There are a few things that can be definitively said about Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. Namely, it is that there are dungeons, dragons, and thieves in it. Outside of these, like the game on which the film is based, the rest is a bunch of made-up crap. I should not be so harsh. It is hard for me to avoid a moment to sound cantankerous for the sake of comedy. Conversely, I did not hate the film. There are a few plot holes in it, but it seemed like everyone had a good time making it. At the same time, I wonder whether this movie gets made if not for the resurgence in popularity of the “OG” of role-playing games thanks to Stranger Things (2016-present). This is not meant as a complaint. As I said, I was fine with my experience of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. I am also okay with people making a buck by mooching off the ideas of others. If you are familiar with the show that is the likely reason for this film’s existence, you might recall it talking about a mainly Christian backlash against it. I hope this will keep you reading to see how I react to the cinematic rendering.
The two primary thieves in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves are Edgin Darvis (Chris Pine) and Holga Kilgore (Michelle Rodriguez), and they are in prison. They have been there for a couple of years. During their parole hearing, Edgin gives the backstory as to how they came to be in such a desolate place. Edgin had been married and had a position with a group known as the Harpers, which, as far as I can tell, are a band of police officers. Despite his good position, he feels he must do more to provide for his new family. To do so, he turns to stealing. What he does not know is that when he takes from a society of evil magic wielders known as the Red Wizards, they do not take kindly to such actions. They come and kill Edgin’s wife, but she manages to hide their infant daughter, Kira (Chloe Coleman, later on). Edgin is not prepared to be a single dad, but is saved from his despair when he meets Holga, who becomes his best friend and a second mother to Kira. He is happy, but he misses his wife. Thus, he assembles a group of thieves, including the not-so-great sorcerer Simon Aumar (Justice Smith), the clearly-a-member-of-the-Red-Wizards Sofina (Daisy Head), and a con artist named Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant). They go after something called the Tablet of Resurrection, which will surely not be important down the road, right? At any rate, big surprise, Sofina turns against them. Forge and Simon manage to escape, but Edgin and Holga are captured. Now, we are up to the present. Edgin had been dragging this story out as long as possible in order to wait out the arrival of a half man – half bird creature that Edgin and Holga tackle out of the window to gain their freedom . . . even though they had been about to be pardoned. They waste little time in tracking down Kira, who has been in the care of Forge for the past few years. During this time, she has been led to believe that her father had left her to pursue riches. Making matters worse, Forge is now Lord Fitzwilliam of Neverwinter, a rise to power that has been backed by Sofina. Thus, he orders Edgin and Holga to be executed, but they (really just Holga) overpower their captors and take to the countryside. Edgin vows that he will get back his daughter and retrieve the Tablet of Resurrection from Forge’s vault in order to return Edgin’s wife from the beyond. Their first stop is to locate Simon, who they find using his powers to rob people of their pocket change. They still feel they are a little short of what they need, and Simon suggests Doric (Sofia Lillis), a shapeshifting druid. She does not trust humans, but they have a common enemy in Forge, who she blames for the destruction happening to her people. This is how they convince her to do a little reconnaissance on their target vault. She comes back with the news that a special enchantment seals the door from entry, one that Simon says he does not have the power to break. What do you do when you write yourself into such a corner? Why, you invent the Helm of Disjunction, of course, the only thing that can get past this spell. Conveniently, Holga’s people have a line on how to find such object. The catch, though, is that they have to ask the corpses of the men who died in battle trying to protect it. Remarkably, they can do this thanks to another convenient insertion into the plot of an amulet that Simon has for asking the dead five questions. They all point to Xenk Yendar (Regé-Jean Page), a paladin and keeper of the helm. He leads them to the dungeon where he hid it, but of course they have to fight a dragon on the way out. It is all very fantasy-y. However, once Simon has the Helm of Disjunction, he finds that he cannot make it work. It leads to everyone to doubt Edgin’s leadership. They are on their way to abandoning him when he gives them his best “win one for the gipper” speech, and they go out and score the winning touchdown, er, I mean, come up with a plan for infiltrating Neverwinter, stealing the Tablet of Resurrection, and retrieving Kira. Everything goes smoothly, and they live happily ever after. April Fool’s! Of course, they must improvise along the way, but it all leads to the inevitable showdown with Sofina. After she is defeated, they find Holga dying due to being stabbed in the chest. Remember what I said about the Resurrection Tablet? Anyway, and now everyone lives happily ever after . . . except for Forge. He is stuck in prison.
Given the rising level of snarkiness in the last paragraph, you might get the impression that I did not enjoy Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. That is not true. There are some genuinely fun moments. There are also a lot of instances that did not make a lick of sense. Some of this is simply the result of it being a work of fantasy. What goes on in the imagination of some of the most creative people does not always translate in a sensible way to the rest of us mortals. This leads to plot holes, and as mentioned above, there are plenty in this one. Usually, I would say magic is to blame for these problems. If the main characters are written into a corner, then the magic card (no pun intended) is played and everything is fine. This has never been a good solution, but they deal with it in a humorous manner here by having Simon remind them of the limits of magic whenever they want him to conjure something. The person that most exemplifies these problems is Doric. Her first big moment features her turning into a wide assortment of animals, particularly when she spies on Sofina. Yet, when there are moments when it would be a major help for her to do so, it does not happen. Food for thought.
To return to something I touched in the introduction to this review of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves and to provide more food for thought, there is a notion out there that Christians are against the game, and thus would be also not in favor of the movie by extension. It takes only a minimal amount of digging to find out this is not true, and the same goes for Catholicism. Indeed, it has not had much to say on the subject, quasi-officially speaking. Where it would say anything is if the game leads to sin. This should come as no surprise. The Church is not in the business of encouraging sin. A lot of what I did read suggested that people think Catholics “are not allowed” to pay the game. It reminds me of a long bit I saw on Facebook that speaks to what I am trying to elucidate. It involves an imagined conversion between God and a made-up Catholic detractor. The critic keeps saying that he wants to do something, the Church saying that you can do it, the person objecting by reminding the Church of the sinful act, the Church agreeing, before finally asking why the Church hates this person. It is bringing into focus the Christian idea of free will, a grace that God gave all of us. Technically speaking, we can do whatever we want. Faith is about choosing God. There is nothing that says that playing this game, or watching a movie of the same title, is sinful. Problems would arise if a person sets up the game so as to encourage separation from God. People worry when it involves casting spells or conjuring demons, all of which should not be done as this is sin. Again, this should hardly raise an eyebrow. Luckily, our main characters all seem to be good people.
One other interesting thing that I saw when reading about the Catholic reaction to the game on which Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is that the genesis for such things comes from a Catholic source. This refers to J. R. R. Tolkien, who is among the first Western writers to conceive of the kind of genre in which this all fits. Does this mean I recommend the movie? Meh.