While I was never a Dungeons & Dragons fan per se, I grew up in the 80s and dabbled in a game or two when I was a teenager. I saw the original Dungeons & Dragons in theaters, and like most critics and viewers, I would have to agree that the 2000 film wasn’t exactly what I hoped it to be. So, when I heard the news that Dungeons & Dragons was getting rebooted, I sighed. When the first trailer was released, it did very little to pique my interest. I was almost certain that this new Dungeons & Dragons flick would be a massive disappointment, just like the previous one. However, after the film’s premiere at SXSW, I started to hear some positive buzz, which gave me some hope. Two weeks later, I attended a nearly sold-out Amazon Prime screening on a Sunday at 2 pm, and to my complete and total surprise, I walked out of it like a kid who had just stepped out of a candy store.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is yet another example that you can’t always judge a film based on its marketing campaign. However, in the age of social media, where content is constantly thrown at us, I know it is becoming increasingly difficult for companies to engage audiences. This is why I would argue that a strong marketing campaign is just as important nowadays as a great product. There was a pretty tepid response when a new Dungeons & Dragons movie was announced, so when the trailer was released, it needed to hook as many viewers as possible, and unfortunately, it didn’t. Luckily, the Paramount Pictures team caught on to this problem, so they decided to premiere the film at SXSW, a perfect festival to generate buzz. Paramount used SXSW’s positive word of mouth to set up multiple press and fan screenings nationwide to ensure audiences know the film is worth their time and money.
This film works so well because while it is based upon the lore of the Dungeons & Dragons game, you don’t need to know anything about the game to enjoy the film. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is a family-friendly action adventure that feels as though it was made in the 80s or 90s. It feels like a throwback to a simpler time which, as I said in my Lost City review last year, seems to be Paramount’s secret sauce. They are making films that audiences miss, and nothing confirms that more than Top Gun: Maverick from 2022. Top Gun: Maverick was not a groundbreaking film but delivered everything that most people looked for when they went to the movies. For the past two years, Paramount has had several hits because they aren’t reinventing the wheel but simply making fun movies.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is one of those films that I believe most who see it will say it reminded them of some other film. It’s hard to argue this point because I will be the first to admit that the film reminded me of so many other movies, from Willow to The Goonies to Pirates of the Caribbean to The Avengers; the film’s plot and overall tone feels like it was inspired by so many iconic films that came before it. And this isn’t a bad thing. Most movies nowadays are not original but stem from ideas or concepts highlighted or explored in other films. The trick is to take those elements and make them feel fresh and new. This film succeeds at that.
The cast of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is what I believe elevates the entire film. The back-and-forth banter between these actors makes the film much more fun than it has any right to be. Victoria Thomas, who has served as the casting director on Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and The Harder They Fall, did an extraordinary job picking each actor to play their role. This film warrants a cast ensemble mention, as it is about a group of actors playing off one another rather than each playing a particular part. Chris Pine, Sophia Lillies, Michelle Rodriguez, and Justice Smith all easily play off one another. They seem to get one another as actors, and the fun increases when Regé-Jean Page enters the film.
I will say that for me, Regé-Jean Page and Hugh Grant are tied as the film’s scene stealers. I enjoyed seeing Hugh Grant in romantic comedies from the 90s, but nowadays, it’s good to have him back playing a wide range of characters. His scenes play to his strengths as they come off as very sarcastic, which I feel is Grant’s signature brand when it comes to humor. I watched Regé-Jean Page in Bridgerton, and I immediately got the whole “holy shit, this guy is sexy as hell” vibe that made critics and audiences alike swoon over the show. However, after his role in Bridgerton, I felt like Page hasn’t had a juicy part until this film. His character Xenk Yendar not only shares a similar sexiness to the role he played on Bridgerton, but he’s also hilarious. I would even go so far as to argue that I would have loved for his character to be in the film a little bit more.
Game Night directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein have previously proven they know how to make a fun movie with a big cast. This time, they have confirmed they could make a big-budget studio blockbuster full of laughs, action, and adventure. Daley and Goldstein have shown that they know how to make their actors feel comfortable and allow them to do what they do best. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how massive in scope this film felt and the impressive amount of world-building that is found in this film. I would argue that this movie is not only a lot more enjoyable than, say, The Hobbit franchise but that the spectacle of Dungeons & Dragons is far more impressive as well. There are a lot of big set pieces, and they are all amusing and entertaining to watch unfold.
While I know it’s only March, which means we still have nine more months of new movies, I can safely say Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Amongst Thieves is the year’s biggest surprise so far. I honestly went into this film with lukewarm expectations and walked out of it with a massive smile on my face. It’s a lot of fun and delivers everything a big studio action-adventure should. If you consider yourself a fan of the big blockbusters from the 80s, 90s, and 2000s, do yourself a favor and try Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Amongst Thieves this weekend at your local movie theater.