Hi everyone. I normally do book reviews for GiN, but this week I took some time instead to get together with friends to go see the really amazing Dungeons and Dragons movie.
The new Dungeons and Dragons movie is like a great adventure campaign you play with your friends: chaotic, crammed with tragicomic characters, magical monsters, super spells and ending up somewhere you didn’t expect. There will be some spoilers in this review, but nothing that isn’t in the trailers. If you don’t want to read about some of the plot, you may want to stop reading at this point.
I saw the new movie in the theater, with some people who play Dungeons and Dragons, and we all enjoyed it! Some liked it more than others, but all liked it overall. One of my friends wanted a more adult type of movie and less of family friendly fare. I could see why he would feel that way. It was more Guardians of the Galaxy or The Princess Bride rather than Avengers: Infinity War or The Lord of the Rings.
This movie is not just general fantasy but, more specifically, Dungeons and Dragons fantasy. Many of the famous monsters make an appearance, like the Owlbear or the Rust Monster. Both of these monsters were originally plastic prehistoric animals kid toys that Gary Gygax used in his games and reimagined into the now iconic creatures.
The spells are also from the game, with Time Stop and Bigby’s Hand being rendered in a crowd pleasing way. Some of the great cities from D and D’s Forgotten Realms setting, which are also used in video games, are invoked like Neverwinter and Baldur’s Gate. My favorite is that some of D and D’s characters like Mordenkainen and Volo are mentioned or shown in a painting.
Even the kids from the early eighties Dungeons and Dragons cartoon make a brief appearance. Bobby the little Barbarian, Ranger Hank, Sheila, Diana, Eric and Presto show up as another adventuring party. It is just one of many little details that add to the crazy quilt aspect of this movie. Paramount even made a short video making fun of the cartoon cameo.
The best parts of this movie are the dialogue and the way the characters are played by the talented cast. Hugh Grant, a self-confessed critic of most movie writing, stated in the Comicon Panel that he found the script “incredibly funny.” He plays a frenemy for the main party and is amazing. Chris Pine plays against his more heroic roles by being a bard who relies on his wits rather than any fighting prowess. He is best friends with a barbarian called Holga. Michelle Rodriguez is that barbarian with the best backstory of all the cast that involves a very touching, grown-up take on failed relationships with a cameo by Bradley Cooper.
Regé-Jean Page plays a more-perfect-than-you Paladin with panache. Justice Smith is a half-elf sorcerer whose magic strengthens and wanes based on his confidence. Finally, Sofia Lillis plays a Tiefling Druid whose distrust of humans must be overcome so as to join the party.
The movie’s story is a smorgasbord of tight character scenes spaced apart by action sequences. The constant changing of scenery reinforces the epic fantasy world feel. The urban magical streets of Neverwinter are not just a more crowded version of the small town of Longsaddle, both of which are important to the characters’ quest. Each place is given different architectural and soundscape details like a good video game. Even the Underdark, a subterranean D and D setting, makes it to the screen.
The ending of the movie surprised me a bit, not taking the normal route. That’s like the experience for a Dungeon Master who makes an adventure and expects it to go a certain way. The players and their characters make unexpected choices, and that is what makes it fun, exciting and worth the time.
Honor Among Thieves is rated PG-13 and runs for 2 hours and 14 minutes. Go see it if you are a Dungeons and Dragons fan, or just love a really great fantasy adventure.