Written by: Adam Vaughn | March 30th, 2023
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (John Francis Daley/Jonathan Goldstein, 2023) 2½ out of 4 stars.
I suppose, in due time, Hasbro was going to continue to give us toy/game products turned into cinema blockbusters, and one of its most popular games finally makes its way to the big screen. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thievestakes the beloved role-playing board game and attempts to turn it into a live-action fantasy adventure. To some extent, it succeeds in giving us mesmerizing, CGI-favored sequences mixed with the occasional bursts of comedic timing. That being said, what directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (Game Night) give us is not necessarily all that groundbreaking; quite frankly, I don’t believe it ever intends to be.
That’s because Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a very self-aware film, utilizing both a popular franchise and a beloved genre to simply splash as much visual candy as possible at the viewer for two hours, leaning heavily on spectacle to accomplish its task. A tremendous portion of the film relies on production design and special effects, which I admit are quite beautiful and do the genre great justice. While I’m not necessarily an avid D&D player, I can imagine Daley and Goldstein utilize much of the game’s iconic creatures and human archetypes to create a dynamic set of main characters, both heroes and villains.
Sadly, outside of the excitement that the source material already brings to the table, Honor Among Thieves doesn’t do anything outside of the box or thought-provoking. Most, if not all, of the major themes expressed here have been done a thousand times, and in much more interesting ways. Chris Pine (All the Old Knives), while charming, turns out to play the stereotypical scoundrel hero role, with nevertheless some enjoyable lute-playing moments. The remaining cast—among them Michelle Rodriguez (F9: The Fast Saga), Justice Smith (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), and Sophia Lillis (Uncle Frank)—find themselves playing equally as conventional roles, with equally generic character arcs. Needless to say, the film’s writing and style follow an extremely predictable route.
While it may traffic in clichés, Dungeons & Dragons is still highly enjoyable, and family-friendly fun at that. It certainly is not a film to watch looking for interesting concepts or insightful messages, but fans of the board game will definitely find visually stunning renditions of their favorite fan fiction, and moviegoers will find an immersive cinematic experience with a fully functioning fantasy-film adventure. For many, Daley and Goldstein’s film will stand as an acceptable representation of the board game’s magical experience.