The following post contains spoilers for “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.”
Before we begin, I have a confession. I’ve never played Dungeons and Dragons (D&D from here on, for brevity’s sake). I’ve always wanted to, but all the players I knew were deep in campaigns with more characters and subplots than a Tolkien appendix. It was daunting to jump in. Before seeing this movie, I didn’t know a mimic from a displacer beast, and I only had a vague idea of the dangers of gelatinous cubes. After “Honor Among Thieves,” I’m posting a Craigslist ad for a bard seeking a patient Dungeon Master and other rogues to join his party. Lucky for noobs like me, the internet is littered with beginner’s guides. Goodbye, hours of my life. Hello, new nerd obsession.
“Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is a rollicking time and deserves to be seen on a big screen. As Jacob Hall of /Film put it in his review, directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein’s “interpretation of the game’s infinite pool of fantastical options and monsters and adventures is powered by humor and heart, a take that is more ‘Princess Bride’ with big action than grim ‘n’ gritty, dark fantasy.” The plot follows Edgin (Chris Pine) and his adventuring party as they set off on an escalating series of quests to rescue his daughter, defeat an evil wizard, and save the world. All in a day’s work in the world of D&D. With a packed ensemble of likable and downright awesome characters, let’s see which ones roll a 20 for the audience.
Dragons And Mimics And Displacer Beasts … Oh My!
“Honor Among Thieves” features a bevy of beasties with lengthy D&D backstories. What looks like a multi-tailed panther is actually a dreaded displacer beast with tentacles that not only shred their victims, but also produce holograms to displace their image and distract prey. The treasure chest with teeth and an extra-long (and gross) tongue? A mimic. The mimic transforms into everyday objects, most commonly a treasure chest. Particularly mischievous Dungeon Masters love throwing in an ill-timed mimic attack on unsuspecting players.
Doric (Sophia Lillis) “wild shapes” (transforms) into an owlbear, a creature with all the cuteness of an owl and all the savagery of Cocaine Bear. A black dragon spews acid, and then there are the giant spiders, hobgoblins, and the adorably chubby red dragon, Themberchaud. This particular behemoth let himself go, gorging on those who trespass into the fiery domain of the Underdark. Themberchaud comes across as simultaneously frightening and hilarious as he belly flops down a slope of bones, chomping up bag guys like he’s playing a game of “Hungry Hungry Hippos” and struggling to flap his tiny wings to lift his rather rotund posterior. The action sequences in each set piece are as varied and imaginative as the creature designs, allowing every scene to one-up the last and never feel stale or repetitive.
Kira Darvis (Chloe Coleman) is Edgin’s estranged daughter. A group of Thayans (more on them later) in search of loot Edgin stole murdered her mother. After this tragedy, Edgin lost his way and resorted to thieving instead of heroics. Eventually, one of his scores landed him in a snowy prison tower for two years. During that time, the traitorous Forge (Hugh Grant) takes Kira in and gaslights the young girl into thinking her father has abandoned her. She eventually reunites with Edgin, discovers the truth about Forge, and plays an integral part in the final attack that de-powers the movie’s main villain.
Kira rolls the lowest of the ensemble, due to no fault in Coleman’s performance. Her ranking is solely because she’s relegated to the role of “daughter in distress” for most of the film’s runtime. While she’s given little to do, Kira’s presence grounds all the fast-paced, funny adventures with the stakes of a guilt-ridden father who wants to reunite with his daughter. In the third act, the relationship between Kira and Holga (Michelle Rodriguez) may even elicit a few teardrops. Here’s hoping that, if “Dungeons & Dragons” gets a sequel, Kira will play a more significant role in the next quest.
Sofina The Red Wizard
Sofina (Daisy Head) is the evil red wizard with seemingly unlimited magic abilities. In a page straight out of the Night King’s playbook, she is hellbent on turning everyone into her mindless undead followers. Sofina makes a deal with Forge to help him become ruler of Neverwinter while secretly devising a way to possess thousands during the newly reinstated arena games. Everything goes awry when Edgin and his adventurers team up to topple this wicked wizard. Spells clash, axes and fists fly, and creatures snarl and wage battle. In the end, Kira’s Pendant of Invisibility allows her to put a magic-blocking bracelet on Sofina’s wrist. Doric then shape-shifts into an Owlbear, and Hulk-smashes her hard enough to make even Loki blush.
