Last weekend’s movie was Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, which is now on Prime Video. I thought it was a lot of fun. I’ve never played D&D, but I’ve hung around with a lot of people who do, so I’ve absorbed enough about the game to get the gist of most of the references, though I’m sure I missed a lot. Even without knowing anything about the source material, I thought it was a good fantasy adventure movie that didn’t take itself too seriously.
The gist of the story is that a thief and his barbarian sidekick escape from prison (after they got caught in a failed heist while the rest of their crew escaped) to find that a member of their crew has set himself up as a ruler and is raising the thief’s daughter, turning her against him. The thief pulls the rest of his old crew together, picking up an additional member, in order to pull off the heist that will get back what the one who betrayed him took. Of course, they have to go on a number of quests to find the things they’ll need to pull off this heist, and along the way they learn what’s really going on and that it’s far bigger than just a grudge against an old colleague.
It’s not quite a spoof of fantasy movies or games, though it still has some wink/nudge moments mocking the tropes, but it’s funny and yet it’s still a good fantasy/adventure. It’s not quite on the cleverness level of The Princess Bride, but it’s in a similar vein in that it manages to straddle the line between spoofing a genre while also being a good example of the thing it’s spoofing. The casting is just about perfect, and they flip a few tropes — the barbarian is a woman, the relationship with the female sidekick remains platonic, and the wizard is the youngest, least experienced member of the party instead of being a white-bearded elder.
I will confess that in spite of never having played D&D, I’ve long had a fascination with it. I just never had the chance to play. I think I first heard about it in junior high, when a guy in one of my classes mentioned it. He wanted to copy one of my doodles in class because he thought it would make a great dungeon design. Unfortunately, he lived on the other side of town, so I couldn’t join his game. Then we moved to the country outside a small town that was caught up in the whole satanic panic thing. They had seminars about how rock and roll music was of the devil, so I doubt anyone played D&D. Even if they did, I wouldn’t have had transportation to get together with them. When I got to college, the people I hung around with were hard-core, experienced gamers who didn’t have the patience to deal with a newbie. They had a long-running campaign going and didn’t even like me watching or asking questions while they played.
I don’t really like competitive games where there are winners and losers, but this looks like collaborative storytelling and it might be fun. I’m now at the phase of life where finding times when everyone can get together is challenging, and the people I know who are into it have their own groups already. I’d just like to try one short session to see if I enjoy it. The idea of gathering with friends to do that sort of thing appeals to me. Maybe if I ever get back to going to conventions, I can find an “intro to gaming” session and play.
In the meantime, at least we have one more big-budget fantasy movie to add to the rotation, something that’s not as serious as Lord of the Rings but not as cheap and silly as all the Fantasy Cheese movies.