‘Dungeons & Dragons’ Proves It: Chris Pine Is the Best Chris
There may be no bigger surprise of blockbuster cinema in 2023 than the reveal that Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is actually kind of great. Expectations weren’t high for a fantasy-comedy based on the world’s most iconic role-playing game, especially given the execrable adaptation of 20 years prior. Yet this film is a welcome
There may be no bigger surprise of blockbuster cinema in 2023 than the reveal that Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is actually kind of great.
Expectations weren’t high for a fantasy-comedy based on the world’s most iconic role-playing game, especially given the execrable adaptation of 20 years prior. Yet this film is a welcome triumph, a loving homage to a geek favorite that’s specific enough in its jokes to win over even the most ardent fans—and you don’t have to know the game inside out to enjoy what is essentially the fantasy version of Game Night (it’s no coincidence that both films share screenwriters.)
Time will tell if general audiences are eager for such a film, but for fans of its leading man, it’s another sign of his winning streak in a long-fought battle of Hollywood hunks. Let’s be honest here: We all know that Pine is the best Chris, right?
Christopher Whitelaw Pine. How do we even begin to explain the Best Chris, and one of our current era’s best leading men? He’s the sort of guy who calls for a Regina George-esque list of qualities: He’s a book nerd who once took a college class on erotic writing; his grandmother was one of the original Scream Queens; Barbra Streisand duetted with him on one of her albums; he used a flip-phone for many years; he takes ballet classes; and, one time, he totally didn’t get spat on by Harry Styles. It was awesome. What’s not to like about Chris Pine, and why is his greatness so often overlooked in the enduring battle of Chris domination?
We love to rank the quartet of Chrises—Hemsworth, Evans, Pine, and Pratt—for many reasons. For one, it’s just fun to make hot guys compete against one another, which panders heavily to the internet’s love of lists and hunks. Its primary appeal, however, lies in how these men, so similar in terms of appeal and branding, represent a microcosm of Hollywood in the superhero era (this is also why the likes of Chris Messina can’t be included in the core group. Sorry.)
Here are four guys, tall and hot and white, with the same name who were pushed into the limelight via the new age of franchise blockbuster cinema that now dominates our landscape. Even as the entertainment world makes leaps and bounds in terms of ambition, diversity, and international awareness, it speaks volumes we’re still so keen to adjudicate this severely narrow strain of Chris-dom.
Our Chrises have started to slowly emerge from the muscled hot hero mold they were initially forced into. Hemsworth is still Thor but has demonstrated his impeccable comedic timing in the likes of Ghostbusters and become a TV action-man on Limitless with Chris Hemsworth. After hanging up his Captain America shield, Evans is moving onto non-IP blockbuster fare, with the occasional stand-out supporting role in the likes of Knives Out. Pratt, as divisive as he is in terms of his politics, has built up a solid array of heroic parts that allow him to maintain the schlubby comic timing he perfected on Parks and Recreation.
But then there’s Pine, the dark horse of the pack who dresses like a Palm Springs playboy from 1976. He’s never been tied down to a Marvel contract, appearing instead in the Wonder Woman duology and as James T. Kirk in the Star Trek reboot trilogy. Unencumbered by the demands of the almighty MCU, he’s been able to take on a wider variety of projects that veer between him strengthening his hunky hero image (The Contractor, All the Old Knives), mocking it (Into the Woods), and abandoning it altogether (Hell or High Water, Z For Zachariah.)
If any Chris has got the range, it’s him. His best performances see him take on the staid restrictions of the industry’s expectations for such a leading man and find the nuances and humor within. He is, indeed, extremely hot—so classically good-looking that he wouldn’t seem out of place in a 1940s comedy alongside Katharine Hepburn (get this man in his own version of The Philadelphia Story, already!). Sure, it’s not as though Hollywood is denying opportunities to hot cishet white guys with abs you could grate cheese on, but it’s telling how Pine’s attempts to push those boundaries feel so fresh compared to his cohorts.
Potential is everything in Hollywood, an industry still highly averse to risk and any semblance of change. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, even if you’re a highly paid megastar. Indeed, you’re encouraged heavily to stay in your lane, because that’s where the money is.
Consider how Dwayne Johnson became a lucrative brand (one of the highest-paid in the business), but now only plays himself in blockbusters that all seem like the same movie. In a profile with the New York Times last year, Jennifer Lawrence noted how many juicy indie projects she missed out on because her agent didn’t let her know about them, putting pricey but messy scripts like Passengers in her view instead (yikes.) This led her to leave her agency of 10 years. What are the chances this is the norm for the most-prized clients of agents hungry for their 15 percent? They won’t get that from Lawrence making a Bela Tarr film, or Chris Evans turning down that Apple TV+ money in favor of a rising filmmaker with a $500,000 budget.
So Pine isn’t exactly turning down the blockbusters, but those quirks in his filmography feel like such intense potential for something more. It’s also indicative of an industry that doesn’t always know what to do with men like him. Dana Stevens of Slate called him “his generation’s Robert Redford,” thanks to his ability to simultaneously be an old-school leading man and a gritty character actor.
Pine can find the nuances within those more stifling roles, such as the Errol Flynn-esque charm he brings to Steve Trevor in the Wonder Woman films, which never overshadows his leading lady. But is this all they want from him? As Stevens notes, he often seems far smarter than the roles he takes on, more a thinker than a himbo. Maybe that’s why he’s now directing his own films. His filmmaking debut, Poolman, will see him in the leading role of a Chinatown-esque mystery that also stars Danny DeVito and Annette Bening. If the business can’t let him be more, he’ll do it himself (and look like Jeff Bridges as The Dude while doing it!)
Even though Hollywood doesn’t use him to his greatest abilities, Pine’s keenness and savvy shine through in roles good and not-so. This is the man who emerged from Don’t Worry Darling unscathed, which would suggest an adjacency to some sort of witchcraft. But if any Chris has the potential to be so much more, it’s him. Sorry, Evans. Apologies to Hemsworth. Nothing for you, Pratt. We know who truly owns your name.