Friday, 21 May 2010

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time - Review

The road to the perfect 'game to movie' adaptation has often been a lonely, rocky, one in the world of cinema. Some might argue Hollywood's past choices were completely off the mark (Street Figther, Mortal Kombat and Doom), others might say there was never an appropriate budget to accommodate the sheer size and commitment needed to achieve a creditable feature (Tomb Raider, Hitman, Silent Hill and Max Payne) while some just feel those evil producer types are simply out to royally 'rape your childhood' (Super Mario Bros and Resident Evil). To put it kindly, it doesn't make for pleasant viewing.

So when mega-producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, goes out on a limb to bring yet another franchise to the big screen, heads understandably rolled - this critic's included. Surprisingly however, the results were quite pleasing. Having never fully played the Prince of Persia games since its original incarnation on the PC, back when the world was young, I was perhaps more open minded than I was when watching something like Super Mario Bros (even at seven years old, I knew it sucked).

The film gets off to a good start with a creditable leading performance from Jake Gyllenhaal. Taking elements from all three next generation POP titles - Sands of Time, Warrior Within and Two Thrones - the story sets the young Prince Dastan off on a perilous journey to clear his name for the murder of his father, while uncovering a hideous, albeit, standard conspiracy by his evil uncle to seize the throne and set off a spiral of events undoubtedly leading to armageddon.

First off, despite being directed by Mike Newell, the overall style of the film screams Bruckhiemer. Warm vivid colours, sultry female characters, large action set pieces and a story that everyone from the age of five would surely be able to grasp. This however doesn't detract from the amount of fun I had while watching the film.

With Walt Disney Pictures on board; the Pirates of the Caribbean references are justifiably applicable. Though set across a completely different landscape, one Captain Jack Sparrow would hardly feel out of place swashbuckling alongside Dastan. Certain scenes of Gyllenhaal dodging danger through crowded marketplaces were also reminiscent of the Disney animated classic, Aladdin.

Jake Gyllenhaal was as charismatic as he was predictably noble and heroic. The support performances from Sir Ben Kingsley and Gemma Arterton fitted the, standard evil uncle and damsel in distress/love interest, archetypes perfectly, while the personal highlight came from Alfred Molina for his light hearted, swindling con-man/ostrich bookie.

I wanted to walk out of this film, with a list of faults, the size of my arms, but if I'm being brutally honest my criticisms are pedantic at best. I never understand why American actors such as Gyllenhaal see the need to revert to English accents for this sorts of affairs. Sure Persian princes probably didn't sound like full-blooded Americans, but I doubt they sounded like they were born and raised on the Queen's English either.

Final Thoughts
It's scale is epic, it's story is painfully simple and the characters are lifted straight from Christmas pantomimes, but you know what? I enjoyed every single minute of it. Prince of Persia is possibly the first ever example of a computer game franchise turned into a fun action adventure affair on par with Bruckheimer's best. While Sands of Time can't atone for the sins of past attempts, the long lonely road for creditable video game adaptations isn't so lonely any more. Though if Pixar would just make a computer-animated Mario movie all would be forgiven...


See This If You Liked...

The Mummy, Pirates of the Caribbean, Aladdin.

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time is in cinemas nationwide now.

1 comment:

Olive said...

Enjoyed Prince of Persia too and am glad to finally find someone who did. It wasn't as bad as people say at all, I thought the acting wasn't great and it was all a bit pantomime as you say. But it was light, great for escapism, perfect summer viewing!