No fandom has been done dirtier over the last eternity than the loyal Dungeon Masters of Dungeons And Dragons. After spending the ’80s being the subject of public mockery and the ’90s waiting for a movie starring Justin Whalin and Marlon Wayans that we’re told fans hate, Dungeons And Dragons: Honor Among Thieves aims to finally make the cherished tabletop game of Stranger Things characters a mainstream franchise.
The game has never been more popular, thanks to two years of quarantine, and studios are scrambling for whatever property can possibly compete with Warner’s Game Of Thrones and Amazon’s Lord Of The Rings. But can a property built on a roleplaying tabletop game, without a central story arc, recognizable characters, and with a rule book the size of the Bible, be the center of Paramount’s fantasy universe?
Paramount hopes so, and they’ve enlisted Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Sophia Lillis, and Hugh Grant to help.
The first panel at Comic-Con in three years, Dungeons And Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, aims to be a funnier version of fantasy worlds. Led by Chris Pine, the movie took two years to produce and was shot in Northern Island on location and with practical effects. The footage shown looks about as far from an Atlanta parking lot as you can get.
Directed by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daly, best known for the severely underrated Game Night, the duo have now brought that kind of energy to D&D. Daly’s no slouch on pushing the game into the mainstream over the last two decades. He said he learned to play Dungeons And Dragons on the set of Freaks And Geeks and talked about wanting to capture the feeling of playing with people. “It’s not about the game, it’s really the feeling you get when you play the game.” Honestly, the Dungeons And Dragons episode of Freaks And Geeks is a high bar in terms of depictions of the game.
As expected, each member of the cast had to give their experience with Dungeons And Dragons. Chris Pine discussed playing with his family and wanting to “spread the gospel of D&D.” Michelle Rodriguez grew up in Jersey, so, of course, she played Dungeons And Dragons. Regé Jean-Page tried to pretend he was like the mere mortals of the audience by saying he played Diablo as a kid. As the cast shared their D&D bona fides, moderator Karl Jacobs asked if thespian Hugh Grant was into Dungeons And Dragons.
“I think you messed it up with S&M,” Michelle Rodriguez interjected.
“I’ve been an enthusiastic dungeon master for years now,” Grant said. “I believe that’s why the Jonathans thought of me.” Grant, attending his first Comic-Con, said that he tried to get in with Sense And Sensibility, but was turned away. Explaining what the hell he’s doing in a Dungeons And Dragons movie, Grant said that the script was genuinely funny, that it had a “Monty Python vibe.”
The “tonal balance” that producer Jeremy Latcham described at the beginning of the panel was on display as Pine described it as having a Spielbergian energy, its light and buoyant that the cast glommed onto. “Spielberg. We’ll take that compliment,” said co-director Jonathan Goldstein. It’s reflected in the premiere clips from the show, which sees Pine, once again, proving he’s the only one who could ever take on the mantle of Indiana Jones.
In a clip, Chris Pine, smirking up a storm, digs up some zombies to ask them about the film’s still unclear MacGuffin. The clip is funny, with a Sam Raimi energy of quick cuts, loud effects, and lots and lots of skeleton puppets. Fans looking for a dark and gritty Dungeons And Dragons won’t find it here. This looks more like an adventure comedy.
Most importantly, the practical effects and actual sets give the film a texture and excitement that makes the comedy and violence work. When the film dips into more CGI territory, as it did in the second clip, it feels a bit more weightless. But these are unfinished special effects, so we’ll reserve judgment.
And yes, all the monsters and all the spells are accurate to the lore. John Francis Daly said they worked with Wizards Of The Coasts to fact check, and there was even an Easter egg for fans of the ’80s cartoon.
Dungeons And Dragons: Honor Among Thieves opens March 2023.