Daisy Head portrays Sofina with a creepy menace, and the visual effects that accompany her powers are jaw-dropping. At first glance, her character feels a bit underdeveloped as a villain, but after reading up on NPCs (or non-playable characters), this very well may be the point. In an actual game, Dungeon Masters control the NPCs, so it works that the filmmakers act as the DMs and pull the strings behind Sofina’s nefarious plot while focusing the narrative more on the “playable characters,” aka Edgin and company. While this may connect with D&D fans, average audience members may see Sofina’s motives as one-dimensional “evil for evil’s sake.”
Forge Fitzwilliam The Rogue
Forge Fitzwilliam is a rogue, defined by D&D Beyond as “a scoundrel who uses stealth and trickery.” Initially part of the team, Forge helps Edgin and Holga on many a merry heist. Viewers should be wary, however, because you shan’t trust rogues. They’ll gladly sell out their friends and family, as Forge does, for a bounty. His plan to bring back Neverwinter’s arena games turns out to be a way to con the wealthiest houses out of their treasures. Luckily, Doric discovers this plan and the team pulls a Robin Hood, giving away his booty to the people and leaving Forge to rot in Revel’s End.
Hugh Grant has a ball playing this devious scoundrel with wit and humor to spare. He’s the perfect love-to-hate villain, relishing his dastardly deeds and betraying just a sprinkle of cowardice. First appearing like a shifty but harmless uncle at a family reunion, Forge’s eventual heel turn allows Grant to flex both his comedic muscles and lay on some fun smarminess. Lines like “I don’t want to see you die, which is why … I’m going to leave the room,” typify his character and elicit more than a few guffaws. The full-circle comeuppance he receives and his attempt to make another getaway via poor Jarnathan are hilariously satisfying. This sniveling scoundrel loses his riches and freedom, but lives to con his way into the sequel.
Xenk Yendar The Paladin
Xenk Yendar (Regé-Jean Page) is a Thayan who narrowly escaped the Red Wizard’s evil that poisoned his people. He’s now an immortal and honor-bound holy warrior known as a paladin. Xenk serves as a winking exposition dump and guide for the heroes, similar to how real-life Dungeon Masters use NPCs to guide their players. Xenk leads the party to the nether regions of the Underdark, where Thayan undead soldiers attack; Xenk makes quick work of them with his glowing blade. If zombie soldiers aren’t enough, Themberchaud then appears, and Xenk goes toe-to-toe with this fiery foe with the same calm most people have when they order a latte. Xenk also enters the running for the funniest character exit when he walks off to seemingly nowhere in an impossibly straight line.
Not one for irony or sarcasm, Xenk takes everything literally in the most exquisite way. Imagine Drax by way of Jane Austen. Sadly, while Regé-Jean Page plays him with a pitch-perfect sense of knowing over-seriousness Xenk departs shortly after the team’s Underdark encounter, but not before he steals every scene. While we’d love to see more Xenk in the future, his departure allows Edgin’s team to defeat Sofina alone. Bringing an immortal warrior like Xenk to the final battle would tip the scales too quickly in the heroes’ favor and dilute the stakes. It’s like bringing Superman to a UFC fight. What’s the fun in that? Okay, that sounds super fun, but you get the point.
Simon Aumar The Sorcerer
For the uninitiated, a wizard learned magic by studying spells, while a sorcerer is born with innate magical abilities. Simon Aumar (Justice Smith) serves as the group’s lower-tier sorcerer. He possesses powers, but his insecurities hold him back. Edgin and Holga find Simon performing like a cheesy Vegas magician in order to distract a crowd while he robs them. When he loses his concentration and all their trinkets come crashing down, they turn on him, and his magic instinctively kicks in as a defense mechanism. He suddenly lifts everyone to the ceiling and escapes through the skylight. This uncontrolled, magical fight-or-flight response happens several times until Simon finally conquers his fears and unleashes his true potential during the final battle.
Simon has spent his life rolling lower numbers, but when push comes to shove, he can hit that 20. When showcasing his skillset, the filmmakers go to town, giving a fresh spin on onscreen magic. There’s a wild arm-wrestling match between Simon’s hand of stones and Sofina’s demon hand. Later, Simon raises the dead as part of one of the movie’s most gut-busting side quests. One near misstep — a will-they-won’t-they love story between Doric and Simon — feels unearned, but Smith portrays each side of Simon with such earnestness and awkward humor that we’ll forgive a bit of pseudo-romance.
