Translating a story from one medium to another can be a tricky prospect. Video games in particular have had a rough time getting comfortably adapted from their interactive medium to non-interactive means of storytelling such as book or movies. Some seem more inclined for this sort of translation than others on concept alone – fighting games, hack-and-slashers, etc. Platforming games seem an unlikely candidate for adaptation, probably because most people remember how awful the Super Mario Brothers movie was. And yet, that’s how we got Prince of Persia. A PS2 platformer that was arguably the best in its series, Sands of Time, has become a major motion picture.
The eponymous prince, Dastan, is a former street urchin adopted by the old king due to his uncharacteristic sense of fair play and justice. Circumstances throw his lot in with the princess of a blessed kingdom who has the charge of defending a magical artifact with powers over time itself. The king’s brother and vizier, whom nobody seems to think might be a bad influence despite the nature of the advice he gives, wants the artifact for himself. What follows is an adventure story that looks to tap the same vein as successful and even classic flicks like Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Mummy, and for the most part pulls it off.
What sets Prince of Persia apart from its video-game predecessors is the basic building blocks of its storytelling. While it is unashamedly playing in the same sandbox as Theif of Baghdad or Disney’s Aladdin, the game pretty much did the same thing so the aesthetic is instantly familiar. There’s also the fact that the game itself, Sands of Time, had a solid narrative, an interesting and well-rounded main character, real chemistry between its leads and lots of fun gameplay underscoring the story points. This being a film, we need to swap out the game play for something else, and Prince of Persia wisely adds more characters rather than relying on special effects, gimmickry or blatant sex appeal.
It’s not overly blatant…
Which isn’t to say Jake Gyllenhaal or Gemma Arterton aren’t sexy. Because they are both damn sexy. I mean… damn. On top of the hotness factor, though, is some careful characterisation and really cracking dialog which keeps it right in line with its source material, even if it goes in an entirely different direction in terms of what the MacGuffin ultimately does and where it came from. Ben Kingsley as the vizier does a good job in not only being menacing but at times pulling off a few moments where you can start to understand how he’s pulling the wool over the eyes of the other characters, even as we with our thousand-foot view of things can see his villainy as being a tad obvious. And isn’t it always cool to see Alfred Molina in something? I mean, let’s put it in troper terms: we’ve got Donnie Darko and Io on the run from Ghandi, and the only person who might kind of be on their side is Doc Ock. How is that not a winning combination?
As much as I would have liked to have seen Oded Fehr or Omar Sharif in this, the cast does acquit itself quite well. A lot of criticism has been levied at this movie for ‘whitewashing’ the setting and while a more diverse cast more in line with the ethnicities of the area would admittedly lend the tale more weight, at the same time I can’t fault the movie for going for a lightness of tone. This is an adventure romp based on a puzzle-platformer video game, not an epic looking to become the next Lawrence of Arabia. It certainly doesn’t take the liberties 300 did with how Persians look and act, and the accents sounded somewhat consistent (if vaguely British for some reason) instead of the situation we had in The 13th Warrior where Omar Sharif’s legitimate accent is supposed to sound like Antonio Banderas’ Spanish accent. The nature of the cast doesn’t cripple the movie, as it relies less on authenticity than it does the cast’s chemistry, combined talent and attractiveness. Because… damn.
Yeah. I’m down with this.
Video game movies have had a rough time. They’ve ranged from vaguely mediocre to downright abyssmal. Prince of Persia is the first adaptation of a video game in recent memory, and perhaps ever, to ascend beyond the level mediocrity to something that’s legitimately good. The adventure feeling is consistent, the storytelling’s decent, it moves at a good pace and it goes some places you may not quite expect, making it a refreshing change from the likes of Uwe Boll and even Michael Bay. I’m not going to say anything about the ending, which some people may not have appreciated, but I felt it was in keeping with the nature of the story and it took me by surprise, so I have to give the movie props for that. It’s a good time, a fun little yarn, and I say you could do a lot worse by queueing it up. And even if you’re not glad to see a good video game movie or interested in a story of an urchin prince working with a snarky princess to keep a magical item from the clutches of an evil mastermind, you’ve got Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton to look at for about two hours, and, well… DAMN.
Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.