By Nick Manteris · 1 Comments · Leave a Comment
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is the latest film from Mike Newell, who is probably best known for directing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. A buffed-up Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Dastan, a surprisingly agile street urchin that becomes a prince…by essentially throwing an apple. There’s more to it than that, but the slight sense of bewilderment that accompanies this unlikely concept is one that is also present during much of the movie. The plot device driving the story forward is a dagger that can control time, but the events are unnecessarily complex and it seems like the writers (there were at least four of them) never really thought things through completely.
The time-travel abilities of the dagger are easy enough to accept (mainly because it just happens onscreen), but the origins of the dagger make little sense…we learn where it came from, but the why and what-for apparently don’t exist. The keeper of this plot device is Princess Tamina, played by Gemma Arterton. (And I think it’s safe to say I have a small crush on her now: at one point in the film I completely spaced out and missed a chunk of her dialogue while intently staring at her lips.) Her character is one of many that – possibly because of multiple writers – seems all over the place. Much like a fish on land, the loyalties of the myriad characters flip-flop their allegiances and it makes for a very disjointed viewing experience. Reluctant associates turn into friends and then into enemies before becoming reluctant associates and then friends again.
The basic storyline is rumored to be loosely based on the 2003 video game of the same name, but some elements from later games have also been included. The Prince of Persia series of games are all fairly well received and have been pretty successful overall. (I’ve only played the original 1989 side-scrolling game, but I’ve heard good things about many of the others.) The action scenes are all filmed in a frenetic way that almost makes scenes from Bourne Supremacy seem easy-to-follow and several sequences seemed specifically geared as a nod towards the gamers.
It’s a lot better than the recent Clash of the Titans remake (which also starred Gemma Arterton) and it’s better than the vast majority of films that are based on video games. Of course – since there are probably freshly painted walls that are more entertaining – that isn’t really saying much at all. The only video game movies that approach the same level as this one are Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (easily the most successful video game adaptation), Silent Hill (which had a few awesomely visceral moments) and Resident Evil – though Resident Evil should lose points for spawning a sequel: one of the worst, most nonsensical films since motion pictures were created.
Being one of the best of the video games movies isn’t much of an achievement, but it beats being one of the worst… and this could be the start of a rise in quality for adaptations in general. Prince of Persia is not a great movie – there’s not really much that hasn’t been seen somewhere else – but it works, the ride is entertaining enough and it’s one of the better options currently in theaters.