DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review
Directed by Mike Newell, Written by Jordan Mechner, Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard, 116 Minutes, Rated PG-13
By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti
They'll never learn.
Are video games art? Perhaps. Along with their interactivity, they can be a strong emotional or thematic expression, or just the visuals themselves can be artistic. Either way, it doesn't matter. Whether you think video games are art or whether you believe they have any sort of merit, the simple fact is that they express things in a way wholly different from film. They may express things visually, but like a painting is separate from a photograph, a film is separate from a game. They both use entirely different means to get across their point. But that doesn't stop studios from churning out a new video game-based movie every couple years.
"Prince of Persia," now available on DVD and Blu-ray disc, is the umpteenth translation of a video game into a film. The game series is one of the more popular out there, so it was only a matter of time.
The story, very loosely based on the game, follows a man named Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), who was adopted by the king of Persia as a boy because he displayed great courage and honor when saving another orphan boy his age. Dastan, his uncle Nizam (Ben Kingsley) and his two brothers learn that a nearby holy city may be making and selling weapons to their enemies, but after staging an attack and bringing the city under their occupation, madness erupts and Dastan is framed for the death of his father.
He escapes the city with the help of its princess, Tamina (Gemma Arterton), and after learning that his uncle may be the one responsible for his father's death, he puts together a plan to take back the city and stop his uncle from exploiting its hidden power, a great glass container holding sand that would allow him to manipulate time.
The whole thing plays out very much like an old fashioned Hollywood swashbuckling adventure, and the fact that nearly every single main character is portrayed by British or American white men with spray-on tans really cements that interpretation (but hey, at least it's not John Wayne as Genghis Khan--these guys at least attempt to look Persian).
Problems arise, though, when the film stops being a stupid swashbuckling film and attempts to recreate the look and feel of the video games. This is the problem almost all video game adaptations have. The plots, dialogue, character archetypes and visuals of video games simply do not translate well to film. The acrobatics, time traveling and goofy B-movie plotline all suit the game quite well.
That's the thing about video games. Because you're responsible for what happens within the game and you're constantly interacting with it, the goofy plots work just fine. But watching filmmakers attempt to recreate the look and feel of the games just results in the feeling one might get from sitting and watching a cut scene from a video game for two hours, only in live action, which just makes it even more silly.
It doesn't help that it was co-written by the video game's creator himself, Jordan Mechner, who has very little experience writing for the screen, and was directed by Mike Newell, who gave us some of the worst action set pieces of the Harry Potter series in his installment.
Still, as far as video game movies go, very few manage to be even nearly as entertaining as this one. The action gets a bit stale and, as I said, the plot and characterization is about as middling as video games get, but the performances are quite alright (especially Alfred Molina's amusing supporting performance as a shady businessman that accompanies Dastan for some of the film).
Also, Gyllenhaal and Arterton have pretty great chemistry. Kingsley seems to be the unfortunate one, plopped yet again into a mediocre villain role and forced to try to get something good out of it. He comes out relatively unscathed, though it's always sad to see him stuck in roles like this right after seeing him at his best in stuff like "Shutter Island."
It's not the best the genre has to offer, but if studios insist on making video games into movies, they could do way worse. But I can't express how much I wish they'd realize there will never be a video game adaptation that is capable of providing the same experience the game itself will provide, and vice versa.
View the trailer for "Prince of Persia" below. What did you think of the movie?