In an IP-heavy world, it’s actually a wonder it took so long for another Dungeons & Dragons film. The role-playing game has long transcended the confines of tabletop popularity. The Stranger Things revival only increased its relevance across popular culture. Add in the freedom it allows for storytellers, and you have a world of possibilities. Now, directors John Frances Daley and Jonathan Goldstein make their mark on the modern blockbuster. Their take, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, brings out some of the best blockbuster storytelling of the year.
After years in prison, Edgin (Chris Pine) and Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) work out a plan to return to Edgin’s daughter Kira (Chloe Colman). Unfortunately, when they almost do, they are exiled again and almost put to death. In order to retrieve the items necessary to win her back, they must steal from Forge (Hugh Grant) and his mage Sofina (Daisey Head). They recruit a unique team to accomplish their quest. This includes Sorcerorer Simon (Justice Smith), a druid Doric (Sophia Lillis), and a paladin Xenk (Regé-Jean Page).
The screenplay crackles with humor, far from a surprise from two Spider-Man scribes. Yet Daley & Goldstein also show off their ability to craft earned emotional moments. They set up nearly every gag, play with “comedy the rule of three,” and even obey the loose lore of the property. They may owe a small check to James Gunn in terms of ensemble construction, but he’s one of the few who builds his films like a D&D quest anyway.
In addition to setting up a fun adventure, Daley & Goldstein show phenomenal creativity. Each character can take the spotlight and critically think through problems. One sequence, using digital effects, builds out an elaborate and electric action setpiece. Other effects are used for comedic effect. Perhaps most exciting is the use of continued puppets and practical builds. Combining large-scale spectacle with physical bird-humanoids and makeup-heavy characters makes for the best of all worlds.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves features three of the most charismatic actors alive, and even so, Page steals the show. He asked to lead some very fun action set pieces, and with an all-knowing role, he truly shines in every scene. The role certainly accentuates his talents, and he elevates the rest of the film when he joins the crew.
Pine also proves that his roguish charm from Star Trek was never far out of reach. He’s at his best when he stumbles through pl,ans and he plays quick wit exceedingly well. Pine can also play up his haunted past, selling the background we need to understand his motivations. Once again, he proves that his comedic timing is among his strongest assets.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez delivers the funniest role of her career. While Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves allows her to be the badass action heroine, it’s the first time we’ve seen her stretch herself as a performer in a while. Both Lillis and Smith play to their strengths as well. However, neither puts themselves in a position that undermines their talent. Instead, they play to the ensemble nature of the film. Grant, as always, plays it to the rafters with perfecti n.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves certainly took me by surprise. While sequences still struggle with the effects work, the creatuAlan’sign overcomes these hurdles. We see creative action sequences, genuinely funny comedy, and lots of heart. There are dozens of easter eggs fore D&D fans who love the games, but newcomers will find themselves at home inan comedic action fantasy.