“How everyone thinks we can solve any problem with magic. There are limits! This isn’t some bedtime story; this is the real world!”
Well not quite, but still very sound advice. Which is what our heroes find out in this adaptation of the popular tabletop game. I’m becoming convinced that there is no such thing as a truly great cinematic adaptation for a tabletop or role-playing games. Think about it? Warcraft, Battleship, the previous Dungeons and Dragons adaptation. All of them failed to hit the mark. When you think about it, it’s not surprising. These games are incredibly nuisance and detailed, it would be more surprising if their entirely was actually able to be encompassed in a matter of hours. In the case of the latest Dungeons and Dragons adaptation, Honor Amongst Thieves, I think it is a case of good movie/decent adaptation. Based on the Forgotten Realms settings, the film follows Chris Pine as Edgin Darvis, a former Harper turned thief. While I do claim to be an expert in the world of D&D, Darvis does appear to have some basis in the game itself. Backing Pine up, we have Michelle Rodriguez as barbarian Holga, Hugh Grant as conman Forge Fitzwilliam, Justice Smith as a fledgling elf sorcerer Simon Aumar, Sophia Lillis as druid Doric, and Rege-Jean Page as paladin Xenk Yendar. I was expecting Page to have a bigger role as he was featured prominently in the film’s promotional materials, but I will go into further detail about that down the road.
“Years ago, I swore an oath to fight tyranny, defend the oppressed, and ask nothing in return…To be honest, there were times when I began to question the ‘ask nothing in return’ part of my Harper’s oath.”
This is essentially where we meet Pine’s character, he is a man down on his luck. Once he’d been a honorable man, but great losses for which he blames himself, have caused him to take a more dishonorable path; becoming a thief to make ends meet and provide for his daughter. With the aid of his crew who are mentioned above, with the exception of Page, he turns out to have a knack for it. Until a job goes sideways and he finds himself betrayed by one of his own. I will say that the film played to Grant’s strengths having him be the duplicitous character. Grant showed his aptitude for such a role through his work with Guy Ritchie in The Gentlemen and Operation Fortune. This is both a blessing in a curse, as while Grant in my opinion was the right character for this, it was a bit predictable as the title suggest, it was a forgone conclusion that someone was going to prove themselves to be disloyal and Grant was the obvious choice.
The film’s plot starts off very strong with an entertaining introduction, though it does loses steam in the middle before ramping back up for the conclusion. What makes it lose steam is that there seems to be too much going on. The characters are being pulled in several different directions as they work to accomplish their goal while also balancing personal struggles. Holga, Simon, as well as Darvis all personal struggles to overcome and this in turn does make things fill convoluted at times. That being said, this struggles do add depth for the characters, which makes it a bit of a tradeoff, because without this depth, the story probably wouldn’t be worth telling. I do believe the story would have benefited more understanding of the threat the group faces. While unintentional, the group is responsible for the threat they face, but I don’t believe I finally grasped the motivations of the Red Wizards of Thay. Yes, their goal is world domination and all that, but the architect of this destruction, Sofina played by Daisy Head, I don’t think we ever got a clear picture of her and what drives her. A film seems a antagonist that is just as interesting as the film’s protagonist, and in this case all the intrigue is clearly on one side.
Going back to what I said about Page’s Xenk Yendar; as I mentioned, he was featured rather prominently in the film’s promotion material, which led me to believe that his role was more significant. However, the character only appears a handful of times, with only two of them really bearing any fruit. The first being when he and Pine’s character have a difference of opinion regarding oaths and duties. The second being during his fight sequence, which I will admit was amongst one of the most smoothly choreographed sequences that I’ve ever seen. This ending up being counterproductive though, as it made me hunger for more with the character and then he is essentially gone. Left me feeling a bit cheated.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieve is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The ultra high definition image presentation is arrived at with an HEVC codec at an average of 70 mbps. The first thing you’ll notice is that the color grading leans toward the dark but the HDR/Dolby Vision enhancements create a very vivid color scale with some nice shading and very good contrast. Magic creates many colorful elements from flame to various colored forces that blend well with the live action giving us no bleed and vibrant moments. Black levels are rich and provide a pretty solid degree of shadow detail and definition. You get nice texture and detail with everything from fabrics and props. There’s a lot of detail in facial close-ups and there are many little nuances in the production design that get to be enjoyed instead of providing strictly background.
The Dolby Atmos audio presentation defaults to 7.1. The audio presentation is pretty much identical to the Blu-ray release. There’s a nice sub response here that gives the entire presentation some depth. Dialog cuts through the heavy action moments and the score is certainly rousing throughout. The problem is you’re going to have to ramp up the volume to get all of this. It doesn’t deliver at all at lower levels and that is a bit of a disappointment.
From Dice To Dragons – Honoring The Look: (11:15) The cast and crew talk a lot about the game and their feelings and experience of the material. They all played a game together to get into the feel and create cast chemistry. There’s plenty of behind the scenes material with a lot of attention to production design.
Rogues Gallery – The Heroes Of Dungeons & Dragons: (11:24) We get a bit of a profile for each of the hero characters and the actors provide their own insights.
Fantastic Foes: (7:09) This time the profile is on the bad guys.
The Bestiary: (9:31) Here we get a good look at the creatures of this world. Concept design and the puppetry and make-up that kind of combines with the CG elements to bring these creatures alive.
Forging The Forgotten Realms: (8:07) A look at the locations and sets.
Broadswords, Battleaxes and Badass Brawls: (8:40) Here we go behind the scenes for the action shots and the weapon props created for the film.
Gag Reel: (6:51)
Deleted And Extended Scenes: (10:35) There are 6 with a all option. Most are extended scenes there’s only one truly new scene.
Good movie/decent adaptation. While I very much enjoyed this adaptation, it did not really feel like a true adaptation in my opinion. The group does go on an adventure, which is a staple of the D&D universe, even the adventure felt like more of a subplot to the personal struggles of the characters. It just didn’t feel like the focal point was the adventure. It was more about the personal journey for each character, and while they were entertaining and made the characters all the more interesting, it just wasn’t in keeping with the source material in my opinion. I think the film would function better without the use of the Dungeons and Dragons titling and all that comes with that.
Parts of this review were written by Gino Sassani