Of all the films due for release this spring, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves was one of my most anticipated premieres, solely on the strength of those killer trailers. The film does not disappoint. It’s a fresh, good-humored, energetic, and vastly entertaining fantasy/action/comedy, boasting a stellar cast and solid emotional core that serves as a worthy homage to the famous RPG that inspired it.
(Some spoilers below, but no major reveals.)
Honor Among Thieves is set in the hugely popular Forgotten Realms campaign setting. The film’s official premise is short and sweet: “A charming thief and a band of unlikely adventurers undertake an epic heist to retrieve a lost relic, but things go dangerously awry when they run afoul of the wrong people.”
Said charming thief is Elgin, a bard who is played by Chris Pine. To defeat the evil that has been unleashed in the world, he’ll need the strength of Holga, a barbarian (Michelle Rodriguez); courage from Xenk (Regé-Jean Page), a paladin; and magic thanks to Simon the Sorcerer (Justice Smith). Then there’s Doric (Sophia Lillis), a tiefling druid who can transform into various animals (including a ferocious owlbear). The cast also stars Hugh Grant as Forge Fitzwilliam the Rogue, a former member of Elgin’s band of thieves who is now Lord of Neverwinter, and Daisy Head as his top adviser, Sofina, a Red Wizard of Thay.
D&D the game has been around for decades and has built up a rich and complex mythology over that time, but directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley—both longtime fans—wanted their film to be accessible even for those with no familiarity at all with the classic RPG. That requires a certain amount of potentially awkward opening exposition. So we first meet Elgin and Holga as prisoners in an icy fortress, up for parole. This gives Elgin a chance to tell his tragic backstory in hopes of winning the parole board’s sympathy—and, not coincidentally, giving the audience an amusing narrative introduction to this fantasy world. It’s tricky to pull off long stretches of expository monologue without testing an audience’s patience. But Pine sells it with his cheekily irreverent delivery.
That backstory involves Elgin’s grief over his dead wife and his choice to leave his daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman) for one last heist, drawn by the promise of acquiring a resurrection tablet that could bring his wife back to life. The heist went bad, and Elgin and Holga were captured, while Simon and Forge escaped with Sofina—along with the resurrection tablet and a mysterious artifact that was clearly Sofina’s target all along. Elgin longs to return to his daughter, so he and Holga break out of prison and find Kira living in Neverwinter with the now-wealthy and respectable (but still roguish) Forge. Naturally, their former comrade in arms betrays them, and the rest of the film is their quest to rescue Kira and stop Sofina from performing an ancient ritual that would turn the good citizens of Neverwinter into her zombie slaves.