The most Dungeons & Dragons thing about Honor Among Thieves is that its protagonists are all complete screw-ups.
One of the things you have to get used to in a tabletop role-playing game is that sooner or later, you’re going to fail. In D&D, players throw dice to see whether their actions will succeed, and by the law of averages, everyone rolls snake eyes eventually. You just have to deal with it.
The protagonists of Honor Among Thieves, a live-action movie from Paramount based on the tabletop game published by Renton, Wash.-based Wizards of the Coast, are all near-complete failures at the start of the movie. Even better/worse, they proceed to continue to do so for much of HAT’s two-hour running time. That, more than anything else about it, makes HAT feel just like a game of D&D; it’s a movie about not letting your mistakes stop or define you.
This isn’t to say that you have to know anything about the tabletop game before you watch HAT. Instead, it threads that needle by carefully introducing exactly as much lore as it needs in any given moment.
If you’ve never so much as read a D&D book, then HAT is a light, funny heist caper set in a big, sprawling fantasy world. If you’re a longtime fan of the games, then it’s also entertaining to see so many of D&D’s spells, creatures, and cities in live action.
In HAT, Edgin (Chris Pine, Wonder Woman) was once the leader of a small band of thieves, pulling off heists against the rich with the barbarian exile Holga (Michelle Rodriguez, The Fast and the Furious), Simon (Justice Smith, Detective Pikachu), Forge (Hugh Grant, The Remains of the Day), and Edgin’s daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman, Avatar 2).
When Edgin’s crew attempts to rob a magical vault, in search of a magical artifact that can resurrect Edgin’s late wife, Edgin and Holga are caught in the act and spend the next two years in prison in Icewind Dale. After a jailbreak, they follow Forge’s trail to the city of Neverwinter, where he’s somehow become the lord of the city. Worse, Forge has adopted Kira, has led her to believe that Edgin simply abandoned her, and proceeds to try and have Edgin and Holga quietly executed.
To rescue Kira, and prove to her that Forge has been lying, Edgin comes up with a plan to break into Forge’s vault in Neverwinter. Towards that end, Edgin and Holga reunite with Simon; recruit Dorek (Sophia Lillis, It), a tiefling druid and shapeshifter; and beg for help from the paladin Xenk (Regé-Jean Page, Brigerton).
The rest of the movie, as Edgin and company put together what they need to pull off the Neverwinter heist, feels like it’s on fast-forward. HAT is very fast-paced, moving from one plot beat to the next at lightning speed, but it’s easy to follow and consistently entertaining.
There are a couple of elements that might be confusing to a total D&D layman, such as Holga’s overtly superhuman strength (she’s a barbarian; in D&D, crazy feats of strength are part of the barbarian class’s whole deal), but I can’t imagine they’d take anyone out of the film.
The word I keep wanting to use here, which I’ve already used once, is “light.” HAT is a popcorn movie at heart, where most of the jokes land, the fights are exciting, and the special effects are overall solid.
It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but stops short of the deliberate camera-winking that’s come to be a trademark of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The characters in HAT are often witty, or exasperated, or using humor as a coping mechanism, but they aren’t all exactly the same kind of sarcastic.
If you’ve seen a lot of movies, there isn’t much in Honor Among Thieves that’ll surprise you. On the whole, though, it’s a decent time at the theater, and it kept me entertained the whole way through. You can’t ask for much more than that.
Read the book based on the movie based on the game
After a couple of years’ delay, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Honor Among Thieves made its public debut on March 10, as the opening movie for the SXSW film festival in Austin, Texas. It’s scheduled for wide release on March 31.
The early critical reception of the movie has been positive overall. Both Wizards of the Coast and its parent company, the toy giant Hasbro, seem to have been banking on the movie’s success. Wizards CEO Cynthia Williams told GeekWire in December that she expects Honor Among Thieves will “introduce a whole new group of people to the game.”
Since late 2022, both Wizards and Hasbro have built up to HAT’s wide release with a multimedia full-court press. This includes two prequel novels, a 96-page comic book from IDW Publishing, an Honor Among Thieves-themed set of the classic board game Monopoly, and a line of action figures. The recent Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook, Keys to the Golden Vault, features an adventure that’s set in Revel’s End, the arctic prison complex that Edgin and Holga escape from in HAT.
It’s an old-school approach that’s slightly reminiscent of a pre-COVID summer blockbuster. Combined with the January announcement that Paramount+ has ordered an eight-episode live-action D&D series, Wizards appears to be making a real bid to turn D&D into a full-fledged multimedia franchise.
On Tuesday morning, as part of one of its pre-recorded D&D Direct livestreams, Wizards of the Coast further announced that the cast of Honor Among Thieves will be the focus of one of its limited-release Secret Lair “drops” for the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering.
The HAT set for Magic includes six cards based on Edgin, Holga (right), Forge, Simon, Xenk, and Doric, all of whom will be legendary summoned creatures. While no release date’s been given for the HAT Secret Lair, pre-orders for it opened on Tuesday morning.
Other news from the March 2023 D&D Direct included:
- Microsoft, Mojang, and Wizards have collaborated on a new downloadable Dungeons & Dragons content pack for Minecraft, coming later this year. This DLC pack is set, like HAT, in the Forgotten Realms, and lets players play a version of D&D within the larger Minecraft game.
- Wizards of the Coast plans to release its revamp of the classic Planescape campaign setting in Q4 2023, featuring art by original Planescape artist Tony diTerlizzi. In Planescape, players are invited to explore the multiple other planes in D&D’s intricate cosmology, such as the afterlife and the Astral Sea, as well as the neutral city of Sigil that sits at the heart of the multiverse.
- The next first-party D&D book, coming this spring, is Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants. This is a sourcebook about the lore of D&D’s various races of giants, as told by old-school D&D signature character Bigby.
- Actor and long-time D&D fan Joe Manganiello (True Blood, Magic Mike) confirmed that his untitled documentary about Dungeons & Dragons is still scheduled for release for the game’s 50th anniversary in 2024.
- As part of the ongoing anniversary of the popular D&D character Drizzt Do’Urden, Drizzt’s creator R.A. Salvatore has contributed to a new expansion for the D&D MMORPG Neverwinter, which is set in and named after Drizzt’s home city of Menzoberranzan. This is the 25th expansion for Neverwinter, by Los Gatos, Calif.-based developer Cryptic Studios.