DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: HONOR AMONG THIEVES
(***)-VITO CARLI

"...lively, energetic, invigorating and loads of fun"

A Winning Adventure Film

(042023) The current Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves was the last movie that I wanted to see because for me it automatically had two big two strikes against it. First, it was based on the long standing RPG (Role Playing Game), and I generally hate all films based on games and toys (such as Resident Evil, Tomb Raider or Transformers). And secondly, the first Dungeons and Dragons film from 2000 was just terrible. However,  I eventually gave in and decided to see it for three reasons: the five-dollar day screening at Chicago Ridge Theatre fit my schedule; it got mostly positive reviews; and most of all the trailer was eye catching and engaging. As it turns out the whole film was unexpectedly entertaining, and it almost combines comedy, adventure and fantasy together as well as Lady Hawke or The Princess Bride.

The film is excellent from a technical standpoint.  It has fine special effects and nearly as much visual inventiveness as any of the  Sam Raimi Evil Dead films, I especially love the owl bear and the book with huge fangs that chases after people. It also has effective direction and writing by two people known primarily for their TV work: Jonathan Michael Goldsein (who wrote the Geena Davis show and New Adventures of Old Christine) and John Francis Daley (who had regular roles in Bones and Freaks and Geeks.)

Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves concerns a very disparate book of misfits that band together to obtain an immortal totem and overthrow an evil tyrant: Lord Fitzwilliam, who took over the land of Neverwinter. The mission and characters are often comparable to the reluctant heroes of Guardians of the Galaxy films, and the film often matches those films in both wit and quality.

The tyrant Lord Fitzwilliam (played quite effectively by Hugh Grant) reminded me of the Grandmaster character from Guardians of the Galaxy because he profits from other people fighting in an arena. Grant is perfect for this kind of smug, privileged and unlikable character. He was also a great obnoxious higher-class villain in Paddington.

Chris Pine, who plays Edgin Darvis, is a character not too far removed from his Kirk interpretation. Evans is quite good at playing an action/adventure hero and he has some of the roguish charm of a young Errol Flynn. His portrayal of Darvis tracks very closely with Flynn's classic Robin Hood or his lesser known Captain Blood (one off my dadís favorite films). In this film he does not have much battle prowess, but he is a great strategist, and he always knows the best action to take (he has also had incredible luck.) His character wants to resurrect his late wife and retrieve his daughter who is staying with the tyrant.

One of the additional reasons I wanted to see the film is because of Michelle Rodriguez who is well known for her roles in exploitation/action films where she is often much better than her material. She's best known for her roles in the Fast and the Furious films, but I l found her work in Girl Fight, Machete, and
Battle Angel: Alita more impressive. Here she is the brave, Holga Kilgore who has complete mastery of the sword as a weapon. Because of her attitude and appearance and skills she bears some resemblance to the Xena Warrior Princess, Marvel Uís the Valkyrie and Belit the pirate queen from the Conan stories. In one of the filmís most humorous scenes she reacts with shock when she finds out that her weak and fragile ex has married a giantess.

Sophie Little is the plucky, horned Doric who is called a tiefling druid, but her power to change into different animals makes her more reminiscent of Changeling/Beast Boy from the Teen Ttitans than any member of an ancient UK religious group. She has her own agenda and wants to take out the villain Lord Firzsimmons because he cut down the forests where her people lived for profit, she is also the one who turns into an owl/bear, and she is pursued romantically by one of the other members of the group,

The final member of the crew is Simon Auman (Justice Smith), a scrawny Loki like half elf who has some mastery over sorcery.  His main flaw is his complete lack of confidence, and it is the main reason why the young, woman he had pursued, Doric has rejected him. As he gets more confidence, he begins to do magic better and Edgin Darvis always tries to elevate his spirit.

The film suffers from what I call "Chris Claremont Syndrome" because all the female protagonists are almost unbelievably perfect and goddess like while all the male protagonists are much more flawed, ordinary, and, in this case, (with one exception) much poorer combatants. Donít get me wrong I was a big fan of Claremont's initial X-Men, however that trope of the perfect female fighter permeated his work then and this movie now.

But overall, the film is lively, energetic, invigorating and loads of fun. Although it was released in spring it would have been a perfect summer blockbuster. Even people like me that donít care much for games, will find much to admire in it.
 

Directed by:    Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley
Written by:    Screenplay by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis
 Daley and Michael Gilio. From a story by Chris
 McKay & Michael Gilio. Based on the Role
 Playing Game of the same name
Starring:    Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriquez, Sophia Lillis
Released:    03/31/23 (USA-wide)
Length:    134 minutes
Rating:    Rated PG-13 for fantasy action/violence and some
 language
Available On:    At press time the film was playing at local theatres

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to www.artinterviews.org and www.chicagopoetry.org. His latest book "Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor" is also available.

Come to the first session of the New Poetry Show on the first Saturday in May (050623)/May 6 at Tangible Books in Bridgeport from 7-9 at 3324 South Halsted (if it goes well maybe this can become a monthly or periodic thing) hosted by Vittorio Carli

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: HONOR AMONG THIEVES © 2023 Paramount Pictures
All Rights Reserved

Review © 2023 Alternate Reality, Inc.

 

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