Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves had its world premiere at the 2023 SXSW Film and TV Festival. Directed and written by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (with story by Chris McKay and Michael Gilio), the film centers on Edgin (Chris Pine), a charming thief of a bard with his trusty lute and a band of unlikely adventurers. In it, this party undertakes an epic heist to retrieve a lost relic, but things go dangerously awry when their enemy winds up being larger than they anticipated.
To start, the humor in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves works constantly. With narration used to great effect, situational comedy, witty dialogue, and physical gags, I can’t name a moment where I didn’t laugh when I was meant to. Where other blockbuster films seem to shove every cheese one-liner into every scene for the sake of pacing and chemistry (looking at you MCU since Phase 4), humor is essential to Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. The film leans into everything absurd and campy in fantasy and, more importantly, D&D and does it in an intelligent and authentic way. Every choice feels like one that could be rolled on and imagined. But, the essential nature with which the comedy is handled is anchored by the cast’s stellar chemistry.
Odd couple Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez are absolutely fantastic as two friends getting through life together. Their push-and-pull dynamic and complete understanding of how to share each other’s space, not just their lines, is perfection. Strong as a pair, both Pine and Rodriguez are phenomenal in their respective roles. Pine’s Edgin is never at a loss for words, and his ability to talk himself out of and into any situation helps endear him to the audience. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Rodriguez’s Holga uses physical comedy and commands her space. With little words said, Rodriguez uses her physicality and stoicism to balance out the party. Sure, these two are the center of the story, but in reality, there is no weak link on the team.
Justice Smith, as Simon, the vulnerable and lacking self-confidence sorcerer, adds hijinks and charm. Sophia Lillis‘s Doric shows why Tieflings need more love in the fantasy universe with her strength and self-assurance. And man, Regé-Jean Page‘s Xenk the Paladin is so quintessentially lawful good that he shifts the energy of every scene in fun and straightforward ways. Our party of thieves is easy to see yourself in. Their temperaments all across the board make for astonishingly good chemistry and story progression. Add the chaotically evil Hugh Grant as Forge and lawfully evil Daisy Head as Sofina, and there are no holes to poke in this cast dynamic.
Finally, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’ practical effects work is stunning. The creature creation and puppeteering allow for a tactile way to enter this fantasy world. While the film is hit or miss on some of the additional CG effectswork, there isn’t a moment that a practical effect or landscape doesn’t push you back in your seat. From Jonathon to a giant fish on a dock, it all works to create an immersive environment that I want to keep visiting.
Now, some larger CG work that overlays practical moments does feel off, not always matching in gradient to the rest of the work, but when it comes to creatures, there is no miss. A gorgeous owlbear and a pudgy dragon all manage to showcase how fantastic CG can feel too. The only issue comes when the two worlds collide and undercut each other. Additionally, the story itself is thin. It’s about found-family and letting go of grief, but it’s all as simple as can be to draw in every audience it can. That said, I appreciate the small storytelling, particularly when the film itself manages to pull off world-building at a grand scale—which Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves does.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves succeeds where its predecessors failed because it embraces the chaos of an actual D&D game. From failing spells and plans to freak accidents of luck, it’s all in there, especially in the film’s climactic final fight. There, each party member does their best to get an attack off, and somehow, the action of it all captured a fight at the end of a campaign that has devolved into a free for all.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a good heist film. A good fantasy film. A good adventure. And above all else, a good D&D film. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a phenomenal adaptation of fantasy while never prioritizing one audience (those who are TTRPG players and the ones who aren’t) over the other. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves makes my nerdy heart full.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves screened at the SXSW Film & TV Festival 2023.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
- Rating - 8.5/108.5/10
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a good heist film. A good fantasy film. A good adventure. And above all else, a good D&D film.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.