Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) is one of the most popular board and strategy games, beloved by people from the 1980s to today. However, it hasn’t had the best of luck when it came to its onscreen adaptations. The 2000 film adaptation is so bad that it continuously makes many peoples’ list for the top ten worst film adaptations ever. With that in mind, it should be no surprise if people aren’t exactly enthusiastic for 2023’s Honor Among Thieves. However, the film received rave reviews from both critics and fans. Is this the end of the game adaptation curse?
Edgin Darvis (played by Chris Pine) and Holga Kilgore (played by Michelle Rodriguez) are two thieves who are spending their time in a prison after a heist to steal a resurrection tablet with their team: mage Simon Aumar (played by Justice Smith), conman Forge Fitzwilliam (played by Hugh Grant) and his associate Sofina (played by Daisy Head) goes horribly wrong. After years in prison, Edgin and Holga manage to escape and return to Forge hoping to reunite with Edgin’s daughter Kira (played by Chloe Coleman). However, Forge reveals his treachery to the two and has poisoned Kira to hate her father. To free Kira, Edgin and Holga put together a team consisting of Simon, a teifling druid named Doric (played by Sophia Lillis) and a paladin named Xenk Yendar (played by Regé-Jean Page). Meanwhile, Sofina is revealed to be a Red Wizard and plans creating an army of the undead to take over the world.
When I first saw the title of the movie, I thought it was a fifth Uncharted game. And even though I personally am not a huge fan of D&D, I still gave the film a chance since the trailers looked promising. And I can certainly say that it is far more game accurate than the 2000 adaptation. Honor Among Thieves truly feels like someone created a D&D campaign and cast Hollywood actors to bring it to life. From the costumes, names, world building and side quests, Honor Among Thieves makes the most of its source material. Each character has a class and certain abilities that come with their class. For example, Simon is a mage who uses magic and spells, Holga is a warrior who relies on brute strength and Doric is a druid who can shapeshift. But besides these classes, I’m amazed at how the film makes use of its world building. There are witches, dragons, undead and a various assortment of monsters that I can’t even name.
Speaking of magic, you might think that magic lends itself as some sort of Deus ex Machina. However, that’s not the case, as the film goes out of its way to explain that not everything can be solved by magic. The two most prominent users of magic, Simon and Sofina, both have clear limits on what they can and can’t do with their powers. Rather, magic is just a tool that like every other weapon, has its weaknesses and not once did I feel that anyone could’ve solved their problems with a simple spell.
Besides the excellent use of its world building, the cinematography is absolutely wonderful! At times I thought I was watching a Lord of the Rings film with the wide use of slow sweeping and wide shots. However, when it came to the fight scenes, a lot of them were shot in close ups with quick cut editing. I don’t know why this is the case, as we want to see the action in all of its glory rather than getting a vague idea of what’s happening. You’d think that Hollywood would have learned a thing or two from Chad Stahelski and David Leitch but it appears like they still have a long way to go.
One pleasant surprise in Honor Among Thieves is the relationship between Edgin and Holga. The two are good friends who bonded over their shared status as outcasts and later thieves. Both Edgin and Holga have each other’s backs at all times without giving up on each other. Now most films would have the two end up together or develop feelings for each other over the course of the film, but that’s not the case here. Despite Holga being the surrogate mother to Kira, Edgin and Holga remain good friends and nothing more, with even a throwaway line where the two show disgust at the possibility of being considered a couple. I’m impressed that Hollywood is beginning to show that men and women can be friends without anything more going on between them.
But the film would be nothing without its cast, and do the cast deliver. Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez are wonderfully cast as the laid back leader and standoffish warrior with a soft side, respectfully. Meanwhile, Justice Smith seemed to be typecast as a character who’s unsure of his abilities as seen in both Jurassic World: Dominion and Detective Pikachu. However, he perfectly delivers a funny and heartfelt performance and his growth from unsure to confident is satisfying to watch. I have to also commemorate both Hugh Grant and Regé-Jean Page. Hugh Grant is absolutely delightful as the ambitious and power-hungry conman Forge. Grant brings his typical British charm to not only make Forge witty, but also smarmy and despicable. Finally, Page’s Xenk is exactly what I would expect from an NPC guide: blunt yet intricately detailed. He gives the most unnecessarily detailed instructions as he guides Edgin, Holga, Simon and Doric to the Helm of Disjunction. Yet his seriousness in his delivery is played off for laughs, which is surprisingly very effective. It also helps that he’s also a badass warrior.
I did not expect to like this movie as much as I did. And even though I’m not a fan of D&D, I still had a blast watching this film, which proves that you don’t need to play a game or read a book or what have you in order to enjoy a movie. And if you do, then the film probably wasn’t that good (looking at you, Percy Jackson and FFVII: Advent Children). Full of strong world building, characters, acting and a Fast and Furious style message of family, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves does the unexpected and further breaks the game adaptation curse. As more and more people watch Honor Among Thieves, more and more will forget the sour taste left by the 2000 film.