Honor Among Thieves is a Dungeons and Dragons Movie that Remembers Fantasy is Supposed to be Fun

The worst consequence of Game of Thrones’ success is that it wrongly taught movie and TV writers and execs that fantasy should be dour. If that wasn’t your bag, or if you just got worn out on all the doom and gloom and gore masquerading as “prestige” TV, then you didn’t have a lot of options other than going back to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and the (very underrated) The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe movie from 2005 or sidestepping from fantasy to the MCU superhero movie assembly line. It is the MCU that Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves resembles more than Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. It takes joy in the telling, never misses a good joke, and balances accessibility to the masses with plentiful Easter eggs for the hardcore.

I can’t claim membership in that last group. I spent a lot of time pouring over various game books and reading the novels back in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2d Edition days, but my experience actually playing the game is negligible. So most of the Easter eggs were lost on me, even if I recognized Icewind Dale and the displacer beast and the mimic. But I know a bard/fighter/wizard/druid adventuring group when I see one, I have ample background fantasy chops, and Honor Among Thieves does you require you to be able to ID the race of everyone on the parole board.  And we could all use 100% more owlbear.

I do wish they had just adapted The Crystal Shard—or even the core Dragonlance story!—but Honor Among Thieves avoids what would have been two huge mistakes in my view.  The first would have been to set the story in a generic fantasy world instead of a recognizable Dungeons & Dragons property like the Forgotten Realms. The second would have been shoehorning a human roleplaying group into the narrative structure instead of just treating it as a secondary world.

I won’t try to introduce the plot. It is deliciously convoluted without being overly hard to follow. Notwithstanding the light tone, the runtime is well over two hours. Two-plus hours that fly by due to canny pacing. The light tone and commitment to even silly jokes (does Holga like potatoes—yes she does) are punctuated with short interludes of genuine horror (courtesy of the Red Wizards of Thay) and white-knuckle action sequences.  It isn’t a masterpiece (better you compare it to the MCU than to The Princess Bride), but I enjoyed it immensely and hope, for once, that a movie spawns a franchise.

4 of 5 Stars.

About H.P.

Blogs on books at Every Day Should Be Tuesday (speculative fiction) and Hillbilly Highways (country noir and nonfiction). https://everydayshouldbetuesday.wordpress.com/ https://hillbillyhighways.wordpress.com/
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3 Responses to Honor Among Thieves is a Dungeons and Dragons Movie that Remembers Fantasy is Supposed to be Fun

  1. Wakizashi33 says:

    I remember Fun! I think Disney Marvel have forgotten it with their recent entries, but this looks really good. It will make a nice change from the grimness of GOT and House of the Dragon.

    In Japan, they only released the Japanese dubbed version in theaters, which is unusal for “big” Hollywood fare. I prefer hearing the original actors in any film I watch, so I will wait until it comes out on streaming. Glad to hear you enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • H.P. says:

      The MCU has started to wear out its welcome for me, mainly I think because it is so formulaic. Honor Among Thieves has the advantage of a different genre (and is smart enough not to try to copy LotR or GoT).

      I didn’t mention it, but the acting is solid across the board here. I think it would definitely be worth waiting for access to the original English delivery.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Bookstooge says:

    You had me with the reference to Red Wizards of Thay!

    Liked by 1 person

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