Doric The Druid
Doric (Sophia Lillis) is the group’s tiefling druid, a half-human, half-demon who can “wildshape” into various animals. Doric first appears as an owlbear, wrecking a band of village-burning soldiers. The shot of Doric returning to her tiefling form right as she mounts her horse? Infinitely cool. Her first spy mission leads to Sofina sensing her presence, forcing Doric to wildshape her way out of Forge’s castle. She frees the gang from the dreaded gelatinous cube in the arena by turning into a snake and slithering away before their skin melts off. And let’s not forget the final beatdown she delivers to Sofina in full owlbear berserker rage.
Don’t be surprised to see dozens of Doric costumes this year at Halloween. From her elven ears to her devil horns to her tail, Doric’s design is an instant classic, and who wouldn’t want to shapeshift? The most jaw-dropping scene for Doric is her frantic escape from Forge’s castle, during which she shifts from a fly to a mouse, back to a tiefling, and then to a bird, a cat, an axe beak, and finally, a deer. This entire chase plays out in one continuous shot, showcasing Doric’s abilities and the fluidity of her daring escape. We’ve seen extended VFX shots in blockbusters before, but this one feels more convincing due to a heavy dose of practical effects. Ben Snow, the movie’s VFX supervisor, told the Los Angeles Times that his goal was to figure out “how we can keep it real for as much as we can, and then use CG where we can’t possibly use it real.”
Holga Kilgore The Barbarian
Holga Kilgore (Michelle Rodriguez) is the movie’s resident barbarian, and the deadpan foil to Chris Pine’s comedic bard. Holga’s introduction is one for the record books, too. While in her prison cell, just trying to enjoy her daily potato, a hobgoblin tries to get fresh with her. Holga slowly puts down her snack. Then, with a swift double kick she breaks the monster’s kneecaps. The badassery doesn’t stop there, though. Forge sends Holga and Edgin off to die, but Holga makes swift work of several knights with a cement brick and some medieval MMA moves. We quickly learn that Holga never turns away from a fight and will protect her found family at any cost.
Michelle Rodriguez is a force to be reckoned with in “Dungeons & Dragons.” We’ve recognized her stellar fighting skills since her indie breakout “Girlfight,” but Holga feels next level. Rodriguez’s Holga isn’t just a beast on the battlefield, either. She brings the laughs, too. Her reactions to the party’s bumbling leader, Edgin, are dry-as-the-desert comedy gold. It’s a perfect showcase for Rodriguez’s talents as an actress and physical performer. She owns every scene and pummels every foe who dares cross her. I also appreciate the refreshing choice to make Holga and Edgin more like brother and sister than lovers. Oh, and did I mention that Holga Kilgore is just a rad name for a barbarian? Names like this add to the feeling of friends who are improvising this wild story and its cast of characters as they go along — an authentic D&D experience.
Edgin Darvis The Bard
Edgin Darvis is the group’s bard, which CBR describes as “a Charisma-based class … personable and (skilled in) Deception, Intimidation, Performance, and Persuasion.” Edgin checks all these boxes. He cooks up plenty of plans, with backup options for when things head south. He’s also not too shabby in battle, though Holga does the heavy lifting in that department. Edgin’s goal to save his daughter and resurrect his wife drives the entire plot and provides the movie’s emotional backbone. Oh, and his weapon of choice? The lute, aka comedy gold.
As a theater nerd, when I hear bard, Shakespeare springs to mind, but Edgin is a different kind of wordsmith. In D&D lore, bards often have spell-casting abilities, but Chris Pine’s effortless comedic timing is the only magic he needs. Edgin is a very capable goofball. While his plans often go spectacularly wrong, he can pivot on a dime. He seems like a real-life D&D player, rolling with whatever the Dungeon Master dishes out. Pine’s ability to make us laugh and then immediately tug on the ol’ heartstrings reminds us that a genuine thespian resides beneath his dashing exterior. Another side to Edgin that makes him an easy favorite? His optimism against all odds. As Pine told /Film, ” I found Edgin to be really bright and kind of buoyant. He’s the guy that always sees the silver lining.” I find it genuinely refreshing that a tentpole lead feels no need to be a quip machine or a cynic.
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The post Every main character in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves ranked by someone who’s never played D&D appeared first on /Film.