Much like in Duncan Jones’ ill-fated Warcraft adaptation, magic in this universe is shown to carry a cost, capable of achieving wondrous feats or causing great harm to yourself and others if misused. It can be a useful tool but only if you’re skilled and level-headed enough, and it can’t overcome every obstacle. Early on Simon is just as likely to cast the wrong spell that will send him hurtling uncontrollably skywards as he is to magic him and his companions out of their current predicament, but as is often the case with stories like this a lot of it comes down to believing in yourself. Everyone has their demons to overcome, their crosses to bear (or owl-bear), but coming together to share their burdens makes their monumental task seem a little less insurmountable.
For all the fantasy fireworks and zippy exchanges between a likeable group of unlikely heroes, this film also has a big heart to it and really hits you on an emotional level towards the end, particularly in regards to exploring the highly unconventional but tender family dynamic between Edgin, his daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman), and Holga.
As funny as it often is, not every joke in the film lands, like Hugh Grant making entirely too much of a big thing of telling his audience how unexpectedly hot his tea is, or a side-quest involving temporarily reviving the dead for information that drags on a little too long, plus some characters’ arcs and backstories make a lot more sense than others. It’s the final act arena challenge prominently featured in most of the trailers that is probably the least interesting passage in the film, but even this doesn’t outstay its welcome and we get a properly satisfying final fight shortly afterwards.
Despite a few nitpicks, thanks to its charismatic cast, wit and constant momentum, Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves is a rip-roaring success and one of the best times you’re likely to have at the cinema this year. Video game movies may still be finding the right formula, but more old-fashioned role-playing games could very well provide the inspiration for a whole range of hugely enjoyable films if practiced current and former Dungeon Masters are that way inclined.