Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves- SXSW 2023 Review
March 12th, 2023
MOVIE: DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: HONOR AMONG THIEVES
STARRING: CHRIS PINE, MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ, REGE-JEAN PAGE, JUSTICE SMITH, SOPHIA LILLIS, HUGH GRANT
DIRECTED BY: JOHN FRANCIS DALEY, JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
The knowledge needed to understand Dungeons & Dragons is not fantasy world quantum-mechanics. It’s standard magic, wizardry, half-bird-humans, and witches, using fantastical powers to survive in a mythical realm. But unlike the fantasy of Lord of the Rings or Willow, directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein are too afraid to create anything original to separate it from standard escapism cinema. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves has a delightful cast on their hands, with a script that features too much plotting and problems for it to enchant a spell on any viewer.
The commitment from the actors is commendable– led by Chris Pine as Edgin– a swordsman and natural leader. The rest include powerful friend Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) who crushes her enemies, newfound wizard Simon (Justice Smith), and a shape-shifting Sophia Lillis as Doric. At first they are a team, along with Forge (Hugh Grant), stealing treasures for their own pleasures, and making a name for themselves pulling off entrancing heists. Edgin stays in the game too long, leading to his wife killed and his purpose becomes to recover a magic key, set to bring his wife back to life. Forge betrays his friends, along with a powerful red witch named Sofina (Daisy Head)– kidnapping Edgin’s daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman) and making their next big heist a rescue mission.
Honestly, the plot details are frivolous. The screenplay was written by Goldstein, Daley, and Michael Gilio. The story is from Chris McKay and the journey is one-hundred percent macguffins. We get to know the group through their various traits and the cast is all thankfully on board for making D&D fun. However, that’s not enough to elevate it. The humor is sporadic at best. A few laughs here, a good early gag of Edgin telling his story and often interrupting himself, stalling just to escape. The special effects don’t do much either. Attacking owl-bears, battles between wizards with giant hands of fire and rock, or a late fight for survival in a ever-shifting maze feels tacked on instead of highlighted. The magical stuff provides zero wow factor and the set-pieces are too brief to even register.
It seems like the effort is valiant, as bringing the Dungeons & Dragons universe to life has been less than successful in the past, but many of the problems still remain. A later arriving Rege-Jean Page brings a nice slice or silly proper knight heroics– still not enough. What sinks in is that this might just be the best D&D movie we can get. Similar to Duncan Jones’ Warcraft film, the gaming history and details are too dense, built beyond the imagination of what cinema can contain. Credit for Daley and Goldstein for trying but the final result is magically forgettable.
Buried within Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves are a lot of ideas to making it work and instead of just choosing one way, they chose them all. It seems to be trying for an Ocean’s Eleven style of fantasy pictures. It wedges in a competition to the death like The Maze Runner. And it also wants to establish a group of heroes for more adventures. Sadly, I just never seemed to care enough. The opening movie at SXSW is supposed to be magical. What we got was something less honorable.
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: HONOR AMONG THIEVES HAD ITS WORLD PREMIERE AT SXSW 2023 AND IS IN THEATERS FRIDAY MARCH 31ST, 2023.
Written by: Leo Brady