Opening 30 Mar 2023
John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
Writing credits: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Michael Gilio, Chris McKay
Principal actors: Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis
The film’s concept is based on the eponymous board game Dungeons & Dragons designed by two Americans and first published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. Participating players role played using words and figures in the open-ended game. Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro bought the game in 1997. Now in its 5th Edition, the rules vary with every edition. Between 2000 and 2012, previous incarnations include movies, TV series and direct-to-video films. This reboot film combines the efforts of writer-directors Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley with co-writer Michael Gilio, and Gilio collaborated with Chris McKay on the storyline set in the Forgotten Realms, one of sixteen planes/settings in the game.
Edgin the Bard (Chris Pine) explains to a sentencing court in the blood-curdling maximum-security prison he was not always a thief and is raising his daughter Kira (Chloe Coleman) alone… with cellmate Holga Kilgore’s (Michelle Rodriguez) help. Once abroad, they pick up their old colleague’s scent, albeit Forge Fitzwilliam (Hugh Grant) now travels as Lord of Neverwinter bookended by Kira and Sofina (Daisy Head), a Red Wizard. Their subsequent meeting is a setback; the two revise plans starting with forming a new gang. Seeking out the sorcerer Simon Aumur (Justice Smith) for his magic, together they search for Doric (Sophia Lillis), a gutsy tiefling druid with horns, tail, and shapeshifting ability. In search of a relic, and after a side trip to a cemetery, they track down the paladin Xenk Yandar (Regé-Jean Page) who leads them on a wild underground escapade where Simon happens on the Hither and Thither Staff. They then beat it back to Neverwinter: festivities and the new Games are underway amidst much revelry and, never fear, more roguery.
The cast are delightfully mischievous portraying their characters and nuancing the wisecracks and puns entwined in the screenplay. Ray Chan’s production design, Robert Cowper and Tom Still’s art direction, Annika Meier’s costumes, Naomi Moore’s sets, and visual and special effect artists breathe lively imaginative realness into the Realms’ caves, corners, and creatures. Barry Peterson filmed in Iceland and Northern Ireland, Dan Lebental’s editing could have been tighter, and Barry Peterson’s score contributes flourishes and fearfulness. Dungeons & Dragons adds a fresh, fun dimension to the slate of action-packed fantasy films, while exemplifying the difference betwixt thieves and villains. (Marinell Haegelin)