Dungeons and Dragons: A rollicking adventure about affable heroes
Everything great about Dungeons and Dragons: Honour Among Thieves is perfectly encapsulated in the way the film portrays a dragon who we encounter halfway through the story.
Published: 01st April 2023 10:19 AM | Last Updated: 01st April 2023 10:19 AM | A+A A-
Everything great about Dungeons and Dragons: Honour Among Thieves is perfectly encapsulated in the way the film portrays a dragon who we encounter halfway through the story. Undoubtedly the chubbiest firebreather ever showcased on screen, the absolute unit of a dragon is still a serious threat to our protagonists. Sure, our heroes quip about his humongous build, and sure, they get away from the terrifying beast because he can’t catch up with them, but the film doesn’t linger too much on its humour and takes the source material and its genre seriously.
A band of misfits, consisting of a thief, a novice magician, a reluctant shapeshifter, and a heartbroken barbarian, go on a quest to find a powerful object that might help right the wrongs in their lives. With such a template fantasy-adventure premise, the film still manages to win us over with its earnest treatment and zealous creativity.
A perfect confluence of a vibrant imagination and inventiveness could be seen in its action set pieces. The entire sequence where a shapeshifter has to escape from a castle by warping from a housefly to her human self, to a rat, to an eagle, to a deer, is one of the most visually spectacular chase scenes in recent times.
More often than not, the weakest link in a fantasy story would be the antagonists, with their motivations either being world domination or just simply becoming more powerful. Unfortunately, Honour Among Thieves has no intentions of upending the genre conventions. But to its credit, the evil-doers in the story do have their moments where the darkness is not toned down or sacrificed to punch up the lightheartedness of the film.
The main cast could have gotten away with a much campier and flippant performance but the makers and the actors opt to linger on poignant moments, offering us sincere performances. Through lines delivered by the Mage, the film tells us that it is aware of the omnipotency of magic and promises to not use it for plot conveniences but that promise falters at times, like when the characters are stranded in a dungeon and conveniently remember that they have a magical staff that opens portals. But that could be forgiven since the in-universe magic is used sparingly and does follow in-universe rules that ground it to the story’s reality.
The wants and needs of the characters, while sufficiently adding to the story’s momentum, are still something we have seen a hundred times before. The film manages to supersede this problem with an invested cast and likeable characters. The best example of this aspect is Chris Pine’s Edgin Darvis. Hardly the valiant, stoic, Aragorn-esque protagonist we find in fantasy films, Darvis is a bard and a thief who exudes relentless optimism while still seething with desperation. He is haunted by the death of his wife and yet finds the energy to instill hope and courage in his crew.
Honour Among Thieves is a testament to the defiant charm of classic adventure stories. The kind of stories where the hero goes on a journey across realms; where they encounter terrifying beasts, powerful magicians, strange creatures, and traverse otherworldly cities. The quest might be to find a horde of gold or an object imbued with powerful magic, but the real heart of these stories have always been about how wisdom is gained and friendships are forged through the course of these adventures. It is a tale as old as the spoken word, a structure etched in every myth across the world.
The hero’s journey is a template that leaves its subconscious trace in almost every story and yet no other form of storytelling extracts the most out of this primordial myth than fantasy. And in an age where the on-screen revival of the fantasy genre is accompanied by a revisionist, gritty, approach in stories like Game of Thrones, Dungeons & Dragons tells us that we could still be charmed by the classic form of the genre.
Film: Dungeons and Dragons: Honour Among Thieves
Directors: John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
Cast: Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis