Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves - is an early swashbuckling summer blockbuster
3 out of 5
Firstly, it's very important to state that in this neck of the woods, the missing 'u' has been included in the title. Phew!
Secondly, it's important to say that I am a dinosaur. I've never played Dungeons & Dragons (I'm told one must use an ampersand and not 'and'). Our youngest stayed up many nights playing and hosting games with players on line around the world. Now in 2023 we have a second attempt at a film version. The first film adaptation was twenty-three years ago and it was (mostly) met with derision by fans of the game.
Duncan Jones 2016 adaptation of another computer game, Warcraft, showed how it could be done and had some success at the box-office. He achieved this by focussing on the story. With this new film, writers and directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein focus on story and it works, mostly. Both have collaborated before on films such as the underrated Game Night (2016) and the more mainstream Spiderman: Homecoming from 2017. The latter, as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe cemented their credentials as being able to write and helm a blockbuster film.
I'm not a fan of role-playing games, either on a board or on a computer but I have to say, I really enjoyed this. Like Warcraft, it created a complex world and made it relatable and believable. (James Cameron - are you still taking notes?) Importantly, one doesn't need to know anything about the game going into the film. There is sufficient exposition, skillfully done that it's not an issue. “The intention was for nothing in the film to have to be explained prior to seeing it,” said Daley, who co-wrote the screenplay with Goldstein and Michael Gilio, in a recent video interview. “We knew that was of the utmost importance, so that we’re not alienating an audience that doesn’t know D&D.” Although the film contains more than enough Easter eggs and references to satisfy die-hard fans, “none of that is a requirement,” said Goldstein. “You don’t have to know how to fly an F-18 to enjoy ‘Top Gun.’”
The film is the story of a charming thief and a band of unlikely adventurers embark on an epic quest to retrieve a long lost relic, but their charming adventure goes dangerously awry when they run afoul of the wrong people. Think Princess Bride and you're in the right zone.
The CGI is quite good. There are one or two short sequences where it is less than perfect but, in general, not enough to distract.
Chris Pine is the star attraction here and he quips his way through the film with sufficient charm that, like Paul Rudd in the Ant-Man films, we forgive him. As an action hero he is believable and can wield a sword or a lute with the best of them. I'm not as sure about his singing voice.
Hugh Grant is enjoying something of a Renaissance playing a cad which he does here again with some fun. Not quite as menacing as the late Alan Rickman but he gives it his best. Of all the characters, his is not as well-drawn. Michelle Rodriguez is a little typecast as a rough-tough, no nonsense warrior with a past. Everyone else acquits themselves well.
This is an early swashbuckling summer blockbuster. Popcorn, nachos - sit back and enjoy. It's not going to win any awards but it's perfectly fine entertainment. It's funny, adventurous and stay for the Monty Python-esque mid-credit scene.