“Dungeons & Dragons,” the iconic high fantasy tabletop game, pioneered the role-playing genre of games in the late 70s and has left an immense pop cultural footprint. The opportunity of creating a complex, intricate storyline and character arcs and flexing the innovative muscle by having the chance to make the game inclusive and practically feasible with nearly limitless possibilities has contributed to its steady and ever-increasing fan following through the decades. The scope of being a fantasy role playing game allows the players to choose from a wide variety of archetypal characters, divided into twelve main categories consisting of monk, paladin, ranger, rogue, barbarian, druid, fighter, sorcerer, cleric, bard, Wizard, and warlock. When the live-action movie adaptation of “Dungeons & Dragons” was announced, fans kept a close eye on the types of characters the movie would introduce and whether they would go through their character arcs with similar zeal.
As the movie begins, we are introduced to the two primary protagonists, Edgin Darvis and Holga Kilgore, two characters whom we can’t afford to discuss separately due to their interconnected arc. We will look at the background and actions performed by the characters as seen in the movie and the prequel comics titled “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves: The Feast of the Moon”.
The chief protagonist of the movie, whose motivations and personal quest shape the narrative, is the human bard Edgin Darvis. Charming, witty, and extremely persuasive, Edgin is someone whom we can call a master planner. Aside from a humble career as a bard spent composing, singing songs, and playing his lute, Edgin used to be a member of the Harpers, a secret peacekeeping organization that aimed to end tyranny. He helped the Harpers’ cause by acting as a spy and going on several missions. As a member of the Harper family, Edgin lived a respectable life with his wife, Zia, and earned an honest living. Unfortunately, his desire to have a taste of a better life led him to develop a proclivity toward thievery, which became his undoing. On a particular mission, Edgin and his Harper associates captured a Red Wizard of Thay, and while escorting him out, Edgin took some of the riches from the Wizard’s stash, not knowing that the Red Wizards tend to mark their belongings using magic. As a result, during Edgin’s absence, a band of Red Wizards made a visit to their house at Targos and killed his wife, Zia. The wound inflicted by the weapon of the Red Wizards had no cure, and Edgin could not help his wife by any means. During her final moments, Zia reveals to Edgin that she had managed to save their newborn daughter Kira. Edgin never truly recovers from this trauma and later uses all his resources, skills, and time to undo this one mistake. Disheartened, Edgin forfeited the Harper’s order.
After the death of Zia, Edgin tried to ease the pain of her demise by resorting to alcoholism and struggling in his role as a father to the infant Kira. As fate would have it, he met the outcast Elk Barbarian Holga Kilgore at that point in time, and gradually they became good friends. Holga shared a closer bond with Kira, and with time, he became a part of the family. To make ends meet, the two decided to resort to a life of crime, as they started looting the wealthiest establishments across the realm. At the same time, Edgin had a code about stealing only from those who could not feel the effect of the crime, as in the aristocrats and the affluent. Gradually, the duo recruited two others into their ranks: a small-time sorcerer named Simon Aumar and a rogue named Forge Fitzwilliam.
Edgin’s life took another wrong turn when he agreed to take a particular assignment suggested by Forge. During the proposal, when Edgin came to know that the mission would involve helping a wizard named Sofina steal from one of the Harpers Holds, his ethics stopped him, and he refused to steal from an organization he had previously been loyal to. But when Forge lets him know that there is a chance of stealing a Talisman of Reawakening from the place, which would allow him to resurrect his dead wife, Edgin sees this as his shot at redemption and agrees to partake. During the mission, the Holds’ security gets alerted, and Sofina uses a freeze-time spell after getting the particular relic she requires and traps the team to get them captured. Before becoming totally static due to the effect of the spell, Edgin managed to throw the talisman to a fleeing Forge and ask him to keep his daughter Kira safe. Edgin and Holga get captured by the authorities and are imprisoned for two years.
After escaping the prison, Edgin discovers that Forge has lied to Kira about her father’s motivations and adopted her as his own daughter. Unable to get either Kira or the talisman back from the conman, Edgin makes the journey of a lifetime along with Holga and other associates they recruit to gain access to the talisman and prove his innocence to his daughter. As Edgin confesses himself, even in a life of scoundrelly behavior, one of the most severe crimes he had committed was bereaving Kira of her father, whatever the reason might be, and he desperately wants to make amends for it. By the end of the movie, Kira and Edgin finally reconcile. Edgin also finally takes a heroic turn, when he decides to put aside his personal quest to save the people of Neverwinter from the deadly clutches of Sofina, and despite having everything he has wished for, turns his ship to honor the promise he made to Xenk. During the team’s battle with Sofina, Holga gets fatally injured, and once again, the weapon of the Red Wizard ensures that no cure is available. As Holga breathes her last, Edgin honors their friendship by using the talisman and resurrecting her instead of Zia. The spirit of high fantasy, which is so often signified by the bond of friendship, loyalty, and trust among the band of adventurers, is exemplified mostly by Edgin and Holga. Actor Chris Pine did a great job balancing the dry wit and despondency of Edgin, as well as the vulnerable, more emotional side of the character.
Holga can be considered the muscle of the ragtag team and is a strong Elk Barbarian with peak physical prowess and an expert in armed or unarmed combat. The reticent, reserved warrior lets her hands do the talking during a crisis situation and saves the day more often than not. At the very beginning of the movie, Holga takes care of a monstrous, deadly hobgoblin named Gorg with relative ease, proving her might. Props goes to Michelle Rodriguez who brought necessary physicality to the character. Holga was cast out of her tribe of Elk Barbarians for falling in love with a Halfling named Marlamin. The duo lived as a married couple for a while, but Holga was too emotionally disturbed over her abandonment by her family and tribe—which led to her separation from Marlamin too. Without a place to stay and without a family to look after, Holga came across a still-grieving Edgin and befriended him. It is with Kira that she established a strong emotional connection and was accepted as part of their family. Fiercely protective and loyal to her new family, Holga always looked after Edgin like a brother and became a mother figure to Kira. Although brutal and menacing in her demeanor during combat situations, Holga had a softer side reserved for people close to her, shared mostly with Kira, whom she affectionately nicknamed ‘Bug.’ Holga had followed Edgin ever since, right from a career in thievery to getting imprisoned to assisting him in his quest to retrieve the talisman, and Holga has been with him through thick and thin. When the rest of the team lost their faith in their quest and their trust in Edgin, even a disapproving Holga had his back.
Holga’s martial knowledge helped the team in their quest multiple times. It was Holga who suggested the team search and found the Helmet of Disjunction, which can help the sorcerer Simon amplify his power to break the seal of MordenKainen protecting Forge’s vault, and she brought the team to the burial ground of her tribe as the casualties of war had an idea of the Helmet’s whereabouts. Later, the staff she had given to her former husband, Marlamin, turns out to be the Hither-Thither staff, a portal-creating artifact that came in handy multiple times during their quest.
What Samwise was to Frodo, Holga is to Edgin. was to Holga’s relationship with Kira and Edgin played a vital part in the narrative. The prime objective of Edgin’s quest was to retrieve the Talisman of Reawakening to resurrect his dead wife, Zia, for which the team faced multiple trials and tribulations during the journey and risked their lives. But when Holga gets fatally injured, it dawns upon Edgin that it is not Zia, but Holga whom Kira knew as her mother. And the way Holga had proven to be a loyal, caring, trusting friend to Edgin, it was only fair that Edgin returned the favor by using the talisman to resurrect her and find bliss in the family he now has.