For nearly a century filmmakers have been trying to take stories from other mediums and turn them movies. Of course movies have been turned into books and video games based off of movies have plagued us at every corner. This past decade has littered with films desperately trying to grasp at the honey pot that games have a firm grip on. But like a four year old who doesnít know what a bee sting feels like they keep grabbing the sweet goodness without thinking it through. Naturally most of the problem is that studioís rarely put any faith or real talent behind the films based off of video games. Now we have Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time starring Jake Gyllenhaal and directed by Mike Newell.
The 2003 game is an incredible mix of fantasy and action that catches the imagination with itís cinematic style. The film also tries to capture this same mix with varied degreeís of success. For the first thirty minutes the film follows the plot of the game almost too the letter, but after that the film decides to take a left turn at Albuquerque which ends up being a good thing. Instead of focusing entirely on a small set of events within a castle like the game the film decides to look outside the walls and explore the landscape as well as the characters that inhabit it.
Donnie Darko plays the hero of this tale, the prince Dastan, which was jarring at first. Gyllenhaal as an actor seemed awkward in the role, but over time you no longer think of actor but of the character. Just like the game the Prince begins the film being arrogant and naive, and as with the game we watch his character grow. By the end of the film we see the change in him as he is forced to look at his own actions and the consequences that put him in a dangerous situation. Gyllenhaal plays it by the numbers and does his job to a fault.
But whatís a prince with out a princess? A really boring film, so we are given the stunning Gemma Arterton. Sadly she is given some of the worst dialogue in the film. The Princessís role is too give exposition and there is plenty to give. Arterton does her best by playing not so much a princess but a sort of nun tasked with a great secret. And although her approach helped the role to become tolerable she still felt like ExpositionLady trying to save the day even when we didnít need it.
Thankfully Ben Kinsley gives us a villain a little bit more memorable than the game. In the game the Vizier showed up at the beginning acting all evil and then showed up at the end to pull off his evil plan only to be thwarted by the Prince. But here Kinsley actually uses his acting skills for once and downplays the evil of his character masterfully. Never forget this is a big summer action flick so near the end of the film Kinglsy hams it appropriately and maybe a little too much at times. At all times we understand what he is trying to accomplish giving the film real stakes unlike a lot of films that never communicate what might actually happen if the bad guy wins.
But sadly the actors seemed tied to the script. This film travels at a break neck speed and never lets up and for the most part the dialogue is not that great. Very rarely are there any slow moments and when there are itís usually the princess wheeling out her white board of explaining things making sure that everyone knows whatĎs going on. Other than that the film demands the audience to keep it at fifty five miles per hour. There are a couple of scenes when everything is fine and within a few moments all hell breaks loose with an explanation why it broke loose in the middle of the chaos. Then on the other hand there is an extended scene of assassinís flipping, kicking, and fighting each other is menacing ways just in case we didnít know what an assassin was. A quick side note: for a moment I thought they where tying the Prince of Persia world to the Assassinís Creed world, you be the judge.
As an audience member I never felt bored by the film. There is plenty of action to go around at every turn. The film opens with a huge Lord of the Rings battle scene. And although the CG isnít really up to par it fit into the fantasy world they eventually establish. However at other times the green screening does get a little noticeable which is sad since the Prince moves so with such weight and speed you find yourself really getting involved with every jump, slide, and punch. But this filmís bread and butter is the fighting and Gyllenhaal really sells it. Even the group of assassinís get there own little moments either fighting the Prince himself or in any of the dozen or so action scenes. And all the action sequences have something interesting in them. From the Princeís parkor kung-fu to a really cool knife throwing fight near the end of the film, hell there is even a ostrich race in this film that is hysterical to watch.
In conclusion the film is good, not great but good. Itís a fun ride that doesnít completely talk down to itís audience and provides some spectacular action. But the interesting part of this film is the relation it has to the game. Within ten minutes the film rips full action and puzzle moments straight from the game. Various other films have tried similar troupes. The one that comes to mind the most is the POV shot from the Doom film which was ambitious but ultimately failed. However in this film it works. We see the Gyllenhaalís prince work out the puzzle in his head and complete that task just as a gamer would sitting in front of puzzle in the game.
While the 2003 game takes place within a giant castle filled with enemies, traps, and a variety of environments, the film borrows heavily from that but doesnít completely dwell on what made the game successful. Like any good adaptation they took what they needed from the source material and added on to that to making a successful film. This is the trap that nearly all other video game to movie adaptations have had. They either focus entirely on the concepts of the game or completely throw that book out the window and use the license to sell their product. The film Prince of Persia is capable of standing on itís own and at no point does the audience need any knowledge that the game exists. At no point does the film scream out that it was a video game for perhaps a single moment early in the film.
The film is completely passable and mainstream audience will most likely eat it up. So Iím pretty confident that this is the best video game film to date. At no point did I ever groan at the film which is more than I can say for any other adaptation of this nature. The film never surprises but as a big action film itís a good time and a great family film .
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