This review is spoiler-free.
Last night, I attended one of Cineworld’s Secret Unlimited Screenings. There’s something strangely exciting sitting in a cinema not having a clue what you’re about to see, but there’s also the element of risk that you could be about to waste an evening watching a bad film. Thankfully, Cineworld delivered, treating us to an early screening of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, which turned out to be a lot better than I expected to be.
Just before we get in to it, I would just like to make it clear that I have never played the Dungeons & Dragons game, I have no idea how you play it or what/who it involves. I will not be making any reference to the game in this review as I have no valid opinion on how this film works as an adaptation/tribute to it, so I am judging this film strictly on it’s merits as a fantasy adventure.
When bard Edgin Davris (Chris Pine) and barbarian Holga Kilgore (Michelle Rodriguez) escape from prison, they return to a world much changed as a result of their previous actions. This leads to them getting a ragtag group of fellow adventurers (including Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis and Regé-Jean Page) together in order to finish what they originally started, and embarking on a perilous journey across the land.
Admittedly, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves doesn’t do anything to change up the fantasy adventure formula, this is essentially a long and drawn out fetch-quest. You know, the usual “we have to get this thing to then get this thing…” narrative. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, assuming that the other components make up for it and keep the audience invested in the journey. Luckily, this is where the film excels…
This is, simply, a really entertaining and fun movie experience. It’s got the perfect balance of action and comedy, with enough poignancy sprinkled in to make the characters more layered. All the characters in the core group offer something different and they have excellent chemistry together, you really do get the impression that the cast (including acting giants like Hugh Grant and a very funny cameo from a certain actor I didn’t expect to see) are having a blast making this and I don’t blame them. I was also pleasantly surprised by how well structured a lot of sequences were and how impressive the visuals were. Perhaps after a lifetime of underwhelming game-adaptations done on the cheap I went in with significantly lowered expectations, but this film has some truly brilliant visual effects and a surprising, welcome amount of practical effects and creatures as well. It’s not all perfect, but I was definitely impressed more often than not.
There was definitely a lot more thought and care put in to this production than I expected and it elevates the final product without a shadow of a doubt. It might be a strange thing to say considering I am praising a production team for showing passion and making an effort, but we’ve all seen films like this that cut corners and are just churned out with the objective of making a quick bit of cash or with the primary objective of setting up multiple sequels, I didn’t get that impression with Honor Among Thieves. Sure, the world is rich enough that they could definitely expand the franchise if they wanted to, and I’m sure they will if it’s a financial success, but this adventure stands on its own and everything is wrapped up nicely, so there won’t be any people feeling cheated if this does turn out to be a one and done deal.
To sum up, this isn’t a film that changes the game when it coms to the fantasy-adventure genre, but it is a refreshing addition and it’s a reminder that we don’t get many films like this anymore so they should be supported when they do come around. With an initial budget of $151 million, Honor Among Thieves is going to need to get a lot of bums on seats to be a success and it faces some big competition, so please get out there and see it.
Not everything lands. The plot is quite thin, some of the comedy doesn’t stick and some of the acting can be a bit melodramatic. But these are outweighed by the large amount of positives and it delivers everything you’d expect from this type of movie and more. Perhaps if you’re a fan of the game you’ll get even more pleasure out of it, or you’ll dislike it more, who knows? But if you’re in my shoes and you’re going to watch a fantasy-adventure with no knowledge of it’s source material, then you’ll be thoroughly entertained, and that’s the most important thing.
I give Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves a 7.5/10.