'Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves' Delivers a Perfect Intro to The Game and a Great Fantasy Story All In One (Review)
Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves has some surprises in store for everyone, from the level 20 multi-class players to the complete novices. The movie had a lot of boxes to check, from simply telling a great fantasy story to getting viewers interested in tabletop roleplaying games (TTRPGs). Rather than cramming exposition and lore into its runtime, it succeeded by staying as laid-back as any casual weeknight DnD session among friends.
Honor Among Thieves tells a new, original story as all DnD campaigns do, and in many ways, the movie fits right in alongside other recent fantasy behemoths like House of the Dragon and The Lord of the Rings. However, this movie isn't beholden to any single piece of source material, and it makes the most out of that flexibility. While longtime fans of Dungeons and Dragons will recognize the setting, the general rules of magic and even some story elements from the game's published material, the movie encapsulates the freedom and self-determination that has made millions of fans fall in love with TTRPGs over the years.
It does that without utilizing a framing device that many fans expected to see here – cut scenes showing real-life players. From the time the movie was announced, many fans speculated that it would depict a grand DnD adventure but periodically cut to a table where the main cast was playing the game. Some may be relieved that the filmmakers didn't go this route and some may be disappointed, but either way, it makes it all the more impressive that they captured the spirit of the game as well as they did.
Longtime fans of DnD or those who have consumed some DnD live-play content will likely recognize some universal tropes of the genre that come up organically in this fantasy heist. Each character finds time to explain their backstory and then lean on that history throughout their quest, and they advance in-depth as they advance in power. Perhaps most importantly for the purpose of selling the game, the movie perfectly captures the comedy of DnD, as the graveyard scene exemplifies.
It's likely no accident that the movie leaves plenty of common questions unanswered and mysteries to unravel – even in the week before the general premiere, questions like "how does Dungeons and Dragons work?" saw spikes on Google Trends, and the search engine had plenty of beginner-friendly queries to autofill. DnD has already seen a massive surge in interest in recent years, and this movie is clearly designed to help with that.
That obvious merchandising incentive makes it all more incredible that Honor Among Thieves tells a genuinely engaging story. The plot and the characters are about as simple as a homebrew campaign, and at least as charming. The cast seems to be having the time of their lives from start to finish, and that energy is infectious. Michelle Rodriguez, in particular, manages to humanize the dramatic moments and the deadpan gags alike without interrupting the viewers' immersion one bit.
One advantage Honor Among Thieves may have over other franchise media these days is that it doesn't need to appeal to everyone. While superhero movies now have a responsibility to be universal hits, DnD can continue to cater to its core audience and count on curious new fans to trickle in. When they do, they will meet the franchise on its own terms and they may be surprised by how much they like it. Hopefully the team can keep that freedom, as this movie begs for a sequel, and a TV spinoff is already in the works.
Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is playing now in theaters around the U.S. The TTRPG materials are available wherever books are sold, or in digital format on DnDBeyond.com.0comments