It is pretty evident that superhero-driven CGI movies are currently struggling to tackle the fatigue. And the primary reason for that is the inability of the writers to reinvent the template. I am not saying the latest fantasy adventure Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, is delivering anything entirely fresh. But the movie acknowledges the CGI burnout and perfectly balances humor, fantasy, and emotions in a consistently engrossing film.
Edgin Darvis, who lived a normal life as a Harper, had to become a thief when his wife got killed. The theft chapter eventually results in the imprisonment of him and his partner in crime, Holga Kilgore. After two years of imprisonment, the two escaped from the jail to find Darvis’ daughter Kira who was with Edgin’s former associate Forge. But soon, they realize that Forge had a different agenda, and he had convinced Kira that Edgin left her for selfish reasons. Edgin’s efforts to prove his innocence to his daughter and get her back is what we see in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.
As I said, the makers, Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, who wrote this film along with Michael Gilio, are aware of the generic tone of big-scale spectacles these days. Even though it has a pretty standard structure, the placement of set pieces has that impressive rhythm. And most of the scenes have all the elements in them. The scene where Holga meets her ex-boyfriend definitely has a funny tone. But they have given it an emotional layer, and the reversal of the gender stereotypes was also exciting to watch. Even when you look at the movie’s grandeur, it isn’t that flashy for most of its runtime. The visual effects feel more like a world-building tool than a scale-enhancing agency.
With a few self-referential jokes here and there, Chris Pine fits the part of this cheeky thief who has a vulnerable angle in his equation with his daughter. Michelle Rodrigues is pretty much playing the stubborn female yet again; this time, there is an effort to humanize her character through subtle detailing. My favorite in the cast was Justice Smith as the inefficient sorcerer. His desperation and lack of confidence give way to some genuinely hilarious moments in the movie. As the cute and fast Doric, Sophia Lillis was fun to watch. Hugh Grant blends his classic confused guy portrayal with the crookedness of the character to deliver a memorable performance. Daisy Head, as Sofina, very much has only one expression to maintain in the entire film. Regé-Jean Page has that lordly grace to be Xenk Yendar.
If you look at the script on a bullet point level, it isn’t trying anything unusual or out of the box to grab your attention. But the way they have placed set pieces and emotions in the movie impresses you. Just when you think the world-building is happening heavily through flashbacks and dialogues, you get Doric’s shape-shifting setpiece that is funny and fast-paced. There are some smartly written witty comedies in the scene where the central characters go with Xenk Yander to find the helmet of disjunction. The way some of the elements casually mentioned in the first place become crucial in the climax wasn’t really a new thing, but they kind of succeeded in distracting us from thinking about that possibility. The nice thing about the humor is that it never felt like a Joss Whedon reshoot joke. From Doctor Strange’s portal to the classic Hulk Smash, there are some subtle MCU references too in the film. I really enjoyed the graveyard sequence, which actually made the movie look like a spoof of the genre.
Without really doing too much out of the ordinary, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves manages to be highly pleasing. And the reason seems to be how it balances every aspect a fantasy adventure movie lover would love to see. It is primarily driven by emotions like parental love and power greed. Then they use humor to engage the audience, and the set pieces amplify the rhythm at the right points.
The movie acknowledges the CGI burnout and perfectly balances humor, fantasy, and emotions in a consistently engrossing film.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended