Playing Dungeons & Dragons in university taught me the same thing I’ve seen from so many great movies: having a confidant storyteller makes all the difference.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is practically a how-to for bringing a game to life on the big screen, and it only falters when the story goes in the most obvious direction. The absolute best parts of the film are when Dungeons & Dragons actually sticks the closest to the source material that’s been inspiring players for so many years.
Chris Pine is at his best here as the bard and leader Edgin. He was once part of a group of heroes who protected the realm, but after his wife died at the hands of an evil red wizard, he resorted to petty theft while trying to raise his daughter.
The only person keeping Edgin going is his barbarian best friend, Holga Kilgore, played by the gleefully grim Michelle Rodriguez. Together the two get into trouble, but they’re working to do one thing: make their way back to Kira, Edgin’s daughter, played by Chloe Coleman.
Nothing is that simple and as they’re trying to reunite with Kira, the two end up on a quest to pull off one last heist, but they’ll need a relic, a wizard, a druid, and some luck.
Joining the two on their quest are the bumbling sorcerer, Simon Aumar (Justice Smith), the druid Doric (Sophia Lillis), and the heroic Xenk, played by the incredible Regé-Jean Page, who steals every scene.
The quest has them facing off against evil warriors, a gelatinous cube, displacer beasts, and a very obese dragon, but they also have to deal with a man and his ego. Namely, their former friend and companion Forge Fitzwilliam, played by Hugh Grant, and his partner, Sofina, played by Daisy Head.
Dungeons & Dragons works because it not only embraces the source material, it runs with it as only the best storytellers can do. Pine is a natural leader, not just as Edgin, but as the heart and spirit of this film. We’re drawn along beside the bard because he’s not just relatable, he’s funny, and earnest, and he has a huge heart.
The storytelling slows down for all the right beats, but it also pulls off some breathless action and fun camp that reminded me at least a little bit of Guardians of the Galaxy. Dungeons & Dragons only matches that film in the sense of a big group of fun characters, who all have a snarky kind of affection for each other.
Edgin’s heart lends so much to the story, and between the performances from Rodriguez, Coleman, and of course Pine especially, the film is surprisingly charming and sweet, too.
The film balances great side stories with all of the characters, including Simon trying to find his own abilities, with Smith playing that search comically and empathically. When the character challenges a magical artifact, we see the most from him.
Lillis is a little underused, but she is wonderful and charming as Doric, with a dry wit that works so well with this whole cast, and especially opposite Smith.
Grant is basically chewing the scenery in this role, which is marvellous, and he turns up the charm, but he also plays Forge like a perfect, brilliant, fool. Opposite Pine, he’s a fantastic foil, while Head as Sofina is frankly fiendish, and barely even human.
And then there’s Regé-Jean Page. I would watch a whole movie with Pine and Page working together, and I hope we’ll get that chance in a sequel. Page is an absolute champion in Dungeons & Dragons, and you really can’t take your eyes off his performance as this impossibly perfect hero.
Plus, watch for a cameo by Bradley Cooper that is perfection.
Congratulations to directors Jonathan Goldstein, and John Francis Daley, who also co-wrote the script with Michael Gilio. The tone, pace, and mood are perfect, it’s all so much fun to watch, and the world building is on a whole other level.
It feels like you could step into these Forgotten Realms. There’s a mythology and history here, not to mention a living mystery around every corner, and it needs to be a franchise as soon as possible.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is playing now in theatres.
All images courtesy of Paramount Pictures/eOne.
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