Dungeon & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (Christian Movie Review)
About The Movie
Before we begin our quest, let’s first address the big fire-breathing dragon in the room: Dungeon & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is based on the popular role-playing game. Since its creation in the early 1970s, the fantasy tabletop game has had a somewhat loaded reputation within some Christian circles. My purpose here is to review the film, not to adjudicate D&D at large. But for Christians who see the brand as something inherently evil and satanic, Honor Among Thieves may not do much to change that opinion. But for those who see the collaborative storytelling game as harmless, fantastical fun—as I do—this movie is a delight, an endearing adventure with a refreshingly hopeful tone.
I am not well-versed in the lore of the D&D universe, but Honor Among Thieves embodies the joyful spirit of a group of friends telling a silly adventure story together. The plot is bizarre and almost intentionally convoluted. A band of thieves seeks to pull off a heist against someone who has betrayed them and to rescue one of the protagonist’s daughters. To do so, they must enter a dark underworld, flee from a humorously pudgy dragon, re-animate the corpses of fallen warriors to interview them, survive a Hunger Games-esque colosseum event, and much more. The story steadily moves forward, frequently throwing in new episodic action scenes that are inventive and interesting.
Of course, the plot of a D&D campaign is secondary to the communal aspect of creating goofy characters and spending an evening telling crazy stories with friends, and Honor Among Thieves is deeply character centric. In true D&D fashion, the band of rogues all receive backstories and have heightened character traits. The bard, Edgin (Chris Pine), is the charismatic, fast-talking leader; the barbarian, Holga (Michelle Rodriquez), is a blunt-force weapon with a surprisingly big heart; the down-on-his luck sorcerer, Simon (Justice Smith), has hilariously low confidence in his abilities; and the shape-shifting druid, Doric (Sophia Lillis), is a Jekyll and Hyde, morphing from soft-spoken and gentle to a violent “owl-bear” in seconds. They are joined by a scummy Hugh Grant who hams it up in every scene. Regardless of the bizarre settings in which they find themselves, it’s simply fun to watch these characters and their interactions, which is the driving force of the story.
I also appreciated the film’s positive tone. While some Christians may associate the D&D brand with darkness, Honor Among Thieves is an adventure/comedy. There is some darkness (evil is appropriately evil), but the movie is almost relentlessly optimistic and hopeful. In contrast to the tired sarcastic quips and humor of the MCU, Honor Among Thieves is refreshingly earnest. There are several legitimately hilarious gags that are free from the mean-spirited brand of humor that has become prevalent in many other franchises.
The film embraces silliness without blushing, and despite what the trailers suggest, there are no classic rock n’ roll songs or “modern” elements. It is a classic fantasy adventure story through and through. While it clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously, neither does it devolve into a self-conscious parody, as Thor: Love & Thunder did. It offers fantasy fun and asks audiences to go along for the ride.
In the end, whether you enjoy the film will depend largely on your mindset. The Dungeon and Dragons branding will perhaps be too menacing a gatekeeper for some Christians. On the other hand, I do think there is much here for Christians to appreciate. Yes, there is magic and sorcery and fantasy world-building, but these elements are merely the backdrop for an earnest and uplifting story about characters learning to work together as a team. It may not be a movie for everyone, but this is easily the most fun I’ve had in a movie theater this year.
Engage The Film
Collaboration and Gifting
As with the role-playing game, the movie is all about collaboration and teamwork. Each of the characters has specific strengths and weaknesses, and each has an important role to play in accomplishing the mission. The film doesn’t minimize any of its characters. For example, Chris Pine’s Edgin lacks the brute strength and combat skills of Holga, and other storytellers may be tempted to emasculate his character or reduce him to a bumbling buffoon in order to celebrate her strength (again, see Thor: Love & Thunder). But this movie takes a different approach, emphasizing that all have equal value and importance in the story.
In many ways, this theme is consistent with the biblical picture of the church: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). To make a positive difference in their world, the team—like the church—must live and work in harmony. Yet, they are motivated to work together not just because they share a common enemy but because they actually care for each other. Partway through the film, when the characters are on the verge of giving up, it is not the mission but a confession of their hurts and brokenness to each other that sets them back on the right path. A scripture that came to mind was, “This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 17:27). Honor Among Thieves is no Sunday morning Bible study, but its main themes echo powerful biblical truths.
Fatherhood & Family
It has been interesting to see fatherhood as a recurring theme in many recent Hollywood blockbusters (Top Gun: Maverick, Avatar: The Way of Water, etc.). This film also explores that theme and questions what it means to be a good father. Edgin is estranged from his only daughter, and his years in prison have only widened that gap. From the beginning, his mission is to reclaim his daughter, who has been left in the safekeeping of his enemy. His changing mindset toward that mission represents his primary character arc. In the beginning he is resentful, blaming everyone but himself for the loss of his daughter. By the end, he is able to confess honestly that he has been a bad father and take responsibility for his selfish choices, learning that fatherhood is a self-sacrificial responsibility and that he needs to mature in order to fulfill it.
As an added wrinkle in the theme, Holga assumes a maternal role in raising and protecting Edgin’s daughter, despite there being no romantic relationship between the two characters. Her own backstory reveals that she is divorced and grieves for the family life she never had. Yet, rather than being consumed by bitterness, she finds her purpose in being a mother figure to Edgin’s daughter. Honor Among Thieves celebrates families, and it also affirms that not all families are biological.