Paramount Pictures delighted D&D fans at Comic-Con with a panel and official trailer for its upcoming feature film, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.
The film is a reboot of the film trilogy that launched with Dungeons & Dragons (2000). That film bombed at the box office, earning just over $33 million globally against its $45 million budget. Plus it was savaged by critics for its poor quality especially the cheap special effects), subpar performances, and inept direction. That film still spawned D&D: Wrath of the Dragon God (2005), a made-for-TV standalone sequel; and D&D 3: The Book of Vile Darkness (2012), which had a direct-to-DVD release.
The current reboot was first proposed by Warner Bros. in 2013, but the project’s announcement quickly drew Hasbro’s ire, because Hasbro was developing its own D&D film with Universal Pictures. Hasbro sued and eventually settled, giving Warner Bros. the green light to continue. Eventually, Hasbro moved the project to Paramount, shooting for a July 2021 release, and hired John Francis Daley and Jonathon Goldstein to write and direct. The release was delayed twice, but Honor Among Thieves will finally see the light of day on March 3, 2023.
Readers of a certain age might recognize Francis Daley’s name: As an actor, he played Sam Weir on the tragically underrated 1999-2000 TV show Freaks and Geeks. (He also played FBI profiler Lance Sweets on Bones.) He discovered D&D during his stint on the show, and needless to say, it’s a dream come true for him to be able to direct a D&D film. As he told the crowd in Hall H at Comic-Con:
My character [on Freaks and Geeks] was a geek and he was a huge fan of Dungeons and Dragons. I had known peripherally about it so I decided, being the young method actor that I was, to play a campaign with the fellow cast members and immediately I fell in love with the world.
Because, as you guys know, anyone who plays Dungeons and Dragons, it is not just a game. It is really the feeling you get when you play the game and that really is what we tried to do here with this film. That sense of camaraderie, family, coming together as a group, facing obstacles [where] you don’t know what to expect. So many things that, much to the chagrin of the DM [dungeon master], doesn’t know what’s going to happen. So that is what we wanted to capture. And, of course, that very unique brand of humor that I think sets us apart from anything else in the fantasy space.
Honor Among Thieves is set in the hugely popular Forgotten Realms campaign. The film’s official premise is short and sweet: “A charming thief and a band of unlikely adventurers undertake an epic heist to retrieve a lost relic, but things go dangerously awry when they run afoul of the wrong people.”
Said charming thief is Elgin, a bard, played by Chris Pine, who admits in the trailer that, as a thief, one is bound to make a few enemies and sometimes those enemies decide to take revenge. “Truth be told, we helped the wrong person steal the wrong thing,” he says in a voiceover. “We didn’t mean to unleash the greatest evil the world has ever known. But we’re gonna fix it.”
It’s not gonna be an easy fix. He’ll need the strength of Holga, a barbarian (Michelle Rodriguez); courage via Xenk (Regé-Jean Page), a paladin; and magic thanks to Simon the Sorcerer (Justice Smith). Then there’s Doric (Sophie Lillis), a tiefling druid who can transform into a ferocious owlbear, which comes in handy during a fight. As for Elgin, “I’m a planner,” he tells Doric. “I make plans. If the existing plan fails, I make a new plan.” Bonus: he also plays the lute.
The Comic-Con panel featured an unfinished clip from the film showing the troupe on a quest for the Helmet of Destruction, which involves digging up corpses in order to question them. The official trailer, set to Led Zeppelin, leans hard into the humor and camp, which can certainly work in a fantasy adventure setting. Hugh Grant likened the tone to Monty Python, but it’s also got some of the cheesy irreverence of, say, A Knight’s Tale. I’ll take that approach over an overly dour and self-important tone. As Ars Senior Technology Editor Lee Hutchinson observed, “This looks so dumb that it wraps around and becomes potentially great.”
Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is scheduled to hit theaters on March 3, 2023. A spinoff TV series is already in development, intended to be the cornerstone of several different projects to complement the film.
Listing image by YouTube/Paramount