Movies based on video games can either work as campy tributes to their source material (à la “Tomb Raider” or “Mortal Kombat”) or fall very, very flat (“Super Mario Bros.,” “Double Dragon”).
Entering the video-game-turned-feature-films pantheon on Friday (May 28) is “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.” The movie tells the story of orphaned boy Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is plucked from a marketplace by King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup) and raised as royalty. Many years later, Dastan, his brothers and his uncle lead an assault on the mystical holy city Alamut, which they believe has been selling weapons to the king’s enemies. Dastan wrestles a golden dagger from a man and then meets Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton), who’s been captured in the invasion. After the suspicious death of the king, Dastan is framed for the crime and goes on the run with the princess, who eventually reveals to him that the pretty dagger he procured holds the power to alter time.
So how does the movie compare to the video game? Do Gyllenhaal’s defined abs outshine the intricacies of the film’s plot? The consensus seems to be that the film is silly fun, but whether that’s a good thing depends, as always, on which critic is consulted.
MTV’s own Kurt Loder called “Prince of Persia” “a pretty great Arabian-adventure movie for kids. It’s made in the classic Disney style: no sex, no swearing, and lots of action with very little blood.” Loder also notes that in the tradition of Jerry Bruckheimer-produced films, “here he delivers everything you might expect. The action is excitingly staged (some of the wild roof-leaping suggests that the urban acrobatics of parkour were devised far earlier than we’d thought), although the CGI varies from beautiful (the hilltop city of Alamut) to whatever (fiery wind).” Loder concludes that “Persia” is a fun popcorn flick — if you’re a teenage boy.
Regarding the film’s likeness to its video game source material, Film School Rejects’ Neil Miller awarded points to the film version’s story, “for being closely linked to that of the video game upon which it is based. No one ever accused Jordan Mechner’s popular game series of having an inventive narrative, and they won’t start now.” Miller also argued that the video game’s appeal was in its visual elements, which the film also delivers. “The high flying action that took place on the rooftops of often nondescript ancient Middle Eastern cities. The story of a warrior’s heart and will to perform unimaginable feats of strength and agility in order to thwart evil. All of that is in this film, even if it isn’t as naturalistic as possible.” Miller’s final take: “fun, but not to be taken seriously.”
The Houston Chronicle’s Amy Biancolli didn’t have as much fun as Miller. “It’s sort of pointless,” she wrote. “I use ’sort of’ because the film functions well enough as an empty-headed expenditure of time and turbans, and because I’m always happy to watch attractive people flare their nostrils for two hours at a stretch.” Biancolli called the film “spectacularly silly” and Gyllenhaal’s titular character the “Fresh Prince of Gel Hair.” And she credited all the silliness to one factor: Bruckheimer. “This is a Jerry Bruckheimer production; it has every business being steroidal. As a game adaptation, it has every business being jumpy and sequential, and as a frivolous summer popcorn flick, it has every business being inane.”
Check out everything we’ve got on “Prince of Persia.”
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