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June 9, 2023 - 

If you have watched Stranger Things or Big Bang Theory, you might have come across Dungeons and Dragons, the fantasy role-playing game that has become culturally synonymous with serious geekdom. The 2023 movie Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is an affectionate nod to those who either grew up throwing dice in a friend’s basement or who currently spend weekends battling bugbears. But it’s also a surprisingly good movie for anyone who loves fantasy adventures.

D&D is the oldest commercially available game of its kind, a cooperative storytelling game where each player creates a character from various classes (such as bard, thief, barbarian, sorcerer, and druid) and races (such as elf, human, halfling, and dwarf) that shape their strengths and abilities. The players then go on open-ended adventures using their characters, following a loose storyline moderated and guided by a Dungeon Master. In 2017, D&D reached an all-time number of players, with 12 million to 15 million in North America alone.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves follows most of the rules and common tropes of the game, with enough humorous insider cues to satisfy hardcore D&D players, and with enough context and emotional depth for even the uninitiated to easily follow along. Directed and written by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, who also wrote and directed Spider-Man: Homecoming, the plot follows Chris Pine’s character Edgin Darvis and his friend Holga Kilgore (Michelle Rodriguez) as they attempt to build a small ragtag team of misfits to save Edgin’s daughter and save the world from their former ally Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant) and his evil wizard partner Sofina (Daisy Head). Along the way, they meet an overweight dragon, converse with reanimated corpses, and take the requisite hours of rest to recharge spell slots and health points.

Christians from the 1980s might remember the controversy surrounding D&D when it first became popular because of its association with witchcraft and the occult, much like the controversies surrounding Harry Potter in later decades. Wheaton College professor Emily Hunter McGowin offers a helpful perspective in her Christianity Today article, “The Gospel According to Dungeons and Dragons,” in which she shares about her experiences playing D&D with her family during the pandemic and the ways it strengthened her faith. She writes, “Fantasy is inherently eschatological because it assumes from the start that the world as it currently exists is not necessarily the world as it must be. It allows us to explore ultimate questions about what is good, true, and beautiful through an alternate reality.”

Though I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Honor Among Thieves is eschatological, it’s a satisfying reminder of the ultimate vanquishing of evil and the triumph of all that is good, true, and beautiful. (Paramount)

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