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‘D&D’ movie rolls critical on humor but loses charisma to trailer moments

Managing Editor Luke Macy appreciated the world-building and interesting characters in "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves," but found its humor somewhat hit-or-miss.
Managing Editor Luke Macy appreciated the world-building and interesting characters in "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves," but found its humor somewhat hit-or-miss.

Although “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” exceeded my expectations, it still becomes trapped by the pitfalls that have held back countless other licensed movies.

Paramount Pictures’ film is the latest in a string of movies that feel like they were concocted in a lab, combining licenses with generic stories. However, “Honor Among Thieves” is an interesting case.

Because players can create their own narratives in a typical Dungeons & Dragons game, the film has little that it needs to draw from. Most of the source material simply comes from books that can be used to help with world-building.

This helps “Honor Among Thieves” feel largely disconnected from anything specific, giving viewers a simple fantasy adventure with great comedic elements.

The film is directed by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley. This isn’t the first time Goldstein and Daley have dabbled in board game movies, having directed 2018’s hilarious “Game Night.”

“Honor Among Thieves” stars Chris Pine as Edgin, a charming thief, who leads his team with his plan-making abilities. Pine is endlessly funny throughout the movie, and this is the role where I have enjoyed him most.

Edgin’s team includes the tough Holga (Michelle Rodriguez), the magical but self-doubting Simon (Justice Smith) and the transforming druid Doric (Sophia Lillis). Regé-Jean Page also appears as the elegant Xenk, helping the team with his fighting skills and wise musings.

The team must confront Hugh Grant’s Forge, lord of a large city, in order to save Edgin’s daughter Kira, played by Chloe Coleman. Grant isn’t very engaged in his role, clearly deciding to phone his performance in, but the scenes in his city provide for some of the film’s most interesting moments.

One of the highlights of “Honor Among Thieves” is the setting seen throughout the film.

Although it’s similar to other fantasy worlds, it has its own unique feel, which can largely be attributed to the production team. The film has a great blend between computer-generated and practically-made creatures and locations.

Paramount heavily relied on marketing to help this film succeed. If you search for a trailer of the film on Paramount’s YouTube channel, you’ll find an “Official Trailer,” an “International Trailer,”  a “NEW Trailer” and a “Final Trailer.”

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These four separate trailers do nothing other than oversaturating the market with this film’s presence. While it is a somewhat effective strategy — “Honor Among Thieves” grossed $71.5 million internationally in its opening weekend against a $150 million budget — it’s also one that’s concerning for filmmaking.

The trailers are similar enough that the film really only needed one to sell audiences on the premise. Unfortunately, to make all these trailers, the studio needs clips, and as a result “Honor Among Thieves” has an overabundance of clips that seem specifically made for these trailers, which I like to call “trailer moments.”

These trailer moments are detached from the rest of the film, often being a shot of just one character making a quippy line that feels disjointed from the scenes surrounding it.

The film often elects to use its best scenes for trailers and online clips, choosing not to save some of its greatest moments for the film itself.

Even though “Honor Among Thieves” excels in humor and setting, it’s not always easy to watch. 

If any film is emblematic that movies as a whole are getting to be too long, it’s this one, clocking it at a rough 2 hours and 14 minutes. The movie has far too many plot points, bloating its runtime. The film should have ended in under 100 minutes.

Still, the film wraps up very nicely. It doesn’t feel like it’s setting up for a sequel, though strangely I wouldn’t mind one. I walked away from the film hoping we’d someday be able to return to the world and humor of “Honor Among Thieves.”

Rating: 7/10