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Dungeons and Dragons: Honour Among Thieves

I thought the latest cinematic attempt to do Dungeons and Dragons was really entertaining, really silly fun. Apparently it was a great big box office bomb though, despite taking a seemingly-respectable take, because it cost so much to make – I hope the studios take the right lesson from all the times this seems to be happening recently, and try to make great movies with smaller budgets again rather than just throwing more and more money at things and hoping for the best. Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez star as Edgin Darvis and Holga Kilgore, friends out to get the former’s daughter back from the clutches of his old mate (Hugh Grant) while fighting off the evil of the Red Wizards.

Lorne Balfe’s score is excellent, one of his best. I didn’t review it at the time because it was released on a 90+ minute album which was too long but a while later, along came another album, “The Dungeonmaster’s Jukebox”, which might not sound like too promising a title but is actually a very welcome arrival presenting Balfe’s main thematic ideas for the film in a nice 35-minute run time (as he did with the theme albums for His Dark Materials, which I thought were great). While devotees will of course prefer the lengthy album – this one is just perfect for the likes of me.

Edgar Davids

It opens with “Holga Kilgore”, a lovely theme for our heroine, with a Celtic flavour to it (Balfe doesn’t often get to play with the music of his Scottish heritage so it’s nice to hear him doing so here). It’s full of an adventurous spirit and determined heroism. Next is “Edgin Darvis”, a more dashing if less distinctive theme, more reminiscent of the composer’s great work on Black Widow.

“Xenk Yender Theme” (for the chap from Bridgerton) has an elegance to it before “Doric Theme” has a more wistful, lilting quality (it’s really beautiful). “Friendship” brings back the Holga theme, this time starting off in a much softer, more emotional way but it’s not long before it builds up to a really stirring anthem – I love the brassy blasts. For “The Red Wizards” Balfe provides a traditional villain theme, with ominous choral chants joining the swirling doom-mongering of the orchestra (hints of Black Adam here).

The Celtic sound returns for “The Gang Theme”, starting out with a little jig playing against the warm strings before it starts soaring away – it’s a really nice theme. “Homelands” is like a musical depiction of a gentle breeze clearing the mist away from a beautiful landscape – heavenly winds floating over chimes and whistles – very good stuff. That very much continues into “Kira”, the theme for Pine’s daughter, though the more folksy influence roots it more firmly in the ground and the choir is a nice touch. We end with a return to the main theme again in “Holga’s Pride”, a warm and triumphant finale to the album.

While you don’t get the action music on this album and by design it’s more got the flow of a crossover concept album or something rather than the dramatic impetus you tend to get with a “proper” film score, I think it’s genuinely great, one of Balfe’s best. The themes stick, there’s real beauty, it’s a really well-rounded album on its own terms, and I recommend it highly.

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  1. Dirk (Reply) on Wednesday 23 August, 2023 at 13:42

    Hi James,
    WHY is there a picture of our Dutch soccer player Edgar Davids in this review with mentions ‘Edgin Darvis’???

  2. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Saturday 14 October, 2023 at 14:32

    “The themes stick” – well, can’t say I agree.

    Like many of Balfe’s recent efforts it is a pleasant, superficially enjoyable album with two major flaws: the ordinariness of the melodies, and the cheap nature of the sound. Your abrupt glowing embrace of this guy’s music over the last few years has been one of the strangest developments I’ve ever witnessed in a film music reviewer – I wish I was getting as much out of him as you suddenly seem to be.