Saturday, August 25, 2012

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Film)

If there's one type of movie that can never seem to catch a break, it would be the video game movie. No matter what Hollywood does to a license, beginning with the very first, it always seems to end in disaster (though some would argue that Hollywood merely touching it is the problem). It is so troubled in fact, that some franchises have been announced but remain in development hell, such the supposed Uncharted and BioShock movies. However, at least a couple of these movies, while still not received well (perhaps under the assumption it will suck anyway), are considered to be a cut above the average adaptation and serve to show a step in the right direction toward what video game movies can become if they really tried hard to make it suitable for the silver screen. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is one of these movies.

After performing a heroic act in his childhood, the orphan Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) is adopted by King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup) as a new Prince of Persia. 15 years later, Dastan is leading an attack with his adoptive brothers, Tus (Richard Coyle) and Garsiv (Toby Kebbell), and his uncle, Nizam (Ben Kingsley), on the city of Alamut under the belief that they are selling weapons to Persia's enemies. During their successful attack, Dastan comes into possession of a unique dagger, but thinks nothing of it at this time. In the ceremony following the victory, Dastan unknowingly presents a poisoned robe, given to him by Tus, to King Sharaman. Upon the king's death, Tahmina (Gemma Arterton), Princess of Alamut, flees with Dastan while he still has the dagger. Once they are out in the desert, the prince finds out the dagger he's carrying is the Dagger of Time, a mystical object with the ability to reverse the flow of time itself. With this knowledge the stakes are raised, as he must now not only clear his name and uncover who killed Sharaman, but also prevent the dagger form falling into the wrong hands. At the same time, he must also avoid an untimely death by the hands of the Hassansins.

Now I'll be honest here and say that I have had a very limited exposure to the Prince of Persia franchise, having only played the cash-in title Forgotten Sands. However I did follow coverage of this movie's production because I had interest in the franchise, especially when I learned that the creator, Jordan Mechner, was actually going to be involved; he would end up being credited for Screen Story and as an Executive Producer. I learned that while they weren't going to follow the Sands of Time story exactly, they were going to take some of the best elements and craft a new story, something that I think they managed to succeed in doing to some degree. While I don't know how it works compared to the original source material, I found myself enjoying the story and seeing Dastan's character progression through to the end. It manages to establish everything it needs to pretty well and not only stick with it, but follow through with it and deliver. The movie is overall very consistent and I give it kudos for that.

Where it may falter a little however is the acting. Now, I do think they cast good actors to play the characters, but they way they deliver the dialogue is just okay. It's far from bad, but it seemed more average than I remembered it being when I first saw it in the theater. Despite this I was able to believe that these characters could exist, though Arterton overdoes her character a little bit and comes off as weaker than a princess like her would probably be in her situation. Gyllenhaal still stands out to me as Dastan, since his character is the most fleshed out and I did actually feel happy for him by the end. Nazim was also a real monster of a villain, even to the point where I thought he was a going a bit too far in his plan to use the dagger's full power to wipe out the only good thing he ever did and become king by letting his brother die at the hands of a lion.

While the story and characters, though consistent, seem a little underdone one way or another, I do however praise just about everything else. It's clear that they really wanted to make this movie the best it could be by giving it a shocking budget and getting people who would be passionate enough to want to do a good job (Gyllenhaal even played the games during shooting) and it definitely shows. The designs of the costumes and props have an absolutely phenomenal amount of detail to set the scene in the equally interesting shooting location of Morocco. I also loved the special effects, particularly the time travel effects of the Dagger of Time, which allows for some amazing shots, culminating in the person returning to their original body in a cool way. There's also some heavy parkour action in the movie, which makes sense since it's Prince of Persia after all, that I thought was done and coordinated very well. Clever editing allows us to believe that Gyllenhaal did everything onscreen, though from what I read of the production I have a hard time believing that he didn't do as much as he possibly could to fill the role of Dastan, including the stunts. The score by Harry Gregson-Williams is also pretty good, though I wouldn't consider it very memorable.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a video game movie with clear passion behind it. The story and characters are both interesting, with enough attention dedicated to keep the finer details consistent and make the action look as impressive as it can. While not perfect, the results represent a step in the right direction for creating a live action adaptation of a video game, including the vital decision of getting the original creator to work on it (in this case Jordan Mechner). If you want to see a great action film, and don't mind imagining the world as great video game levels, then feel free to give this one a shot.

No comments:

Post a Comment