Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves: 7 Things We Learned From The Comic-Con Panel

Perhaps it's appropriate that San Diego Comic-Con 2022 properly kicked off with a panel dedicated to Paramount Pictures' "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves." After all, this one project connects the disparate ends of what Comic-Con was and is: This a movie based on the world's most popular roleplaying game, a true cornerstone of traditional geek culture, adapted into a massive blockbuster adventure film starring movie stars like Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Sophia Lillis, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, and Hugh Grant. Dungeons & Dragons is a name that means something to generations of nerds, and because of its very nature as a flexible, story-driven tabletop experience, that exact meaning can differ wildly from person to person. 

And to writer/directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, that exact meaning looks to be a blend of big adventure and very silly comedy, all framed with a touch of heavy metal fantasy. The filmmakers took to the Hall H stage alongside producer Jeremy Latcham, Pine, Rodriguez, Lillis, Grant, and Page to introduce two clips from the movie, debut the first trailer, and share stories about the making of the film.

Here's what we learned, and what you need to know. 

It's a Spider-Man: Homecoming reunion

Writer/directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein are best known for the underrated comedy gem "Game Night," which makes them a wry choice to direct a movie based on the world's most famous tabletop roleplaying game. However, "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" see them reuniting with producer Jeremy Latcham, a producer whose credits include little movies like "Iron Man," "Guardians of the Galaxy," and "Spider-Man: Homecoming." And as you Marvel nerds probably know, Daley and Goldstein are among the credited writers on "Homecoming," making "Honor Among Thieves" something of a Marvel reunion, as Latcham himself noted on the panel.

And Marvel may be an apt comparison for this movie, which seems to blend high stakes with silly comedy performed by charming actors. The footage screened during the panel suggests a blend of high-fantasy and ribald comedy, clearly an attempt to capture a similar vibe as "Guardians of the Galaxy" or "Thor: Ragnarok." And let's be honest: There are worse projects to chase! 

There are a lot of practical monsters

While "Honor Among Thieves" will be chock-full of digital monsters and locations crafted by the wizards at ILM, the panel emphasized that the production also wanted to make use of practical creature effects as well. A behind-the-scenes sizzle reel played for Hall H attendees drove this home, showcasing the cast and crew standing and working alongside actors in suits (was that a Dragonborn?) and giant puppets/animatronics. Even the sprawling sets appeared to be a blend of physical builds and green/blue screens. It remains to be seen how well these tangible touches will play in the final product, but Chris Pine said some pretty big words when he compared the production to the work of Steven Spielberg and '80s genre movies.

Big words, indeed! But if anyone can pull it off, it's Legacy Effects, the company that built Grogu for "The Mandalorian" and who were enlisted to build creatures for "Honor Among Thieves."

It's made by people who love the game

"Honor Among Thieves" appears to be about a ragtag group of outsiders who are forced to team up on a quest, forcing a party of strangers to become an unlikely family. In other words, it's playing by the Dungeons & Dragons playbook. Throughout the panel, the cast and crew emphasized what a powerful experience roleplaying was for them. Regé-Jean Page spoke of a lonely childhood where RPGs kept him company. Michelle Rodriguez reminisced about a childhood spent playing D&D with friends. Sophia Lillis, the youngest member of the cast, spoke about listening to Actual Play podcasts in high school, and hoping to one day try her hand at running a game as a Dungeon Master.

But perhaps the most charming anecdote came from Chris Pine, who said that Daley and Goldstein (themselves lifelong tabletop fans) sent him a Dungeons & Dragons kit when they were first talking to him about joining the film. Pine, a stranger to roleplaying games, decided to let his nephew, an RPG fanatic, run a game for him and his extended family. The result was so much fun that Pine immediately understood what the big deal was, and the world he was entering. 

It has your favorite monsters

The "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" clips shown to the Hall H crowd did feature dungeons and dragons, but they also featured other mainstays from the franchise. Namely, the other things besides dragons that'll kill you in those dungeons. The trailer gives key screen time to an owlbear (one of the most delightful/strange/popular creatures from the game manuals), but the clips showcased other familiar allies and foes. 

One clip set in a crumbling graveyard saw the adventuring party communicating with various undead corpses, a reminder that a great D&D story has as much chatter as it does head-chopping. The second saw the team trapped in a magical labyrinth in a gladiatorial arena in the city of Neverwinter, where they are pursued by all manner of monsters in front of a cheering crowd. The biggest threat is the Displacer Beast, a giant panther-like creature with tentacles protruding from its back that can create illusions of itself to draw prey in the wrong direction (clever girl). But there are other threats to be found: A treasure chest turns out to not be a treasure chest at all, but a Mimic, with its lid opening to reveal rows of sharp teeth an slimy tongue; one hapless character takes a turn too quickly and runs face first into a Gelatinous Cube, which is, uh, exactly what it sounds like. 

Seeing these ridiculous monsters realized onscreen like this is joy for longtime fans, and it looks like Daley and Goldstein have picked their fair share of traditional creatures as well more nonsensical, niche choices. 

It feels like a comedy

Daley and Goldstein have a long history of writing and directing comedies, and "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" seems to take advantage of that. Hugh Grant compared the script to the worth of famed U.K. comedy troupe Monty Python, and you can absolutely see that in the footage screened in Hall H. The first long clip, involving a series of interrogations of resurrected corpses, many of whom are less than useless in helping the heroes find the answers they're looking for, feels very much in line with their work on "Game Night." The second clip, while more action-focused, still maintains a sharp edge of humor, with characters encountering grisly ends at the jaws and claws of monsters even as the tone remains more wry than self-serious. 

Perhaps some fans will be upset at the prospect of a Dungeons & Dragons movie that doesn't take the material too seriously, but that would be missing the point. Half of the fun of a great D&D campaign is the party stumbling through a situation rather than finding an elegant, action-hero-esque solution. Leaning into the comedy, and the inherent bumbling of a fantasy adventure, is very much in the spirit of the original game. 

It has a real heavy metal edge

Even though the humor quotient is high, "Honor Among Thieves" looks to deliver on the big, fantasy action you'd expect from a tentpole blockbuster. And in true D&D style, many of the situations, creatures, and action beats showcased in the Hall H footage and in the new trailer look like they belong on the cover of a lost '80s hard rock album, or painted on the side of a van owned by that odd guy who works at the record store. The use of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" in the trailer hammers the point home. Dungeons & Dragons was born out of the '70s and took flight in the '80s, and the artwork associated with the franchise has never lost sight of that. This movie has the potential be metal AF, and the glimpses of footage we've seen so far — big swords, bigger demons, battles above fiery hellscapes — certainly feel like something a young kid listening to loud music in his mom's basement would dream up between dice rolls. 

Hugh Grant should be on more Comic-Con panels

This is less about the movie and more about how the current era of Hugh Grant is one that will hopefully continue indefinitely. After so memorably playing the villain in "Paddington 2," Grant has fully abandoned his leading man days and has embraced being a weirdo character actor. Naturally, that seems to involve playing a figure who is clearly up to no good in "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves." He seems to relish the chance to cut loose, and his scoundrel ways were on full display during the Comic-Con panel.

When asked about his previous experience with D&D, Grant interrupted Rodriguez, noting that he thought the movie was about S&M. Without missing a beat, and caring nothing for the children in the audience, Grant quipped that yes, he was an experienced Dungeon Master. All hail villainous Hugh Grant.

"Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" hits theaters on March 3, 2023.