‘Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves’ is the Perfect Antidote to Pew Pew Magic
If you know me, you know I don’t like lazy depictions of magic. As I wrote in my article about combat magic in Willow, the MCU, and Harry Potter:
So often, combat magic is portrayed as a kind of metaphysical laser gun. You point your wand or your hand at someone, and—pew pew!—you try to take out your opponent by hitting them with a light beam. But combat magic could be so much more! Part of what makes fantasy so great is that literally anything is possible, and that principle still stands when you’re trying to kick someone’s ass.
Although not all the magic in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is used for combat, the movie shows what filmmakers can do when they take the time to think like a magician—and it’s a welcome antidote to the slapdash magic found in other fantasy franchises.
Some highlights of Dungeons & Dragons‘ magic
This section contains very mild spoilers for Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.
There’s so much creativity in this movie! Characters bring statues and gargoyles to life to fight for them. They make use of artifacts like the Helmet of Disjunction, the Tablet of Reawakening, and a hither-thither staff. They wake up corpses to get information. And of course there’s the beloved gelatinous cube, a classic D&D creature that’s used in a clever escape plan.
My favorite magic scene, though, is the druid Doric’s escape scene. Doric, who can shapeshift into an owlbear and other creatures, is doing some reconnaissance, and she needs to escape in a hurry. The camera chases her as she careens through passageways and crowded streets, shifting into various forms at dizzying speeds. The scene isn’t just a refreshing use of VFX. It also shows a magic user wielding their powers creatively, instead of just shooting energy blasts here and there.
Of course, the movie owes a huge debt to the original tabletop roleplaying game (which makes sense, seeing as it’s an adaptation). If you browse the list of spells available to D&D players, you’ll find a wealth of weird and wonderful types of magic, from spirit conjuration to mind control to a fun little trick called “Smilloc’s Snowball Swarm.” A game in which players could only shoot each other with lightning bolts would get boring pretty quickly, so it only makes sense that the game would get creative with its magical options. Even if you’re not a D&D player, the creativity that went into the original game design makes for a pretty fun movie.
Filmmakers, take note! This is how magic should be done.
(featured image: Paramount Pictures)
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