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HomeGamingHonor Among Thieves is everything a D&D fan could want

Honor Among Thieves is everything a D&D fan could want


This first spoiler-free look at Dungeons & Dragons: honor among thieves comes from the film’s debut at the 2023 SXSW conference. We’ll be doing more in-depth coverage as the film’s release date approaches.

We live in a new golden age for fantasy movies and shows. Gone are the days when epic fantasy adventures were given low budgets that crippled production, or scripts that showed open disregard for the genre. Now elves, dragons, and magic are as big a part of the pop culture zeitgeist as sitcoms were in the ’90s. And yet, thanks to the huge success of Game of Thrones, fantasy shows and movies tend to be dark and gloomy, both in tone and image. That’s just one of the many reasons why the movie Dungeons & Dragons: honor among thieves is such a shock to the system: it’s an attempt to prove that we’re finally ready to embrace the fun, chaos, and complete weirdness of the fantasy genre.

What makes Dungeons & Dragons unique as a game is the way the system works like a huge sandbox. No two games are the same, even though players use so many of the same tools. The new film, from John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, based on a script written by Daley, Goldstein and Michael Gilio, feels like an invitation to join the final session in a campaign they’ve been waging for years.

It’s like watching an episode of Critical Role and realizing that the group didn’t just come up with a good story out of the blue, they’ve been playing together long before the cameras rolled. Even before Honor among thieves‘ bard Edgin (Chris Pine) tells a story about his background so the audience can understand his motivation (his actual words), and we see his past adventures with most of the other characters, the movie feels like the final chapter in a very long and complicated story.

Photo: Aidan Monaghan/Paramount Pictures

Here’s what the best stories do: they invite you into a vast, intricate world that feels like it existed long before these characters entered the story, and well beyond this particular adventure. Honor among thieves aces that worldbuilding. It drops several keys D&D locations, such as Baldur’s Gate and Waterdeep. But the real sense of connection for fans of the game is in the way the film uses real sets and locations to convey the grandeur and size of the world, populating them with a host of characters and background sights, from ruins to ancient monuments. . In a sense, the approach is similar to James Cameron’s original avatarwhich tells a fairly simple, straightforward, often predictable story, so that Cameron can focus on building a huge world without overwhelming the audience.

In Honor among thieves, that approach pays off. The story of a group of misfits who go in search of a magical artifact to commit a heist is not very complicated and often predictable. But it’s effective and to the point, designed to let the characters and world speak for themselves.

For viewers who have never played Dungeons and Dragons, the world of the movie will be no more difficult to wrap your head around than Westeros or Middle-earth, aside from all creatures and cultures from dragon people to lizard people to cat people. (The Tabaxi reign in this film.) There is a similarly wide variety of creatures, such as owl bears and mimicry. The film uses plenty of hands-on creature effects that look incredible, though the CGI tweaks sometimes don’t mix as well as they could. It is a testament to the writers’ trust in the audience that they don’t explain too much how things work in this world, be it the magic, the abilities of the characters, factions like the Harpers or the Emerald Enclave, or the anachronistic technology that makes this possible. movie closer Willow or The princess bride than Lord of the Rings.

But the differences between Dungeons and Dragons and other fantasy franchises is the sweet spot where Honor among thieves really shines. That starts with the film’s depiction of magic, which is unlike anything else on TV or film. There are no wizards waving their wands and shooting CGI beams of light. Instead, they require physical ingredients, gestures, words, and even concentration to cast all kinds of spells, simple and complex. The movie makes it very clear that there are limitations to magic – just covering a wizard’s mouth prevents them from casting spells, for example.

The D&D party gets into action in a red-tinted group photo, with Edgin (Chris Pine) in the front reaching over his shoulder for his instrument in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Photo: Aidan Monaghan/Paramount Pictures

As cool as the magic is, Daley and Goldstein make sure every member of the main party gets a moment to show off their class skills, from the barbarian Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) who rants and kicks everyone in stunningly choreographed action sequences to Pine’s bard who motivates his teammates to achieve their goals. The highlight, however, is Sophia Lillis’ binding druid Doric, who steals the stage with her use of Wild Shape in the film’s best sequence, a one-shot escape through a castle that showcases various creatures and proves that druids are the best class. (Fight with me.)

Arguably, no character feels like they’ve come out of a gaming session quite like the paladin Xenk (Regé-Jean Page). He is this film’s take on Jesse Plemons’ character Game night, an incredibly serious character surrounded by stupid doofuses. He also feels like that one older player who joins a table of newcomers with an OP character they’ve played for years who takes the game super seriously, refusing to break character and constantly reminding you that they “will not tolerate colloquial “.

For fans of the game, or any of its hundreds of derivatives, it is a real pleasure to see this dynamic unashamedly relatable on screen, to see familiar locations realized in such lavish detail, and to see this world populated by the creatures that make D&D such a unique franchise. (The intellect eater is a scene stealer.) The movie also does a great job of capturing the different tones players can experience in their own campaigns, from horror to campy fun, and from epic high fantasy to a thrilling heist.

That last point is crucial to the film’s success, which juggles different tones and genres while always remaining playfully serious. The characters constantly fail in battles and puzzles. It’s a hoot and a riot to see them be total idiots, but also a triumph when they finally succeed. There’s no embarrassment about the fantasy elements or their origins here, and no attempt to cover up or undermine the geek stuff with sarcastic, dismissive remarks. No one mocks each other’s names or skills. The appearance of a displacer beast or jelly-like cube does not provoke jokes that they are ridiculous creatures: they are simply treated as dangerous.

The film is playful and serious throughout, emphasizing that these are serious situations for the characters. Rodriguez’s barbarian is still reeling from a broken relationship, and when her storyline pays off, it’s hilarious – but audiences are still invited to feel and empathize with her pain. Dungeons & Dragons: honor among thieves does not create game mechanics or a sense of improvisation and, shall we say, The legend of Vox Machina, but it’s the best Dungeons and Dragons movie we could have hoped for. Not only is it a fun fantasy movie, it’s also a great adaptation of a gaming session. And it’s an invitation to a new and more visual version of a world that dedicated players already love – and that the filmmakers seem to love too.

Dungeons & Dragons: honor among thieves premieres in theaters on March 31.

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