Movie Review: Dungeons & Dragons


Growing up I always wished there were more Fantasy movies. Lately, I've ammended the wish: what I want is more GOOD Fantasy movies.

There have been some truly awful Fantasy movies lately, which made the world a worse place. I don't review those because I prefer to focus on what's done right than what's done wrong.

Having been burned, I was cautious about Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. I could see it was "irreverent and witty" but sometimes that translates into "mocking the fans and not taking the story seriously."

I'm happy to say that Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves was funny, yet still took the source material seriously. My sons and I watched the movie at home so we could pour over our D&D manuals as we watched, finding the character types and monster types and spells referenced in the movie. There were plenty--this was fan service done right. 

You can still enjoy this even if you are a D&D fan! Given all the films so far that exist seemingly only to piss off the fans, that's great news!

However, even if we hadn't have known any of that, the characters, worldbuilding and plot stood on their own. You don't need to be a D&D fan to enjoy this.

The film delivers a classic Fantasy Adventure, with a teem of five, including a (wayward) Bard hero, a brawny Barbarian woman, a Sorcerer struggling with self-esteem issues, an adorable elfin Shapeshifter (technically, she's Teifling Druid), and the hilariously humorless, yet honorable and badass Paladin. (The Exemplary Lawful Good character who balances out the quasi-anti-hero Bard). 

And yes, there are several dungeons and several kinds of dragons, plus villains of all types to combat.

I was delighted and impressed by how the plot managed to work in a Prison Break trope, a Save the Princess trope, a Gladiatorial Arena Combat trope, a Labyrinth trope, a Journey to the Underworld trope, and a Heist, all in one story, all in perfectly logical order.

A word on the Save the Princess trope. This is not only one of my favorite tropes but one of the oldest in human story telling. However, it's come under attack as being anti-feminist lately. I happen to disagree; but that's in part because I don't think it's feminist to assume that a female has to be exactly like a male to be a valuable character.

However, this story takes any sting out of criticism of the Save the Princess trope because the young lady who needs to be saved is actually the hero's daughter. She may dress like a princess and live in a palace, but she was raised by the Bard and the Barbarian (who lived like brother and sister) after the death of her mother. However, she was hurt when her father seemingly chose to pursue his life as a thief than caring for her. 

The "rescue" then is not just a matter of saving her from the villains (although there's a real danger to that because they are not nice people), but of convincing her that her father loves her and wants what's best for her.

That's a nice internal journey that parallels the external journey of the heroes. 

Over all, if you enjoy a romp across a gorgeous fantasy land, with the cleverness of a heist, the human of a band of "found family" and a well-earned happy ending, this movie is worth the theater and worth re-watching at home with the D&D books out for fun.