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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Prince of Persia Swashbuckles With Average Filmmaking

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time:  6 out of 10
Prince Dastan: I've seen it's power with my own eyes. Releasing the Sand turns back time. Only the holder of the Dagger is aware what's happened.
Video game adaptations have clearly not been the best source for feature films thus far. I continue to stand by my decision that Mortal Kombat is still the best screen adaptation; however, this big budget adventure movie based on the Prince of Persia series is a close second. While not the strongest in terms of characters/dialogue/narrative, it still manages to be a very an acceptable film that may play it safe, but is still fun.


Jake Gylenhaal stars as Dastan, the adopted prince of Persia, who becomes involved in a serious situation. It seems the city he and his brothers have just conquered holds a secret; a mystical dagger which holds the sands of times, unleashing the powers of time travel upon the user. Daston becomes the holder of the dagger, but a sticky situation emerges once he is framed for murdering his father, the king. Now Dastan must work with a mysterious princess (Gemma Arterton) who knows all about the dagger, in order to clear his name, save his kingdom, and make sure the dagger stays out of any possible evildoers hands, namely the king's dastardly brother, played by Ben Kingsley.

The hope I had for this latest video game movie came in the form of Jerry Bruckheimer. Bruckheimer knows how to supply escapist fun to most of the films that he touches, which lead to the lightening in a bottle that was the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. With that applied to a film like this, which has good potential for a film, along with a talented cast that also includes Alfred Molina for some solid comic relief, and director Mike Newell, who has a diverse but mostly solid filmography under his belt; it would seem like this film had a lot of things going for it. Unfortunately is not exactly a runaway hit in terms of being completely solid, but it does have enough to offer.

This film does essentially nail the tone that it should be striving for. The film is breezy, mostly fast paced, and pretty action packed. The missing element from all of this is the kind of Johnny Depp character that Pirates had, which made an old/standard type of plot much more interesting and fun. Here we have Gyllenhaal and Arterton bickering, and a number of other elements, but it never goes somewhere greater. The film certainly isn't hurt by these actors, they are quite fine, but nothing special.

The action is kinda solid. In terms of quantity, yes there is a lot; quality on the other hand is a different story. The film tries to handle some of the parkour skills that the Prince is known for, but this isn't a low budget French feature, this is the Hollywood style of parkour and it only goes so far. There is plenty of swashbuckling at play as well, but way to much editing and close ups going on; some wide angles would have been nice and coherent.

In terms of staying true to the game; a lot of core elements remain intact. The dagger isn't exactly used to its best potential, but the idea is there. No sand monsters though. I've already mentioned the Prince's acrobatic prowess; and some of the core characters are fairly similar. The score by Harry Gregson Williams also did a good enough job on reflecting the score of the game. Somewhat odd was the various similarities to Assassin's Creed I found throughout the film. Certainly fitting, given the setting, but it's as if they knew how thin the Prince of Persia game was and needed more for this adaptation.

Now beyond some previous elements I have mentioned, the film still is, for the most part fun. Even with all the expository dialogue, sense of self importance in its themes of destiny and family, and some hokey CGI, I still enjoyed a lot of this film. It certainly looks like they put the budget on screen. A lot of good production design, and seeing 1000s of real people opposed to CG ones is nice. And despite some of my complaints about the action, there are a number of fun sequences as well.

Maybe not quite there yet for video game movies, but still enough here to recommend.

Tamina: Dastan, where's the Dagger?
Prince Dastan: You're welcome to search me for it. You'll have to be very thorough.

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