Let me begin by saying that I did not go into “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” familiar with the source material. I certainly knew “of” the famous tabletop game and that it takes place in a world of wizards and magic, but I only knew the broadest of strokes. If more education on the game would have helped me enjoy the movie more, then I’m sorry I didn’t do my homework. Then again, I see and enjoy movies based on unfamiliar source material all the time. I’ve never once bought a Marvel comic, and even with the MCU’s more subpar efforts, I usually feel that they do a good job establishing the characters and their worlds. But I spent almost all of “Honor Among Thieves” feeling left in the dust by all the fantasy creatures, spells, and rules. That feeling, combined with derivative characters and unfunny humor, made the movie a slog.
We first meet Edgin (Chris Pine) and Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) in prison, which explains the “Dungeons” portion of the title. They go to a parole hearing, where Edgin fills us in on backstory as he nervously awaits a specific board member. He used to be a professional peacekeeper until he started turning to light thievery to support his wife and daughter. His wife was killed, so he turned to heavy thievery along with Holga, aspiring sorcerer Simon (Justice Smith), and con artist Forge (Hugh Grant). The team did a risky job for witch Sofina (Daisy Head), that led to Edgin and Holga’s capture, though Forge was able to escape, promising to take care of Edgin’s daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman). The conclusion of the hearing does admittedly make for a funny gag.
Edgin and Holga reunite with Forge, now a powerful lord that basically rules the kingdom. He kept his word about protecting Kira, but has otherwise turned on his old friends, joining forces with Sofina for an upcoming scheme to create an army of the undead. Sofina tries to have Edgin and Holga eliminated, but they escape and start working on a counter-scheme to get Kira back, along with a relic that can bring back Edgin’s wife.
Edgin and Holga’s scheme requires more members on the team. Simon can do a scant little magic, which barely rises above the level of parlor tricks. Doric (Sophia Lillis) can transform into any animal, and single-handedly carries the best action sequence of the movie. Xenk (Regè-Jean Page) is a mighty, benevolent warrior that Edgin doesn’t trust. The movie doesn’t want to admit it, but with these three on the team, the movie barely needs Edgin and Holga. Actually, the movie doesn’t need anyone besides Doric. This movie could have been called “Doric & Dragons” and things probably would have been wrapped up much more efficiently.
The team goes through adventures where they encounter various creatures and deal with a series of obstacles and enchantments. The film falls into the trap that many fantasies do, where everything is magic, so the rules and stakes aren’t clearly defined. There are several points where the team is faced with a challenge and Edgin will ask, “Is there a spell for that?” We don’t know magic, so the answer is strictly at the mercy of the movie’s writers (or the game’s creators).
“Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is a perfectly average fantasy movie, dragged below average by bland characters (the ones with useful skills have no personality, and vice versa) and painful humor (especially with Simon, Justice Smith is a specialist at the sort of forced awkwardness that plagues many a movie of this era). It doesn’t make me want to take up the game or see any more movies in this series. We’re getting a new “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie in a few weeks, hopefully that will be a better movie about supposedly-loveable thieves where the self-appointed leader is an unremarkable smooth-talker played by a guy named Chris.
“Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is rated PG-13 for fantasy action/violence and some language. Its running time is 134 minutes.
Robert R. Garver is a graduate of the Cinema Studies program at New York University. His weekly movie reviews have been published since 2006.