In an earlier – and, maybe, better – era of blockbusters, perhaps Dungeons and Dragons Honour Among Thieves wouldn’t feel so exciting. There was a time, not too long ago, where a major fantasy adventure film didn’t need to tie into a shared universe, had jokes without completely undermining its own premise, and actually looked as expensive as it purportedly was. Given that that era seems to have passed now, though, Honour Among Thieves makes for a very enjoyable throwback, packed with fun characters and great design work whilst consistently maintaining the right balance between silly laughs and real emotional stakes.

Set in the world of its eponymous RPG – one that has recently enjoyed a huge mainstream push thanks to its presence in and influence over Netflix’s Stranger ThingsHonour Among Thieves never winks to the camera by having, say, a framing device acknowledging this quest as a game, but it does aim to recapture the tabletop experience. Crucial to this is a good sense of fun, DnD games generally fuelled by the incongruity of an epic fantasy setting and the real-life players oftentimes just dicking about within it, and writer-directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein prove the perfect choice to bring this to life.

As the brains behind 2018’s Game Night, they already have form balancing big laughs with high stakes and, though Honour Among Thieves isn’t as funny as that effort, it pulls off a similar trick, thanks in no small part to its excellent cast. Chris Pine leads the charge as witty but wounded bard Edgin, sharing a nice platonic chemistry with second-in-command Michelle Rodriguez as the bruising barbarian Holga, and the pair make for excellent keystones as they journey across the lands to recruit a team for a daring heist against dastardly rogue Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant). See, Forge has Edgin’s daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman) held hostage, whilst also conspiring with a cultish sect of wizards who aim to turn the city he’s conned his way into the lordship of into an undead capital.

It’s up to our merry band of adventurers – completed by Justice Smith as self-doubting sorcerer Simon, Sophia Lillis as shape-shifting druid Doric, and Rege-Jean Page as the comically valiant and honourable paladin Xenk – to save Kira and, maybe, the city as well. It’s a plot filled with all the MacGuffins and silly magic words you might imagine, and it does go on a bit too long (all the action moments and set-pieces are imaginative, but a few end up outstaying their welcome), but Daley and Goldstein manage to make the more earnest moments hit home, especially when the surprisingly affecting ending arrives. The villains are rather underwhelming, but that’s, just about, a worthwhile casualty of giving each of the heroes their time to shine, the script allowing all of them some understated but powerful character moments.

Alongside the jokes, the best of which involves a very finicky spell for briefly reanimating and interrogating corpses that wouldn’t feel out of place in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, what will likely stick with you most is how good this world looks. Committing to location shooting and ambitious set-building, all bolstered by judiciously used and super-solid VFX work, Honour Among Thieves creates countless environments that all feel strange and epic and yet entirely lived-in. It gives vital grounding to the ultimately silly goings on, and it’s just nice to be in a fantastical world that looks great, without the visible corner cutting of a lot of recent blockbusters.

Whether or not this new cinematic beginning for Dungeons and Dragons will eventually descend into MCU-style content overload remains to be seen (as far as anyone can tell, it’s doing alright at the box office without setting the world alight), but this is a rare time where maybe a sequel or two would actually be welcome. As long as they can keep the stories as self-contained and fun as the one presented here, thus ducking the franchise fatigue that is plaguing the big superhero movies this year, I’d be very happy for Daley and Goldstein and their cast to keep coming back to this world for a while.


Written and Directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein

Starring: Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Hugh Grant

Runtime: 134 mins

Rating: 12