It's time for some fresh blood. So far, the big movies of our summer have all been revisits to characters we've seen in earlier versions (Iron Man, Carrie Bradshaw, Shrek). Now, we've finally got our first introductory tent-pole flick, and this time, it's based off of a video game. Viewed by two fans of action movies (Morrow McLaughlin and myself), how does this high-budget adaptation stand against other movies of its kind? Is this the breakthrough that the video game movie genre has been waiting for? Find out in TSR's latest episode of "He Said - She Said ..." Jeff Bayer's full Scorecard Review - 5/10
PLOT: Based on the popular video game, a rogue prince (Gyllenhaal) is set up for a crime, and must reluctantly join forces with a princess (Arterton) to stop an evil force from getting their hands on a mystical dagger that posses the ability to control time. (As always, we recommend you see the movie before reading onward as spoilers are fair game.) Begin!
Okay, so here's the thing...I enjoyed Prince of Persia. I thought it looked gorgeous, I thought the action was fun, and I liked Jake G. as Dastan. He's an odd choice, but he worked out just swimmingly. If the dialogue had been better, the movie would've been almost perfectly, mindlessly entertaining. Sure, it's trying to be another The Pirates of the Caribbean and yes it pilfered pretty liberally from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and, agreed, it's no where near as good as those movies...but I still liked it. I'm easy. I'm what you might call an action movie slut in that I'm just not that picky as long as the movie has some semblance of a pulse and it's not offensive. Now if we were arguing horror, I'd have my game face on. As it is, the Cagemaster has me at a disadvantage here--I'm the alcoholic at the wine tasting. I'm not going to be able to argue the finer points or the subtle blend of blabbity-blah, because I'm going to happily ingest everything in sight and feel good about it. Nick, the floor is yours. Commence jumping up and down on me a la The Spirit while I get all bashful and apologetic for liking something dumb.
Well, Morrow. You see, considering the context of Prince of Persia, I wanted to really like this movie. If I am not mistaken, it is the highest budget videogame adaptation, and I was hoping that this would be a shining day for the genre. Especially with the weight that Disney was putting behind it, I figured before it started that there was little way that this movie could be bad. I mean, would they throw all of this support to a script that didn't succeed past the videogame adapting power of Uwe Boll? There was no way that this could be like Bloodrayne, and I had hoped it would be at least a step up from the first Resident Evil, which can probably be chalked up as one of the better videogame adaptations (maybe).
What I was left with, after a mediocre two hour experience, was a large footprint for videogame movies that hardly moved beyond where they had originally been left. Meaning, this was indeed a big movie, one can only imagine its budget, but it still wasn't a huge step forward for the subgenre. Everything was incredibly formulaic, I think you're being courteous when you say that it "pilfered pretty liberally" from movies like Lord of the Rings. In fact, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time reminds me of those movies that are so formulaic, if one were to study the story's structure, they would immediately figure out how to write a standard "unlikely hero action adventure." Sarcastic hero? Check. Sassy love interest? Check. There's a whole bunch of cliches, but still, the Ben Kingsley twist was surprising. I didn't think he was the bad guy, and I thought that worked in the story, though watching him "fight" was kind of odd.
I can sense an indifference in you, young Padawan, but I am not letting you off the hook just yet. First of all, have you played the video game that this one shares the title with? Did you think the parkour action scenes were exciting or a bit overdone? And how about that ending? Lame, right? I had to ask THREE critics to understand how Dastan exactly saved the world - I wasn't the only person scratching my head at those red button shenanigans.
Let's clear something up: the Resident Evil movies (save the second...sheesh, what a turd) are a great time. The first one is especially inventive and Milla Jovovich doesn't even stink up the scenery like she always had in the past. If you and Jeff keep dismissing Resident Evil as just an "okay" video game to movie adaptation, I'm going to have to knock your heads together. I'll grant you this: it didn't pick any game in the Resident Evil series and stick to that story. So, if you're complaining as gamers, I'll let it go. (Obviously it's nowhere near as swell as Silent Hill...for more information please see my deep and incisive Top 7 Video Games to Movies).
Fortunately, Prince of Persia wasn't even in the same stratosphere as Bloodrayne. At least the filmmakers sort of, kind of tried to recreate the actual characters and story of the game. After seeing Bloodrayne, I sent mail bombs to various studio executives, a la the Unibomber, but without the intelligence and complexity.
Are you sensing indifference? I'd call it abashed before I'd call it indifference. I know the movie is crap, but it's fun crap and I've gotten to the point where I can't trust Hollywood with even basic standards when it comes to making video games into films. The action was what saved it for me, because I hate the whole "odd couple bickering tirelessly shenanigans, inevitably leading to love" scenario. It makes all the blood vessels in my eyeballs burst while I'm watching it. The most painful part of the whole movie was when there were two seconds left to save the world, everything is at stake, the walls are crumbling down around them, they may both die, if someone doesn't grab the dagger NOW humanity is doomed...and they pause to gaze into each other's eyes. Barf, gag, yuck.
I liked the action and I liked all the flipping and the climbing of walls. Jeff was right when he said there wasn't enough free-style running from building to building, but I took what little they had to offer. Honestly, I'd give it a five, which for me is still a rental.
Where would you rank it?
This adaptation nailed the excitement of the parkour-style that made playing the actual video game so awesome. Dastan is a unique hero with his flawless acrobatics, and his wit when it comes to using his environment. I think there was a fair amount of free-style running, but there wasn't as much creativity as say the moment where Dastan has an impromptu ladder created for him by arrows. I had never seen that before in a movie, and I enjoyed it (if someone has, I would be curious as to in what film).
A five sounds about right. This is a movie for the crowd who are Jerry Bruckheimer-folk who may or may not be aware they are Jerry Bruckheimer-folk. I'm talking about thepeople that think the National Treasure movies are fun to look at, etc. I can't imagine that they wouldn't like this new movie to the Bruckheimer oeurve, especially since it is pretty tightly packaged, regardless of whether it's based off a video game or not. But talking about the rating, I wasn't entirely bored with the movie. It's just not as special as it could have been.
Reading over your statement about the action saving the movie for you, I'm surprised that I agree. When I think about it, nothing had me more on board than the action, and those scenes even had their weak points (the whole Assansins era was weak with an exception of the weapons they used). I didn't think Gemma Arterton was captivating, I thought the brothers were annoying (especially that clown who showed up in another meh-fest, Robin Hood) and the Ben Kingsley twist was a nice touch, but not good enough. I didn't mind Jake Gyllennhaal playing a character he probably never should have. Too often during his performance I was distracted by the extreme false presence of his character.
But overall, we can breathe a sigh of relief, even if this big video game adaptation is still not the beastly success it could have been. I mean, hey, at least it's not Sex and the City 2, right?
Since Sex and the City 2 would be in the Top 7 Moments of Morrow Hell, I have to say I agree with you.
So Prince of Persia is a 5. That's a good, solid number. Not phenomenal of course, but not terrible if you're looking for a fun matinee. I'm not sure what else there is to say. Any final thoughts before we put this sucker to bed?
The only strong thought I have about Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is one of disappointment. Sure there were some great special effects moments, and a few bursts of adrenaline in the action, but overall this video-game adaptation will leave audiences in a pretty mediocre state. I am glad I experienced the movie, but more in a movie-history context. Those who tackle Prince of Persia as blockbusting movie fare will likely be ... "abashed."