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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Amongst Thieves assessment: simply roll with it

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Paramount’s Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Amongst Thieves makes two issues clear inside its first 5 minutes: it understands its viewers and D&D expertise isn’t crucial. You’d be forgiven for assuming this was going to be one other lore-bloated fantasy epic, one thing that both fails to appease followers of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying sport or leans too far into it and confuses the “normies” — or is simply plain terrible like earlier cinematic makes an attempt. However whereas it’s not good, administrators John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein have managed to serve up a balanced adaptation that’s each easy to observe whereas remaining trustworthy to its grandiloquent supply materials.

Honor Amongst Thieves takes place within the Forgotten Realms, a various fantasy world that additionally serves because the marketing campaign setting for official D&D modules — which implies a number of places all through the film will probably be acquainted to those that’ve performed the sport. Within the cell of a frost-entombed jail, we’re launched to the charming and overconfident bard, Edgin Darvis (Chris Pine), and Holga Kilgore (Michelle Rodriguez), a brutish but motherly barbarian and Edgin’s greatest buddy. The pair units out to rescue Edgin’s daughter, Kira, from Forge Fitzwilliam, a former accomplice-turned-conman who has instilled himself because the villainous Lord of Neverwinter. Forge is performed by Hugh Grant, who leans into his normal “bumbling Englishman” persona for the position, whereas Daisy Head supplies some extra critical villainy because the Pink Wizard Sofina.

The social gathering exploring the ruins of Dolblunde.
Picture: Paramount Footage and eOne

Edgin and Holga are later joined by a timorous half-elf sorcerer performed by Justice Smith, a critically jaded tiefling druid performed by Sophia Lillis, and Regé-Jean Web page, who leans all the best way into our Bridgerton-fueled expectations as a good looking, swaggering paladin. However the place his Bridgerton character epitomized each romantic main man, this man is a strolling parody of each epic fantasy hero to have graced the style. Honor Amongst Thieves makes it very clear that it isn’t making an attempt to be some byzantine fantasy epic. Beneath the layers of its magical, medieval-inspired setting, it’s only a comparatively simple heist film — assemble a lovable group of expert people, break into just a few vaults, and defeat the unhealthy guys.

Fortunately, Honor Amongst Thieves additionally manages to be particularly D&D-flavored with out being too dorky or cringey. It reveals unimaginable self-awareness, navigating via recognizable tropes from the titular tabletop roleplaying sport with out being obtusely meta about the entire thing. In an actual sport, gamers are on the mercy of their cube: randomized numbers dictate in case your motion succeeds (casting spells, flirting with guards, and so forth.) or fails (falling into traps, offending guards along with your horrible flirting). The movie alludes to this via manufactured spontaneity — virtually each interplay feels ad-libbed, as if spoken off the cuff following a cube roll. The performances of Pine and Grant are particularly notable for injecting quick-witted humor into in any other case stale tropes. It feels refreshingly subversive.

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For individuals who don’t play D&D, this iconic monster is a gelatinous dice. It’s deadlier than you’d assume.
Picture: Paramount Footage and eOne

Appeasing nerds shouldn’t be a box-ticking train, however Honor Amongst Thieves ought to at the very least be recommended for the sheer variety of D&D Easter eggs crammed into its 134-minute runtime. There are a number of dungeons, a number of dragons, a number of treasure hoards, and a number of buff girls accompanied by a beneficiant smattering of references to what looks like at the very least half of the sport’s whole spell checklist and bestiary. Followers of the franchise gained’t be left wanting, and most inclusions are extremely trustworthy to the D&D sourcebooks (not counting the entire “druids can’t wild form into an owlbear” debacle).

The CGI used to depict canonical D&D areas like Icewind Dale and the Underdark is first rate sufficient, as is its utility all through the movie’s numerous shows of magic and spellwork. However sensible results are the place Honor Amongst Thieves will win over the actually hardcore fantasy nerds. The extra bestial races from the D&D universe are portrayed utilizing precise monster fits or puppets, as if plucked proper out of one thing like The Darkish Crystal. All of it looks like a homage to sword and sorcery films of the Eighties, and you’re feeling it in all of the ornately detailed costumes, prosthetic make-up, and precise animatronics. And in contrast to too many Marvel movies, it nonetheless feels grounded in actuality, so the CGI enhances greater than it detracts.

Chris Pine as Edgin Darvis (pictured left) and Regé-Jean Web page as Xenk Yendar (pictured proper).
Picture: Paramount Footage and eOne

Honor Amongst Thieves has to attraction to each audiences: those that are acquainted with D&D and people who aren’t. It clearly excels within the former, however whereas it does in the end obtain the latter, it doesn’t fully keep away from the pitfalls skilled by equally bold lore-heavy IPs that tried to interrupt into cinema. (I’m taking a look at you, Warcraft.)

Honor Amongst Thieves’ storyline progresses at breakneck pace, refusing to waste valuable minutes of pacing to offer background on the varied places, objects, or characters with the intention to accommodate the limitless deluge of D&D references. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy managed to patiently stroll its viewers via J.R.R. Tolkien’s expansive lore — Honor Amongst Thieves presents no such courtesy. Stereotypically fantasy-sounding phrases like “Faerun,” “Gracklstugh,” and “Emerald Enclave” typically whiff by throughout on-screen conversations, hardly ever repeated or offering perception into their significance.

You don’t really want background on any of the references peppered all through Honor Amongst Thieves to benefit from the film. It’s nonetheless very clear what’s unfolding on-screen whatever the jargon. However its dedication to appeasing the sport’s nerdy fan base doesn’t excuse the opposite cinema sins that tarnish it. The storyline is extremely predictable for a franchise that prides itself on creativity, and many of the characters really feel underdeveloped as a result of the movie makes an attempt to cowl an excessive amount of with the time it has.

Hugh Grant as Forge Fitzwilliam.
Picture: Paramount Footage and eOne

That is very true regarding its villains. Grant’s portrayal of Forge as “lord unhealthy man” is a number of enjoyable, however there are a number of different villains on this — to the purpose that his character typically will get misplaced as more and more sinister characters maintain popping as much as take up the mantle of the “actual” Large Dangerous. There are just too many malevolent cooks tampering with this fantasy-flavored soup.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Amongst Thieves is actually let down by the dimensions of its personal ambition in locations, however I nonetheless had enjoyable — extra enjoyable than I’ve had watching a fantasy film in years, really. It’s extremely humorous and overdelivers on the mandatory elements to appease anybody who’s ever rolled a 20-sided die. You possibly can even forgive the marginally chaotic pacing for precisely capturing the way it feels to play via an actual D&D marketing campaign.

For individuals who don’t partake within the sport, Honor Amongst Thieves continues to be completely satisfying as a result of it doesn’t take itself critically. Sure, it’s flippantly humorous and self-aware, nevertheless it isn’t pretentious about it. If something, Honor Amongst Thieves is unashamedly camp, vibing nearer to the likes of Shrek and The Princess Bride than your sometimes hardcore action-adventure film. It’s a reminder that the fantasy style continues to be allowed to be goofy. There’s nothing unsuitable with having fun with stoic intellectual fantasy, in fact, however watching Daley and Goldstein’s “Bardians of the Galaxy” ensemble bumble round with well-mannered zombies and obscenely pudgy dragons is a breath of contemporary air.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Amongst Thieves hits theaters on March thirty first.

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