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‘Dungeons & Dragons’ mix it up

One of the hardest group of people to please with film adaptions are gamers. Understandably when they watch a film based on their favourite game – whether that be table-top or video game – they want it to reflect what they have known and loved for years. The difficulty there is that film studios also want the film to make money so therefore need filmmakers to create a film that the wider cinema audience will want to see and understand as well.

By David Griffiths

Saturday 1 April 2023, 11:00AM

Hugh Grant, Michelle Rodriguez, Chris Pine, Regé-Jean Page, Sophia Lillis, and Justice Smith in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023). Image: IMDb

Hugh Grant, Michelle Rodriguez, Chris Pine, Regé-Jean Page, Sophia Lillis, and Justice Smith in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023). Image: IMDb

For that reason, any film lover will perfectly understand that filmmakers John Francis Daley (Vacation) and Jonathan Goldstein (Game Night) were under extreme pressure when they took on the task of creating a film based on the popular Dungeons & Dragons tabletop game – a game that has been intensely loved by players since 1974. Even worse was the fact that playing on their mind would have been that there have been three Dungeons & Dragons feature films made over the years and all have been considered subpar by both fans and critics alike.

The first thing that many will notice about Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023) is that the characters at hand are very similar to what they would experience in the game. The film’s plot revolves a bard and former Harper named Edgin Darvis (Chris Pine – Wonder Woman) and a Barbarian called Holga Kilgore (Michelle Rodriguez – The Fast & The Furious).

After a heist goes wrong they find themselves in prison and on their release they discover that their former ally, Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant – Operation Fortune), has risen to power and also brainwashed Edgin’s daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman – 65) into turning against her father.

With a plan in place to find a magical device that would be able to bring Kira’s mother back from the dead, Edgin and Holga now also find that they must work with a sorcerer named Simon, (Justice Smith – Pokemon: Detective Pikachu) who has no faith in his abilities, and a gifted but reluctant young tiefling druid called Doric (Sophia Lillis – It) in order to see their plans work out.

However, they soon realise just how difficult defeating Forge will be when they discover that he has teamed up with a powerful Red Wizard (Daisy Head – Wrong Turn). In order to counteract her magic they find that they have to seek advice from a paladin named Xenk Yedar (Rege-Jean Page – Bridgerton) which in turn makes Edgin have to face the ghosts of his past.

What makes this film work is perhaps the most interesting thing. Most would have expected that perhaps Daley and Goldstein may have made this a darker film that might of taken on a similar tone to that of the Harry Potter franchise, but instead the filmmaking duo have decided to mix action, fantasy and comedy all together in a way that is perhaps most reminiscent of the Heath Ledger film A Knight’s Tale.

It may feel like a weird mix, but somehow it works. As an audience you soon find yourself in the middle of a world where one moment the characters are battling a huge mythical beast and the next moment spinning off a witty line that will actually make you laugh. That is all then mixed together with magic lore that is as fascinating as anything you will see in something like Lord of the Rings as well as a few emotional dramatic scenes that will tug at the heartstrings.

While the filmmakers themselves are probably breathing a sigh of relief over the fact that hardcore D&D gamers seem to be embracing the film, the regular cinema goer should be pleased to hear that the film is one that is entertaining and also contains characters that we can relate to. Yes, they may be druids, bards and sorcerers, but Daley and Goldstein have been smart enough to have them battling human-like emotions like self-belief, depression, isolation, activism and the loss of a loved one. The result is the audience feeling like they are being taken on a roller-coaster ride with characters that feel like they have become their friend.

The well developed characters also allow the actors to deliver some great performances. Very few actors can mix action and humour the way that Chris Pine does and his performance here is well supported by the likes of Michelle Rodriguez, who seems to enjoy playing a character that has an emotional side, while Justice Smith once again reminds audiences why he is one of the most talented young actors in Hollywood at the moment. His performance here makes it impossible for the audience not to feel close to Simon… and for many fans of the franchise he will certainly become their favourite.

Perhaps, though, the actor who seems to have the most fun here is Hugh Grant. Grant has already shown earlier this year, with Operation Fortune, that he can play one hell of a villain and he repeats that here again. He is the perfect actor to play a villain who is cruel and devious but knows how to make the character memorable by throwing in some moments of humour, and the result is some great cinematic magic. 

The other enjoyable element of Dungeons And Dragons: Honor Among Thieves are the epic action sequences. There are many moments throughout the film where the filmmakers have brought in some truly creative sequences, including one that sees Doric continuously shape-shifting as she escapes a castle with villains hot on her heels.

There are very few cinema lovers out there that would have expected for Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves to end up as good as it has. With just the right mix of action, fantasy and humour delivered by characters that are impossible not to fall in love with, it is easy to see why many cinema lovers will be calling for a sequel to be made as soon as possible.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is currently screening in Phuket and is rated ‘13’.

4/5 Stars

David Griffiths has been working as a film and music reviewer for over 20 years. That time has seen him work in radio, television and in print. You can follow him at 

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