Hugh Grant, admonishing interviewers for their questions not relating to Dungeons and Dragons: Honour Among Thieves, is fair game. He only speaks of Forge Fitzwilliam, the devilish character who is due a comeuppance throughout this Chris Pine feature. How we laughed when it was announced, how we were shocked to see it is not, in fact, all that bad. Warcraft still lingers on in the mind. Adapting pre-made fantasy pieces with fans whose free time is dedicated to padding out the worldbuilding overworked developers failed to provide, makes for a feral target audience. No sooner can Dungeons and Dragons: Honour Among Thieves find itself in a comfortable hole to work from than the mega fans or those not quite clued in on what Dungeons and Dragons even is can begin to feel contempt. For themself? For John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein? Both. It is there.
Teaming after the much-loved but fascinatingly plain Game Night, Daley and Goldstein try their hand at wider worldbuilding. It works nicely as they cut to mega-budget portrayals of archers and charming bard players. No bard player has ever looked less-than punchable, and where Pine draws the line between ditsy and heroic, Dungeons and Dragons succeeds in adding flavour to Pine and the characters around him. Grant enjoys his post-romance villainy and experiments with cowardly characters or cool, considered anti-heroes, as he does through The Gentlemen. For his efforts in Dungeons and Dragons, the mystique and allure of magic are played up with jolly Brit charm and genuine fear which sets into play the whole process for Pine and Michelle Rodriguez. Despite that, flatlining direction comes through, the shot-reverse-shot experience on a level similar to Bohemian Rhapsody.
Speaking in punchy cliché lines befitting of its broadly wooden and ye olde setting, the film springs to life when it finds itself dealing with dramatics. When heroes and villains are clambering up piles of bones and skulls into feared caves of fantasy creatures, introducing those with quips and lines to soften the blow is expected, it is where we are now culturally, but it is a great shame to see it here. Imagination is the limit and for a game like Dungeons and Dragons to find itself rattling through the motions of expected fantasy dynamics is a bit of a shame when the game itself can be anything the mind conjures. Does this make Dungeons and Dragons a failure of the mind or heartbreak which cannot stick to its convictions of character dynamics? A bit of both, but ultimately the experience of cliché is outweighed, to some degree, by the expectation of action.
Plenty of that can be found within but most of it feels similar in scope and colour to the climax of Robots. Nothing sets apart the lava-like wanderings and cries from Pine like a Robin Williams dance number. Only one settles on the mind, and only one is called Robots. Coming to life in a few moments of fantasy but never selling itself on anything more than already existing creatures with leftover bits of sci-fi stapled to them, Dungeons and Dragons does display some signs of freshness. Ultimately it relies on the good graces of those who can suspend their hate for one-liners, their animosity at seeing the chances of creativity scuppered by safety-first storytelling and predictable back-and-forth between some fairly dull individuals.