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How Homage in 'Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves' Highlights the Easter Egg Hole in Our Soul
There are tons of articles on Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, so I wanted to do something different. Both different from standard review content and different from the type of article I normally write. We’ll be looking at the film’s easter eggs as homage and why that kind of storytelling points to a deeper need in our souls.
Class: Sophisticated Celebs, Education, and Characters
I believe this movie has finally come about after forty-nine years of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) existing, partly due to the game’s celebrity endorsements. Some of these are famous groups and players, who I happen to have some history with, such as “Critical Role” (Matt Mercer almost hit me with his car once), Vin Diesel (I was on the set of The Fast and the Furious…but didn’t meet him), and Joe Manganiello (my wife thinks he has big muscles).
Even though the film reaped indirect benefits from nerdy celebrities being vocal about their love for D&D, that doesn’t mean the filmmakers had an easy task. This type of fantasy film is very difficult to pull off. Filmmakers John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein must show enough of the universe to stay true to the source material, please fans (some of whom have loved the content for decades), while making sense to people who have never played a D&D game.
Credit must go to the actors, who deliver perfectly timed dialogue while put in often surprising and hilarious situations. But the genius of the filmmakers was to include a number of overt and subtle references. There is an interesting Judeo-Christian similarity with Jesus’ words referencing and homaging the Old Testament, as we’ll see in a moment. But for now enjoy some treasures from Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. The list below isn’t even easter eggs to D&D canon, just some of the references to other pop culture artifacts.
Verily, I warn thee, spoilers ensue.
A Treasure Chest of Pop Culture
When the Owlbear smashes someone it is reminiscent of Hulk smashing Loki in The Avengers (2012).
Sometimes the filmmakers used Monty Python-esque humor, being sure not to mock the source material while injecting absurdity [IMDb].
One absurd portion heavily influenced by Monty Python is the graveyard scene. The directors explain:
Goldstein: “Our original idea was to have the Monty Python guys voice those corpses, but for a number of reasons, it didn't come to pass.”
Daley: “Most of those reasons are money.”
Goldstein: “And some of them are dead. It’s true.” [Collider].
“The film shares shooting locations with the Harry Potter series. Especially obvious during some interior scenes which are an exact match for the hallway scenes from Hogwarts.” [IMDb].
The filmmakers used soundstages from Game of Thrones. Although the directors have some interesting commentary on the quality of those stages [Collider].
The videogames Portal (2007) and Portal 2 (2011) have a clear homage in the look and sound of the Hither-Thither staff [IMDb].
“A nod to the characters from the classic animated series Dungeons & Dragons (1983) can be seen in the maze sequence, consisting of Hank the Ranger, Diana the Acrobat, Eric the Cavalier, Sheila the Thief, Presto the Magician and Bobby the Barbarian.” [IMDb].
Speaking about the design of a specific dragon, Daley said, “Using its spine to flip itself over, which was partly what inspired what we call the Jurassic Park shot. Yeah, there are a few homages to Jurassic Park, including the very beginning when Gorg the hobgoblin was being carted in. I mean, that's the love letter to my favorite filmmaker, [Steven Spielberg], who truly inspired me to make movies.” [Collider].
The aforementioned homage (noted as Gorg’s entrance) is referencing the opening raptor cage scene in Jurassic Park. It’s fascinating that Daley didn’t just homage the shots but used Spielberg’s opening scene as his opening scene too.
To Homage is to Honor
According to Oxford Languages, homage can be defined as “special honor or respect shown publicly” and is often related to the arts. When we reference an existing source, usually in an oblique way, we honor the source and potentially strengthen our position. Jesus often cited or implied connections to Old Testament portions of Scripture to prove that His statements were well founded. But just like the D&D filmmakers, if you didn’t know the reference (i.e. were a Gentile), you still could get something good and essential from what Jesus said.
Jesus quoted from the book of Psalms more than any other Old Testament book. One example is when He claimed He would be killed on a cross long before it happened (Matt 27:46, Mark 15:34). His reference came from Psalm 22:1, which was a prophecy that the Savior would be murdered in this way.
Another time Jesus explained that for no reason people would despise Him with an irrational hatred (John 15:25). In this case, Jesus paraphrased three separate verses: Psalm 35:19, 69:4, and 109:3. As we’ll see in a minute, Jesus’ words were more than references, they were clues and claims of His criticality.[i] So it’s clear Jesus was fond of overt and subtle homages, but why?
Humanity’s enjoyment of easter eggs and other references is more than a passing interest in “behind the scenes” access. Yes, there is a part of us that simply enjoys pulling The Wizard of Oz’s curtain back to see what makes something work. But there is an unexplainable deeper enjoyment when we see intentional connections in storytelling and life in general.
Jesus didn’t just make references for our appreciation, although I believe that since He created us, that’s certainly a factor. Jesus was also increasing our opportunities for faith by predicting key moments in His life and the future of the world. And He didn’t only predict, He also fulfilled prophecies. This provides a foundation for our faith to be placed in Him as God and our Messiah.
While Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves isn’t nearly as significant as the true savior of humanity, it’s a delightful homage to the types of references the Bible intentionally uses. My prediction is that this film will have self-referential sequels, which will make the franchise stronger and more fun. Understanding we have an easter egg-shaped hole in our souls surprised me and I enjoyed realizing that films like D&D can point toward that hole but only Jesus can fill it.
[i] Consequentially, a somewhat better comparison to Jesus’ meanings would include the D&D film’s game references (which I mentioned earlier). But I wanted everyone, D&D fan and otherwise, to enjoy this article so I left out the game easter eggs.