Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

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I first played played Dungeons & Dragons as a Cub Scout way back in the day. It’s a great game and I sincerely love to play it but that doesn’t mean that I want nor require any spin-offs or adaptations. The animated television show Dungeons & Dragons (1983-85) was fun but not very interesting while the live-action films released between 2000 and 2012 were just awful. The latest attempt to take the classic role playing game into the cinemas, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023), may be the best live action Dungeons & Dragons film too date but that isn’t necessarily saying much.

The one thing that the cartoon Dungeons & Dragons gets right is that it manages to balance humor with its own self-seriousness. Since Dungeons & Dragons is a role playing game the tone of play varies with every Dungeon Master. In addition, players invent their own characters so there isn’t a Mario Mario or Col. Mustard for screenwriters to elaborate upon or hang a story around. A media adaptation of the property must therefore walk the thin line between sincerity and a sense of irony. Unfortunately, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves leans too far into the realm of ironic humor, essentially making fun of itself far too often.

As a fan of the game Dungeons & Dragons I do not see my experiences with the game at all reflected in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves or in any of the other adaptations. As a game, Dungeons & Dragons can be hilarious one minute and then a total adrenaline rush the next. If ever a film or television show captured the emotional and social appeal of Dungeons & Dragons it would be Netflix’s Stranger Things. Wisely, Stranger Things reframes the game Dungeons & Dragons as an allegory for the trials and tribulations of adolescence while simultaneously externalizing key fantasy elements of the game as part of a new and unique bit of myth making within the context of the show.

However, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves should not be taken wholly for how it pleases or displeases one middle aged fan of the game. As a film on its own Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves attempts to launch a Guardians Of The Galaxy-esque franchise built around a synthesis of Shrek (2001) and The Beastmaster (1982). Despite a terrific ensemble cast Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is nothing more than a mindless romp with a few good laughs that does little to actually engage and entertain the viewer. No one expected Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves to make any notable contribution to the medium, but it would have been nice if the filmmakers did care about the medium at all.