduces some new monsters that are inspired by the D&D lore, such as a giant spider with a human face and a snake-like creature with multiple heads. The movie features a new product line called Dicelings, which are transforming 20-sided dice that turn into miniature monsters. 

The Forgotten Realm

The choice of the Forgotten Realms campaign as the backdrop for the movie may be because of the large creative canvas it provides. The Forgotten Realms have a rich and detailed history that spans thousands of years and involves many civilizations, empires, wars, cataclysms, and gods. It is a world where many races and cultures coexist or clash with each other. Here magic is found in abundance, and can be used in diverse ways for combat, healing, crafting, transportation, communication, and entertainment. It is home to many deities who can intervene in mortal affairs and can form alliances or rivalries with each other, affecting the balance of power in the world.

Back to the Movie!

The movie does move away from the official lore by introducing some new locations such as the city of Samson and the island of Goliath, or by not following the rules and limitations of magic in the Forgotten Realms, such as spell levels, spell slots etc., or alters some monsters, such as beholders being friendly and helpful instead of evil and paranoid.

Despite this criticism, the movie has been praised for its fun and adventurous adaptation of the popular role-playing game. As per the reviews, the movie captures the spirit and fun of playing D&D, rather than following a specific story or setting from the game. The movie also appeals to a wider audience, not just hardcore fans of D&D, with its diverse and charismatic cast, thrilling and engaging plot, and impressive visuals and effects. The movie is seen as a homage to D&D, with many references and easter eggs to the game and its culture, while also respecting the source material and adding its own twists and surprises.

Some behind the scenes

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves has some interesting stories behind its cast and crew. Chris Pine, who plays the charming bard Edgin, said he loved the script for its old-fashioned and heartfelt tone, which reminded him of his childhood fantasy movies. John Francis Daley, one of the writers and directors, is a longtime fan of D&D and even played it on screen in Freaks and Geeks. Bradley Cooper, who surprised fans with his cameo as Drizzt Do’Urden, a legendary dark elf ranger, had already watched the movie before joining the cast. Michelle Rodriguez, who plays Xenk Yendar, a paladin warrior inspired by Drizzt, did most of her own stunts and enjoyed working with Hugh Grant, who plays the evil Lord Zalazar. Regé-Jean Page, who plays Simon, a half-elf sorcerer, said he related to his character’s struggle with his identity and bonded with his co-stars over their love of D&D.

Public response to the movie

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves has been a hit with both critics and audiences, who have given it high ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie has been praised for its faithful and inventive adaptation of the popular role-playing game, which it brings to life with a fun and adventurous tone, a diverse and charismatic cast, and impressive visuals and effects. The movie has also been enjoyed for its entertaining and engaging story, which follows a charming thief and a band of unlikely adventurers on an epic heist that goes dangerously awry. The movie delivers thrilling and hilarious action scenes, nostalgic and immersive references to the D&D game and culture, and a satisfying and emotional ending.

Viewers did recognise some of the movie’s challenges, such as adapting a tabletop game into a movie, balancing realism and fantasy, and appealing to different audiences. However (and unsurprisingly), some say that the movie could have performed even better if it had been more faithful to the source material and its rules, as some fans and critics were disappointed by the changes and felt that they diluted the essence of D&D.

The Verdict

In conclusion, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a delightful and entertaining movie that captures the spirit and fun of the beloved role-playing game. We would call it an example of a successful adaptation of a game to a movie. The movie has a great balance of comedy, action, and fantasy, and the cast is charming and charismatic. The movie also pays homage to the D&D lore and culture, with references and easter eggs that will delight fans of the game. There is a lot to enjoy and it gets our recommendation to anyone who likes fantasy movies or D&D.

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