Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves Footage Reaction: Rolling The Dice [Comic-Con]

"Dungeons & Dragons" has been around for almost 50 years, and in those decades we've seen fantasy trends come and go in Hollywood, with the 1980s seeing a wave of fantasy films released to various levels of success, "Lord of the Rings" kind-of-but-not-really reviving that trend in the '00s, and then new iterations popping up again in the post-"Game of Thrones" world. But while we've seen many successful fantasy films, none of them have been actual adaptations of the tabletop role-playing game designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Ameson — even if the awful 2000s movie somehow became a trilogy.

But after a string of bad attempts at bringing the world of Faerûn, we may finally be getting close to a film rolling a nat 20 and breaking the curse of bad adaptations, if they can get over one big problem. You see, the inherent problem of a fantasy film being based around "Dungeons & Dragons" is that, though the game has a vast history and lore, half of the fun of the game is coming up with your own take on established characters, places, objects and lore. Additionally, some of the most fun of playing the game is messing up and having to come up with solutions to problems on the fly, with a level of improvisation that we normally don't get on film. The closest we've got to capturing that spontaneity is in the superb animated series "The Legend of Vox Machina."

That being said, if any film crew can do it, it's the one behind "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves." The film is co-written and directed by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, who already gave us one of the best comedies of the past decade with the darkly comedic and thrilling action-comedy "Game Night." In addition to the first trailer, the filmmakers presented a few lengthy clips at San Diego Comic-Con, and we were there to see them. Here's what we saw.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves clip 1

"Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" has a stellar cast capable of navigating the tricky and thin line between absurdity and gravitas, including Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, Regé-Jean Page, and Hugh Grant.

The first clip finds the adventuring party searching for a magical helm, seemingly the MacGuffin that powers the plot of the movie. The group, led by Pine's Han Solo-esque bard, enter an ancient graveyard armed with a magical spell, utilized by Smith's sorcerer character, that allows them to raise the dead -– but the walking corpse will only be able to answer five questions before they die again, forever.

So the group grabs a shovel, picks a grave, digs up a corpse, and brings it back to life ... only for the corpse to prove less than useless, as it takes each of Pine's character's statements as questions, returning to death without providing any useful answers. Without missing a beat (via a very funny smash cut), they dig up a second corpse and get a little more information via flashback to a giant battle, the one that seemingly filled this graveyard. The scene (clearly unfinished) is a massive battle, where the warriors fight to defend the helm from an army of cultists -– and their fire-breathing dragon. Naturally, the undead warrior's story ends as soon as he is struck down in battle, forcing the group to dig up another corpse to ask another five questions.

This repeats over several more undead conversations, with some zombies proving more useful than others (one slipped getting out of the tub before the battle started and proves to be less than useful). The final corpse gives them the information they need after two questions, and Pine's character almost leaves the hapless corpse sitting upright in its coffin. After some peer pressure from the party, he rattles off a few quick questions ("Do you like cats?") just send him back to oblivion.

While there's definitely a true high fantasy look to the footage and the production design, the focus of the clip is on what writer/directors John Frances Daley and Jonathan Goldstein do best: comedy. The escalation of the corpse questioning and the banter among the party members suggests a fantasy adventure that won't take itself too seriously, which feels right for a movie based on a game built for friends to gather around the table and goof off.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves clip 2

The second clip throws us into a predicament with little context beyond "great, terrible danger!" Hugh Grant's character, clearly some kind of sinister master of ceremonies, addresses a massive crowd in an arena located in the classic Dungeons & Dragons city of Neverwinter. Some kind of game is about to begin, and giant walls magically rise from the grounds of the arena, building a complex labyrinth.

Our band of heroes, along with one other group of hapless adventurers/criminals, find themselves on the edge of the labyrinth and are forced to enter — where they are immediately pursued by a Displacer Beast, a classic D&D monster (imagine a giant panther with tentacles coming out of its back and you get the gist of it). The labyrinth is full of treasure chests (some containing weapons) and additional monsters, including memorable D&D foes like a Gelatinous Cube and Mimic -– which pretends to be one of those above-mentioned treasure chests and almost chomps Michelle Rodriguez's barbarian before she dives away.

As the other group is picked off one by one by the monsters in front of the cheering crowd, the main cast of heroes struggle to survive, using their wits to barely escape the monsters, even as the party finds itself split. And you know the old D&D maxim: Never split the party.

Even without context, the scene is a treasure trove of roleplaying game goodness. The monsters are slimy and scary, the characters all look like they've walked out of a Player's Manual, the light touch evident in the first clip is present here. It's clear Daley and Goldstein aren't taking this all too seriously, leaning on their comedy background even as they embrace the geekiness of it all.

"Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" rolls into theaters March 3, 2023.

Here's a synopsis of the film:

"An ex-Harper turned thief escapes from prison with his partner, a female barbarian, and reunites with a no-talent wizard and a druid new to their team in an effort to rob the cheating conman who stole all their loot from the heist that landed them behind bars, and used it to install himself as the Lord of Neverwinter. Only the traitor is allied with a powerful Red Wizard who has something far more sinister in store."