Film and drama Opinion

Dungeons & Dragons casts an enchanting spell

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A thief and a band of unlikely adventurers embark on an epic quest to retrieve a lost relic, but their quest turns into a fight to save the land from evil. Digital editor Dan Jensen shares his thoughts on one of the biggest surprise hits of the year.

ONCE IN A WHILE, a film comes along that takes you by surprise and leaves a lasting impression that you never expected. Something that fills you with excitement and wonder, reminding us why we go to the cinema in the first place.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves is exactly that film. Packed with adventure, action, comedy and a dragon-sized heart, this is the type of film that will please fans of all genres. Usually, movies based on games (of either the video or board variety) have a tendency to fail, but here we have a wonderful exception.

Set in the mystical Forgotten Realms, a bard-turned-thief named Edgin Darvis (Chris Pine) has teamed up with a barbarian, Holga Kilgore (Michelle Rodriguez), desperately trying to rescue his daughter from the custody of former ally Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant), who has become Lord of Neverwinter and aligned himself with a red wizard named Sofina (Daisy Head). Along the way, the pair are joined by a paladin named Xenk (Regé-Jean Page), an amateur sorcerer, Simon (Justice Smith) along with a shape-shifting druid named Doric (Sophia Lillis).

If you’re not a fan of the fantasy genre and don’t know your Lord of the Rings from your Game of Thrones, the above synopsis might have had you wanting to click away from this review already. But despite being a sword ’n’ sorcery flick, Dungeons & Dragons transcends the boundaries of the genre and manages to have a contemporary feel among the ye olde setting. It really has something for everyone. It's like a fun blend of all the best elements of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, the Indiana Jones adventures with a little Marvel whiz-bang thrown into the cauldron.

While the visuals in the film are spectacular, at its heart, the characters are what keep this story alive. Chris Pine is at his best as Edgin and within the first few minutes of the film, we already love him. He’s cocky, brash and hilariously funny, but once we learn about his backstory, the character earns the audience's sympathy and hooks us right in.

Paired with Michelle Rodriguez’s Holga, the two are complete opposites but as always, it’s a mismatch that shines on screen. Acting as the muscle of the outfit, she’s a formidable warrior with a hint of a tender side showing through. Clearly performing many of her own stunts, Rodriguez is no stranger to action films and is a joy to watch.

One thing that sets the film above the rest is the way it handles its antagonist. Hugh Grant’s character isn’t your typical evil villain that we’ve seen a hundred times before, this time written as a con artist who is actually something of an awkward coward. In other words, everything you’d expect from a character played by Hugh Grant. He’s almost likeable, a man who just went down the wrong path and made a lot of poor choices.

But the real villain in the story is the red wizard Sofina, a haunting and creepy character who spices the movie up with a hint of horror. She looks incredible and the performance by Daisy Head is absolute perfection. She’s a true menace and steals every scene she’s in.

If you’ve never played a game of Dungeons & Dragons before, don’t let this deter you from seeing the film. It’s been cleverly designed so that those who have never heard of a Gelatinous Cube will still be able to follow everything that’s going on, whereas fans of the game will have fun spotting the abundance of Easter eggs.

At 134 minutes, Dungeons & Dragons is a rather long film but fear not, there isn’t a single dull moment in the entire run time. Every scene is packed with gorgeous visuals, razor-sharp dialogue and the plot moves rapidly. This is movie magic at its finest. The character of Doric has the ability to transform herself into a variety of animals, both real and mystical, and watching her use her power to further the quest or escape from danger is worth the price of admission alone.

At times, the story gets a tad predictable but you’re having too much fun to care. The characters don’t have a huge amount of depth, but they serve their purpose well and are exactly who they need to be to make the story fun and interesting. It’s clear everyone involved had a banger of a time making the film and that energy shines through the screen.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves is a surprise hit that is going to stand out as one of the best movies of 2023. With a spin-off TV series already in development, this could be the start of a magical franchise.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves opens in cinemas on 30 March.

You can follow digital editor Dan Jensen on Twitter @DanJensenIA. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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