What joy it is to step out of a theme park of a movie that doesn’t set up too many expectations and yet gives back more bang for the buck. Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves has everything you would expect; dark dungeons, creepy crawly creatures, magnificent castles, evil wizards, friends banding together, families fighting for each other, betrayal, close-call adventures, perfectly laid-out plans going awry, lots of lore, and the magic of… magic.
Directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, who have also written the film along with Michael Gilio, bring all of this together to take us on a jolly good journey. Like the famous role-playing game it is based on, something happens one after the other, like one ride after the other, with lots of good comedy and bewitching colours over a template screenplay done to perfection.
Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (English)
Directors: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
Cast: Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Hugh Grant, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, Daisy Head, Regé-Jean Page
Runtime: 134 minutes
Storyline: A team of four go on a dangerous journey to find a magical helmet and reach the castle of Neverwinter to save a little girl and prevent an evil wizard from wrecking havoc
The characters are colourful as they come as well, initially seeming like cut-outs from the fantasy movie template. We start off inside a dungeon where Edgin Darvis (Chris Pine), a former Harpers member turned alcoholic after his wife’s death, and his friend Holga Kilgore (Michelle Rodriguez), a brute exiled from her tribe, are imprisoned. As they stand trial, we look back at how the two, along with their friends, conman Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant) and petty sorcerer Simon Aumar (Justice Smith), were a band of thieves. During a mission to steal the Tablet of Ressurection (to revive Edgin’s wife), a Red Wizard called Sofina (Daisy Head) double-crosses them leading to the two’s arrest.
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When Edgin and Holga escape the prison and find Forge, he has become the Lord of Neverwinter and an assumed guardian of Kira, the daughter of Edgin and his late wife. We realise that it was Forge who was the mastermind behind all that went wrong. Edgin, Holga, and Simon, along with a tiefling druid Doric (Sophia Lillis; easily one of the coolest characters) now have to find a magical helmet to fight Forge, Sofina, their armies, and whatever monsters that grace their way to stop Sofina’s evil plans and to rescue Kira. Along the way, they also get help from Xenk Yandar (Regé-Jean Page), a paladin warrior.
Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a movie you have seen dozens of times. A father fights for a daughter who mistakenly believes he abandoned her. A one-note villain, who you know will make a fool of himself, becomes hopeless in front of pure evil. A boy sorcerer with low self-esteem needs to self-actualise and find himself to save the world. Michelle Rodriguez stares with rage and packs a punch. You know it all. Yet, it gives you the satisfaction of taking you right where you want to go — but with a teeny bit extra — like the extra bar of candy you get from your grandma.
This familiarity and predictability don’t come in the way. There are plenty of gorgeous-looking action scenes, placed at regular intervals to keep us hooked. A chase sequence involving the shape-shifting Doric and the powerful Red Wizard through a dense city is easily one of the most memorable scenes; so is a sequence that has the team fighting an overweight dragon in a dungeon.
Everything serious ends up with a coat of humour and this includes even the way the minor characters are written. For instance, Xenk finds a pivotal role to play in the mission, but he’s also a specimen used to mock many other such chivalrous men who always walk in a straight line. Even a cameo by Bradley Cooper, as a smaller human and Holga’s former lover, is crackling. But, it’s Chris Pine who deserves the most accolades for his spectacular comic timing, cheerful presence, and charm. A scene set at a graveyard, where Edgin and the team have to dig open corpses with magic and ask them questions, is the peak of it all.
The film also managed to strike the right chord with the fact that these four lead characters are primarily outsiders, or as Edgin says, are ‘failures,’ who fail only when they settle with a defeat — a much-needed message for all D&D nerds and children who watch the film (it’s children-friendly; people get slashed, burnt, and stabbed to death but there’s hardly any bloodshed). That statement has been put on screen so many times, but what’s special about Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is that it’s not meant to be a trailblazing fantasy movie concept; it’s the plain old done-to-dust theme park ride that works like magic when written and executed with conviction.
Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is currently running in theatres
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