Movie Review: The King of Gamer Movies

There has been a long line of live-action movies based on the world of video games and most could only boast that they were good for the occasional late night drinking game. These films have never been taken seriously by Hollywood or gamers alike, they are cheaply made and were an easy cash grab. As a gamer it has always saddened me to watch enjoyable stories bastardized on the big screen. That being said it’s nice to see Disney take a step in the right direction, giving gamers an enjoyable experience at their local multiplex.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is loosely based on the popular video game series of the same name. The film follows Dastan(Jake Gyllenhaal), the adopted son of King Sharaman. Sharaman saw great potential in Dastan when he witnessed him defend a friend from an angry Persian guard. This display of bravery propelled Dastan from poverty into prince-hood. Fifteen years later he finds himself on an adventure that opens his mind to the true intentions of his family and the limits of reality. With a dagger that reverses the flow of time Dastan sets out to clear his name and find his father’s killer.

I have never been a huge fan of this video game series, so when I heard that the game was in development to become a movie I wasn’t overcome with excitement.  It wasn’t until the news that Jake Gyllenhaal (Jarhead, Donnie Darko) would play Prince Dastan was released that the film ever caught my attention. I have always been a fan of Jake’s work and the fact that Disney was considering such an actor for a video game movie only showed that they were taking the film seriously. I have nothing but respect for Jake’s indie career and the risks he has taken over the years. Sadly, this time around it seemed that the Prince would be a character that may have required talents that Gyllenhaal might not have. Anyone who has played the games knows that The Prince is a rather snarky character that always has a comment about any situation. Though these things were written into the script it’s Jake’s comedic timing that’s missing. The jokes just come off drab and awkward leaving only more room to focus on Jake’s strange accent. I am not one to draw attention to an actor’s accent or lack there of, at most I think it’s tedious to point out such things, but this time around it was distracting from the over all flow of the film. Jake may have problems with the more comedic requirements of the role but when it’s time for some emotional elements the audience will not be disappointed with his performance.  Overall, I did expect more of Jake, but where his abilities were lacking, the terrific supporting cast made up for it.

When running though the credits of Prince of Persia it would be an easy bet to say that Ben Kingsley (Sexy Beast, Shutter Island) would be the stand out role, but though he did a great job it was Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2) that stole the show. Molina’s hilarious performance as Sheik Amar left me counting the minutes until he would return to the screen. Molina was able to give a character with little back story, a full range of emotions and never leave the audience with out a smile. Another surprise in the film’s abundant cast was the ability of Gemma Arterton, though she had peeked my interest in Quantum of Solace, her performance in Clash of the Titans was less than memorable. In Prince of Persia, Arterton shows that she can do a lot when the material is on the page. She played Tamina with a true sense of devotion that with out would have left the film in the same hole that most of it’s video game predecessors now lie. I look forward to seeing Arterton in more serious fare later down the road.

Director Mike Newell (Donnie Brasco, Four Weddings and a Funeral) has given me a new respect for the way action sequences are shot, sadly the respect does not land at his side of the table. When it comes to Prince of Persia, Newell is in the same place as Gyllenhaal. I have enjoyed a lot of the decisions he has made over the years, I just can’t say that when it comes to Prince of Persia. Newell focused too much on special effects and showed that he had no experience when it came to shooting action sequences. I don’t blame everything he did entirely on him, it seems that special effects have made all directors a bit lazy or too over-zealous. Newell tries to pull all the punches when it comes to the film, but in the end he just gets in the way. There are scenes where the camera could have benefited from being just a few feet away from the fray. Instead we are left staring at a forearm or a wall and never get a true grasp of what is going on in all of the action. This has become a problem that plagues many Directors, just because you have the ability to put the audience so close they can feel the sweat doesn’t mean you should. Instead of creating the tension they were going for all they end up with is a blurry mess.

Though Prince of Persia has it’s share of problems, I did enjoy the overall result of the film, and I can only applaud Disney for taking such care with a video game adaptation. The thing that makes this film stand out in front of it’s predecessors is the addition of heart, you can tell that it’s creators weren’t just in it for the money and wanted to make something special. Prince of Persia is the fun summer-ride that anyone can enjoy.

I give Prince of Persia: Sands of Time 3 “video game Antichrists” out of 5.

By Ryan Davis

About Ryan Davis

Ryan is the Founder of Lost in Reviews, a member of The Kansas City Film Critic's Circle, and a key component in the movement to digitally restore the 1986 classic film The Gate. Ryan is also the co-host of Blu Monday a DVD and Blu Ray review show which Lost in Reviews co-founder Angela Davis also appears. While he may be a film and music snob, that doesn't mean you can't be friends. Well it could if you don't like the same bands or films he does, overall it might be best to avoid the subject all together.

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