Thursday, May 27, 2010

Movie Review: Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time

With the swift moves and grace that befalls a great Persian warrior, I was lucky enough to get invited by my friend Mark to the advance screening of one of this summer’s most anticipated action films – Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time. Based on the series of games created by Jordan Mechner, this film is an adaptation of the classic 2003 video game, which was a reimagination of the franchise and a blockbuster hit on its own right. Having experienced and played that game myself, it was a no brainer decision that I had to see this movie. However, from experience watching films based on video games, I kept my reservations on, since there was bound to be deviations to the plot that normally reflects the “Hollywood treatment” given to adaptations like these. My hunch proved right, and many things about the PoP movie is far different compared to the game I played during my college years. Still, it does make use of the main theme – which is the Prince acquiring the Dagger Of Time and doing what he can to right wrongs, save the princess, and survive at the same time.

Movie: Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arteton, Sir Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina

Directed By: Mike Newell

From the poster itself, one who has played the 3D PoP games would be deceived to believe that the movie is a direct adaptation of The Sands Of Time game. Heck, since the Prince and the Dagger of Time were fleshed out in the one sheet, it looks mighty convincing that it is the game turned into a live action movie. This is far from the truth though, and like I said, only certain elements and the main theme of “Prince-Dagger-Princess” were carried over. What makes this iteration of Prince Of Persia different is that the Prince actually has a name – Prince Dastan, who is played by Jake Gyllenhaal. The 2003 video game never divulged his identity other than characters simply referring to him as “The Prince”, and that’s one air of mystery no longer present in the movie. Aside from this, Dustan is actually an orphaned street urchin taken into the royal family, adopted by the Persian King and raised along side his own two children, making them “brothers”. This makes up part of the family oriented theme that family is not only linked by blood, but by love and loyalty to one another as well (This is a Disney movie after all, so it works for the most part). From there, we skip 15 years, and the Persian army wages war on a Holy City that has the Dagger Of Time. Dastan becomes the hero, gets framed for a severe crime he didn’t commit, and has to escape with the Princess and Dagger before he meets a grim fate. The story doesn’t really follow the game’s plot in that manner of sequence, but in totality, he goes on a quest to redeem his name and save the world before the horrors of the Dagger’s power fall into the wrong hands.

Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time Trailer

Casting Jake Gyllenhaal in the titular role of the Prince was met with some criticism, and it’s quite understandable given the setting of the movie. For one thing, he doesn’t look Persian, and despite sculpting a chiseled figure in his preparation for the role, nothing changes the fact that he doesn’t look the part. Still, I have to give props to the fact that his acting was good in the movie, and I wasn’t too focused on the “whitewashing” aspects so many critics have voiced about over the movie. On the other hand, I find the lovely Gemma Arteton sexy as Princess Tamina. Although it’s a shame they didn’t use Princess Farah from the games, Arteton acts well here, and much like actresses’ recent role in Clash Of The Titans, her British accent and delivery make her quite a charm in movies, one I hope to see used more frequently in future movies. Also making appearances in the film are legendary veteran actors Sir Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina. The former plays Dastan’s uncle and primary villain Nizam, while Mr. Molina takes on the comedy relief role of Sheik Amar, whose antics you just have to see in the movie to believe. Overall, I didn’t mind the casting choices at all, and everyone played their parts well.

While I found it disappointing to note that the story is much different and loose from the source material, I think it was decent enough to sit through and enjoy as a popcorn flick. However, some scenes in the movie, particularly in the beginning and towards the end, were somewhat dragging and executed poorly. The introduction title sequence in particular felt like a waste, and it didn’t feel as epic as I would have wanted. I’m sure PoP was to be marketed as a kid friendly film, but they could have livened things up with a kick and such. Also, as a Jerry Bruckheimer production, this movie was a little more toned down on the action, and for a concept like PoP that demands over the top execution and stunts, most of it seemed light-hearted fun and routine than mind-blowingly insane and awesome. Gyllenhaal’s Dastan has a lot of the stuntwork pulled off, but nothing Matrix-like or over the top, which I wish was present. Also, I’m happy to see the Dagger Of Time rewind function used properly in the film, but the execution in key scenes were a waste. For instance, it was fine to explain that it lets the user travel back to a certain point in time once… but done twice in succession? Not a lot of things went well, but setting the bar straight, it worked anyway for the audience.

For somebody like me who has played the Prince Of Persia games, especially the namesake title, Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time does a decent job of entertaining its audience. It’s far from being a perfect film adaptation of a video game (that trophy still lies with the original Mortal Kombat film), but everything works for the most part, and the screenplay itself was overseen by creator Jordan Mechner himself, as well as a few established film writers who have proven their skills through the years. Directed by Mike Newell, I’d recommend this film for the action and family oriented crowd. Those who loved the games can sit through as well, but don’t expect too much out of it. Like the series it’s based from, it’s a new adventure and a new prince… so go with the flow of time and destiny and see it if curiosity pulls you in.

Rating - 3/5

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