We are in the proverbial best of times and worst of times here at deepdarknight.net. The year has been a busy one, and while I have been writing fiction and have a new release coming up (Enchanted Realms: Tales of Fantasy in Light and Shadow anthology), I have not had the opportunity to post lately.
That trend reverses with a review of the recent Dungeons & Dragons movie which I watched with the my teen and her friends. Fear not—here at deepdarknight.net the main focus remains on horror and the grimmest of grim fantasy stories. I continue to seek themes along the lines of Game of Thrones meets Aliens with extra nudity, graphic violence, and smoking—lots and lots of smoking! Even Gandalf freakin’ smoked!
But today we’re taking a short diversion in celebration of widening the scope of our reviews to the fantasy genre. Thus, we have a few words on Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.
Above all, the flick is a “family show” à la Star Wars and all the rest that is fun to watch with a mixed age audience, hence taking my daughter and her D&D group. The RPG humor is spot on, and the action revs up after a slightly, but not deal-breaking, amount of exposition.
The story follows an adventuring party’s quest to steal back a bunch of loot from Forge, a treacherous former party member, who has fallen in with a gang of undead sorcerers. The motive is simple and a touch sweet with the characters’ promise to share their loot with the poor once they succeed. Edkin the Bard, the party’s ostensible leader, is also attempting to snatch a tablet that can resurrect his dead wife.
The movie’s strength lies in its characterization—A slightly Xena-esque barbarian gal with a thing for dating halflings, a confidence-challenged wizard on the brink of coming of age if he can just overcome his anxieties, a sarcastic tiefling druid who kind of stands in for the “rich elves” trope, except instead of Rivendell, she’s saving the Emerald Enclave. The writers lay the snark on thick which keeps everyone awake and frequently laughing. Even a curmudgeon like me couldn’t help but like the paladin who was so uptight and perfect he walked over, instead of around, boulders.
Best of all were the quick references to classic D&D themes and creatures. A pair of rust monsters fight over a scrap of armor as the camera pans over a castle, intellect devourers pass over a chance to attack the party because they are too dumb, and a red dragon that has grown too plump to fly demonstrates what really happens when all you do is sleep on a pile of gold all day.
So I recommend enjoying Honor Among Thieves if you’re up for a fantasy-comedy, particularly if you are looking for something to watch with a younger crowd. Of course, what kind of card-carrying nerd would I be if I didn’t offer at least one complaint?
Let’s stick it to the bard, because for all of its accuracy and keen sense of humor, one category where I felt this film lacked was in its cliched portrayal of the goofy and feckless lute-picker. For Edkin is the same sort of bard we see in The Witcher—the type who can’t be bothered to heft a dagger, let alone a longsword.
I understand we’re trying to avoid the grimdark aesthetic here, but it would be nice sometime to see a bard who is rough around the edges, someone who writes a poetry for their slain foes in the manner of Grettir the Strong.
On that note, while it will certainly be fun to have a raucously funny sequel to Honor Among Thieves, it might also be fun to have a slightly darker D&D movie put the “dungeon” back in Dungeons & Dragons—I’m thinking a movie version of R.A. Salvatore’s Homeland, a novel about the drow warrior Drizzt that takes place in the subterranean city of Menzoberranzan, complete with priestesses of Lolth lashing the male warriors with snake-headed whips and tentacle-faced illithids wondering whose brain will be served for dinner.
Carl R. Moore is the author of Slash of Crimson and Other Tales, Mommy and the Satanists, and Chains in the Sky, published by Seventh Star Press. His novelette Coin of Honor will appear in the Enchanted Realms: Tales of Fantasy in Light and Shadow anthology to be released by Jumpmaster Press and Seventh Star Press in summer, 2023