Chris Pine is moving on up.
Admittedly I didn’t have high hopes for Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves before the teasers started coming out. Specifically I’m talking about the duo directors of Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley. Nothing personal against the guys, but their entire library of films up until now have basically been the kind of films that if I was locked in a big safe until I had to pick one to watch, I’d just wait for the oxygen to run out. Horrible Bosses, Vacation, Burt Wonderstone, eh. I don’t really count Spider-Man: Homecoming since that Marvel movies are written by committee.
But thankfully Honor Among Thieves is a really well made, really well written film.
The movie stars Chris Pine as Edgin Darvis, a bard really working overtime to improve my perception of Chris Pine. Darvis is a bard who after the untimely murder of his wife breaks out of prison to try to find his daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman) who has been living with con artist Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant). After learning that Forge still possesses the Tablet of Reawakening, he sets out on a mission with tiefling druid Doric (Sophia Lillis) and sorcerer Simon Aumar (Justice Smith) to break into the vault and steal it back to resurrect his dead wife.
The final product is a film that bleeds charm even if there’s no blood in the film. After Rings of Power it’s nice to go back to a fantasy setting where the writers actually seem to care about the IP and the world they are adapting. The characters are spirited without losing any sort of seriousness, and the writing has some self-referential jokes about Dungeons & Dragons without feeling like it is mocking the property or fans. Like when Simon describes a spell that can resurrect the dead to be asked five questions and he answer to the logical “why is it five questions” is “I don’t know, it just is.”
A film with an ensemble cast of this side and breadth would fall apart with even a single weak link, and thankfully the cast all play off each other very well. It actually feels like someone just adapted one of their D&D sessions into a film. I’d also like to thank Goldstein and Daley for not taking the lazy fantasy route and having all of their actors use awful Ye Olde English accents. Specifically Michelle Rodriguez not doing an renaissance fair English accent.
And I’d like to note Daisy Head as Sofina for knocking it out of the park as a red wizard. Sofina is outright terrifying at times and projects a really intimidating force without trying to shoe-horn in the whole “girl boss energy” you often see in films these days. I know there were fears that the film would emasculate the male characters or make them dumber to prop up the women, but it doesn’t and there wasn’t any need for it. Michelle Rodriguez doesn’t need others to be brought down a peg to be a badass, she just is, and it makes sense that a warrior would be a better fighter than a bard, although Pine can hold his own in a pinch.
The fight sequences in this film are fantastically choreographed with Michelle Rodriguez doing much of the ass whooping along with Sophia Lillis usually in her owlbear form. The sheer amount of practical effects in this film and their level of detail is astonishing and shows how much they cared about the quality that went into this movie, from the corpses to the dragonborn to nine foot tall birdman Jarnathan being actual costumes and animatronic puppets and the whole thing looking like they pulled the crew from Labyrinth and gave them modern tools to work with.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Regė-Jean Page as paladin Xenk Yendar, who definitely didn’t get as much time as he deserved but earns every minute of it. Justice Smith is the stand-out star of this film in my opinion, as Simon Aumar the half-elf sorcerer he feels like he has the most depth to his character and the biggest personal journey over the course of the over two-hour runtime.
At the end of the day Honor Among Thieves is fun. A light-hearted film about an unlikely crew going on a seemingly impossible mission all in the name of love and friendship. And money. Great cast, great visuals, and a completely serviceable plot.