Hitman. Bloodrayne. House of the dead. All games that were turned into movies. Terrible, terrible movies. There is the occasional adaptation that is “passable” (Resident Evil, Silent Hill) but the problem seems to be being unable to capture the atmosphere and immersion that the game created. Sure, you’ve got people of the same name, and in the same location, but watching a character do stuff you can’t control when you know you can command them in a game is hardly fun. One of the worst examples is Doom; there’s even a scene that imitates (or mocks, as I see it) the view given in a FPS (that’s First Person Shooter to the non-gamers). But, movie studios can create absolute garbage adaptations, knowing that gamers will flock to see the big screen kill their favourite characters, with no health packs to save them. Thankfully, Prince of Persia manages to break the curse of bad game-to-movies. But only just.
Based on the game of the same name, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (or PoP as I will refer to it here on in) follows Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), an orphan from the streets of sixth century Persia. He is taken into the Kings court and raised as royalty after the King witnesses him carry out a courageous act. But after the King dies under scandalous circumstances, Dastan must team with a rival princess (Gemma Arterton) to clear his name and convince his other brothers of the truth, which involves a plan of rewinding time using a sacred dagger and The Sands of Time. Okay, so that summary isn’t gonna win any awards, but neither is the plot itself. There are a few twists, but nothing so completely mindbending that it’s difficult to understand. We’ll get that with Inception.
When Gyllenhaal was cast as the PoP, I was sceptical. For a guy who’s played a lot of nerdy, weak looking characters, it hardly seemed to fit. He’s a great performer; Zodiac was a great showcase of his talents. The closest he came to a “tough guy” was Jarhead, but to play a muscled hero? Hardly seemed plausible. But I can safely say that no one else would have fit the role as well as he did. Well, maybe one person. Tobey Maguire; but that’s simply because they both look exactly the same. They even made a movie where they were Brothers. Entitled Brothers. As for the female lead, she was much too similar to Rachel Weisz in The Mummy to be critiqued for her performance. It was nothing extraordinary, but did the role justice: which basically consisted of looking pretty and acting a little ditzy but headstrong.
I didn’t play the game enough to say if it is a “worthy” adaptation, nor am I going to tell you if there are any easter eggs such as “Remember the cat from the 3rd game that assists you on a side quest? WELL IT’S IN THE MOVIE!” because I simply don’t know if there are any. The only thing I do know is that an early scene uses a 360 degree character shot in homage to Assassins Creed. You’ll know the one. But as a standalone movie, it does succeed by entertaining.
That’s not to say it’s without its flaws: I expected more “back in time” scenes than were actually shown. The focus of the story is more about getting the dagger safe, rather than its power, which doesn’t quite do the overall task justice. And the constant back and forth “no it’s my dagger!” between Dastan and Tamina becomes tiresome quickly. Their childish bickering doesn’t carry the same humour that was found between Brendan Frasier and Weisz, nor are the characters in this as likeable. Fortunately there is comic relief in the form of Sheik Amar (played by an almost unrecogniseable Alfred Molina, better known as Doc Ock from Spiderman 2) who provides some gems of one liners. Ben Kingsley is, and it pains me to say this, disappointing as the villain. He doesn’t look menacing enough, or sound aggressive in any way. One scene that required a demanding tone just comes off hilarious: it’s not quite on the same par as OUTLAWWWHHH in Robin Hood, but it’s certainly close.
Essentially, Prince of Persia is a run of the mill action/adventure movie with the benefit of ready moulded characters. This was probably the best way to go about making the movie, as it can appeal to a wider audience who haven’t played the game thoroughly (such as myself) but are aware of its existence. The closing scenes don’t exactly hint at a sequel, but end on a plausible high, with the option of a follow up still open. Which I certainly wouldn’t mind, as long as it’s set in a parallel universe, and Maguire is Dastans evil twin…