A little more than two months away from the theatre release of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, the tabletop RPG-turned-blockbuster spectacle revealed a new trailer with Marvel-equse polish and Joss Whedon-esque dialogue.
The trailer, uploaded January 23rd, opens on a scene of Chris Pine’s Edgar the Bard and Michelle Rodriguez’s Holga the Barbarian kneeling in a back alley, hands tied with rope and a city guard ready to separate their heads from their necks. Holga interrupts the impromptu execution with the help of a pavestone before eagerly launching herself into a fray. Edgin impotently tries to saw through his bindings on the edge of a stone step, quipping that “I’m thinking there are probably sharper stairs somewhere else.”
The next two minutes follow a similar formula as the rest of the ensemble cast - Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis and ostensible antagonist Hugh Grant - deflate a series of tense scenes and helpful exposition with one-liners, zingers and sarcastic asides. There’s even an exchange between Roriguez, Smit and Page about being ironic that landed with all the grace of a “Well, that just happened.”
To be fair to the trailer, there might be an enjoyable genre flick underneath the inclination for knee-jerk snark. The motley crew of thieves burdened with the moral obligation to right their own wrongs is a solid narrative foundation, and several of the set pieces, while leaning heavily on CGI, manage to evoke the fantastical Forgotten Coast setting well. We see a magically shifting dungeon in the depths of an arena, craggy glaciers filling a frozen expanse and the magma-lit caverns of a dragon’s hoard.
Unfortunately, Honor Among Thieves’ trailer shows a film allergic to taking itself seriously. Its presentation is obviously designed to appeal to crowds raised on, and still hungry for, the Marvel Universe model, but character interactions all feel like moments pulled from a casual, weekend game with your friends. Either one of these approaches could effectively portray a version of D&D that fans are familiar with - the slick, brand-worthy fantasy world from official books and merchandise or the homebrew version of cobbled-together vibes, references and in-jokes that make casual campaigns so fun.
D&D: Honor Among Thieves apparently wants to have both, and the result is a confusing and boring trailer for a film already delayed and arriving amidst a sharp downturn in community support for publisher Wizards of the Coast. No doubt my cynicism will ring hollow for fans and casual viewers, but it’s hard not to watch Smith deliver a faux-casual “I may have triggered the mechanism. So…sorry,” to the group of costumed actors and wish for a film that cared more about the spirit of collaborative storytelling than its superficial signifiers.