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Dungeons and Dragons

SXSW 2023 Film Review: ‘Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’

“Roll a 12 or better.” That’s a phrase you’ve heard if you’ve ever played Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). You won’t hear that in the new film from Paramount Pictures, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, but nonetheless, you’ll have a fun time going along on this adventure.

The film stars Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, Chloe Coleman, Daisy Head, and Hugh Grant. It had its world premiere as the opening-night feature at this year’s SXSW Conference, which ran for its 37th year, March 10-19, in Austin, Texas.

Surprises

The film was not what I expected. One plays the game Dungeons and Dragons with a group of people sitting around a table. The game is led by a Dungeon Master who creates the environment and challenges for the players. Having been a D&D dungeon master for over 10 years myself, that’s what I expected to see.

Instead, the film jumped right into the adventure.

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The Adventure

Chris Pine (Wonder Woman (2017)), Star Trek Beyond) plays Edgin. He searches for a mysterious relic he needs to bring back his dead wife and win back his daughter from the villain Forge.

I noticed what perhaps is a new film sub-genre: Later in the festival I saw Robert Rodriguez’ work in progress, Hypnotic. It also involves a father trying to rescue his daughter. Does anyone remember Liam Neeson in Taken?

Unlike Liam Neeson’s character, Edgin doesn’t have a “very particular set of skills.” He’s a Bard. So, in classic D&D style, Edgin recruits a band of adventurers with many skills to help him battle Forge.

Dungeons and Dragons
Hugh Grant plays the charming but evil villain Forge

The Adventurers

First Edgin finds Holga, a Barbarian played by Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and the Furious, Machete Kills). During the Q&A after the screening, Rodriquez quipped, “You can’t get Holga angry. She’s already angry.” And she knows how to wield an axe.

Unlike Holga, Edgin has to rely on his charm and musical ability to win over several more helpers. He next recruits Simon, a beginner Sorcerer, played by Justice Smith (Sharper, Jurassic World: Dominion). He’s initially none too good at his chosen profession, but grows as the story progresses.

Ultimately, Edgin and his band confront the villain Forge, played by Hugh Grant (Glass Onion, Notting Hill). Grant does a great job portraying the sarcastic yet charming villain. In one scene he says to a captive Edgin, “I don’t want to see you die. That’s why I’m going to leave the room.”

And Dragons

What would D&D be without monsters? Plenty of crazy creatures confront Edgin and his band as they pursue their quest. These give Holga many chances to show off her fighting skills.

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Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez on stage at the Paramount Theater after the screening (photo by author)

If you have a background in D&D, you will feel at home in the cinematic world created in this film. If you’ve never played the game, you will still enjoy the characters, their misadventures, and their achievements. Is it great cinema like Casablanca or Apocalypse Now? No, but it is an enjoyable, playful, funny rollercoaster ride which most anyone will enjoy.

Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves has a strong online presence, including a Facebook page. You can watch the trailer below. It opens (in theaters only) on March 31.

To find out more about SXSW and how to attend in upcoming years, check its website. The festival also shares highlights of previous years’ speakers and events online.

About Leo Sopicki

Writer, photographer, graphic artist and technologist. I focus my creative efforts on celebrating the American virtues of self-reliance, individual initiative, volunteerism, tolerance and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.

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