31 Mar 23
You don't have to own a bagful of 20-sided dice to get excited about the release of dungeons & dragons: honour among thieves. At a time when fantasy cinema and television is better than it's ever been, the most famous table-top game of all time is finally hitting the big screen with all the fanfare it deserves – thanks to some help from an all-star cast, a dragon-sized effects budget and two cult comedy directors.
The first key is the casting. Chris Pine, one of the coolest humans on the face of the planet, is our way into an adventure involving a heist, double-crosses and quite a lot of chaos.
He is Edgin the Bard, sometime lute player and full-time Danny Ocean-alike master thief. It's a role that allows one of Hollywood's best Chrises to don a lot of black leather, plot clever plots and show off the pipes he demonstrated in Into The Woods.
The only problem is that Edgin's plan is significantly less than foolproof and his team are not quite as slick.
They do, however, have a particular set of skills. Michelle Rodriguez plays Holga, a barbarian by nature and nurture, and Bridgerton's Regé-Jean Page is Xenk the Paladin, your traditional armoured hero who seems to take himself a little too seriously.
Sophia Lillis (It: Chapter One and Wes Anderson's upcoming Asteroid City) is a shapeshifting druid called Doric, while Justice Smith (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Detective Pikachu) is their sorcerer, rather boringly called Simon. Most excitingly of all, one of the obstacles in their path appears to be Hugh Grant's rogue, Forge Fitzwilliam, continuing the villainous renaissance for which he's becoming synonymous since Paddington 2 and The Gentlemen.
Cue an attempt by this motley crew to steal back an item they have already stolen once and which they delivered into the hands of some very bad people doing very bad things.
Naturally, given that this is a fantasy story, their quest involves long walks through scenic landscapes – shot in Northern Ireland and amid the glaciers of Iceland – and encounters with a plethora of giant monsters.
That's where the "& Dragons" bit of the title really comes into play, with a dragon spitting burning acid over enemy soldiers, Doric transforming into a giant owlbear (one of the game's signature monsters) and even a gelatinous cube that dissolves those who are trapped, which delighted fans of the game when the first trailer dropped late last year.
Look, just because this is for mass audiences doesn't mean that it can't be as weird and idiosyncratic as the game is at its best.
If you're worried that they put all the funny bits in the trailer, don't be, because of the film's third key ingredient: its writer-directors.
Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley are the duo behind 2018's wildly funny Game Night, which gets funnier every time you watch it – which might be why it's become a cult favourite since its release.
They also made the underrated reboot of Vacation in 2015, suggesting a general comfort with movies centred around leisure activities. A role-playing game inspiration like this one should therefore be right up their street.
The main trailer released earlier this year, suggests a self-aware, epic-scale adventure that has enough heart to keep the humour balanced. If the whole film ends up as good as it looks, we might all find ourselves rolling oddly shaped dice and going on a fantastic adventure. Helen O'Hara
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