REVIEW: Prince of Persia

Hollywood (and to a greater extent Wermelskirchen, Germany) have long been the culprits of butchering, belittling, and sometimes outright desecrating our beloved video games in their attempts to adapt them to the silver screen. These attempts have left us first heartbroken, then indignant, and now finally bitterly cynical about any game that we discover to be bound for theaters. Unlike comic books that have movies such as Spider-Man (1 and 2) and Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, video games have not been graced with a truly good film. So does the new Prince of Persia movie provide vindication for our virtually interactive pastime?

The short answer is no.

BUT don’t go away yet, there’s more to it than that.


Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is not a movie that will be taking home any awards. It will not be praised by critics for its deep and moving narrative. It probably will not even justify its 200 million dollar budget. But one thing it will do is keep you entertained. This is a fun movie; nothing more, nothing less.

Water healed you in the game. I don’t think it does the same thing here.

For those of you looking for a true-to-the-game adaptation, it’s difficult to say what your reaction may be. Some will be satisfied with its adherence to the source material, while others will nitpick that it didn’t follow precisely the same story line as the Sands of Time game did. For the sake of this writing, I’ll address the former with continued examples and tell the latter to get over it and go back to your fanfiction. Prince of Persia does not follow every step of the Sands of Time game; which it really shouldn’t, because 2 hours of climbing up walls and stabbing sand demons would get old really quickly. So instead they changed the plot structure, ditched the sand demons in their entirety, and gave everybody a new name and backstory. It’s a bit different, but that’s okay, seeing as how the plot for the original Sands of Time wasn’t really useful for anything besides establishing gameplay elements.

Of course, seeing as how this is a movie that has no gameplay elements, most of the plot bits from the game are used as Macguffins. All you really need to know is that there’s a prince, a princess, a dagger that can rewind time, and a power-grabbing villain who’s a bit too obvious simply because he’s played by Ben Kingsley. For the sake of simplicity you really shouldn’t care too much about the story here. This is a Bruckheimer film, after all, and the man excels at marketing very predictable stories in very enjoyable packages. Ultimately, this is no different: not a lot of substance, but masked by a good amount of well-presented flash.

The enjoyment you’ll get from this film is only attainable when you pretty much abandon all hope that you’ll be getting anything meaningful. Instead, you should sit back, not analyze, and just let yourself have fun with it. The parkour scenes are where the bulk of the entertainment comes from, and while they’re not as impressive as some of the large-scale foot chases we’ve seen in recent years, they’re still fun to watch, and they evoke some memories of our own wall-runs and ledge-grabs while playing the game. And while a great many of the environments and sets are obviously (sometimes painfully) computer-generated, most all of the actual running and jumping is done by actual stuntmen, which is nice. The sword fights intermingled with the running are entertaining enough, even if the quirks given to some of the combatants are a bit too generic, and the time-warping powers of the dagger are always fun to watch, even if they are implemented somewhat sparingly and not to their full potential .

Every good attack needs to be accompanied with a face-twisting battlecry.

Apart from the action-flick appeal, there’s a surprising amount of entertainment present in the characters themselves. Now, I realize that there’s been a lot of bullsh- er, that is controversy over the casting decisions for this film. But this isn’t about that. The point is that the cast did a pretty decent job with their respective roles. I will say that regardless of the fact that Jake Gyllenhaal was supposed to be the star of this picture, his performance is dwarfed by that of Alfred Molina, who’s character further undermines any hint of seriousness the film may have had… but is damned funny doing it. It’s a somewhat unusual performance for the generally more high-profile actor, but he certainly boosted my opinion of the film a significant degree. Apart from Molina there are some fun moments of interaction between Gyllenhaal’s character of the Prince and the Princess Tamina, which was plainly modeled after the relationship between the Prince and Farah in the game. There are a few amusing tidbits of humorous bickering between the two and a moment near the end which borders upon the genuinely touching, but a good deal of their interactions sound a little too much like the 1989 Zelda cartoon. It’s not terrible, it’s just not quite as good as the dynamic exhibited in the game.

It’s not what it looks li-
Okay, actually, it might be. 

When you get right down to it, Prince of Persia is not a fantastic movie. It’s not even a very good movie. It’s just passable summer entertainment that’ll give you a good time for the duration of its 116 minutes, but you probably won’t remember too much of it after that. It’s quickly forgettable, but given how notably bad so many of its video game movie predecessors have been, perhaps this is a good thing. High-profile names like Gyllenhaal and Bruckheimer contributing to this project also indicates some hope for the future of game movies. Will we get a truly good one next time? Maybe the long-debated and long fought-over Halo or Metal Gear movies will be our next best hope. But in the meantime, just go see Prince of Persia. It’s the best we’ve got so far.

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