A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

February 7, 2011

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

“Most people think time is like a river that flows fast and sure in one direction, but I have seen the face of time and I can tell you that they are wrong. Time is like and ocean in a storm.”

So begins one of the greatest video games of all time. A game which shares a title with this movie and very little else. The game is a near perfect blend of action, puzzles, and plot. It made you care about the characters of the nameless Prince and the rival princess Farah who is the only other person not corrupted when the sands of time are released. It has adventure, romance, magic and most of all a wonderful way of telling the story.

I remember seeing the previews for this in the theater and saying to my wife “we’re going to see that, right?” It was the same reaction I had when we saw the previews for the Clash of the Titans re-make. I knew this wouldn’t be as good as the source material, but I was curious to see how a truly great game would hold up when adapted into a summer blockbuster big budget movie. We didn’t end up seeing it the theaters though, and when I eventually bought the movie on DVD (at the same time that I bought Clash of the Titans in fact) Amanda was aghast that I would waste our money in such a way. Why, she wanted to know, did I keep buying movies I knew were going to be bad?

The fact of it is that this movie isn’t all bad. Oh, it can’t hold a candle to the writing and charm of the game it takes its name from, but it’s a passable if somewhat over long summer action flick. It has some fun fight scenes, a little wire work, and some acrobatics which, although they do not really capture the flow of action in the game, look kind of cool I suppose. I’d say it has two main flaws. For one there’s Jake Gyllenhaal. He makes a strange sort of action hero. He has the physique (he must have done a whole lot of push ups) but he doesn’t have the charm. Somebody made an effort to make him look like the Prince in the second PoP game. The one with the mopey, angsty, Trent Reznor inspired hero. And although there are quips for him to deliver in the movie they never seem to work. I would posit that the problem is that at heart Jake is a ham. He’d be more at home in some of the campier comedy inspired episodes of the Highlander TV series laughing it up with Adrian Paul. When he’s called upon to bring some intensity he just comes up short.

My other problem with the movie would be that it takes so long to get moving. It’s about forty minutes before the prince first uses the dagger of time to rewind. There’s a long preamble that introduces the slightly confusing royal family with the king, his evil brother (don’t deny that you knew from the very first time Ben Kingsley appeared on screen that he was evil) the king’s two biological sons and his adopted street urchin son Dastan (our hero ladies and gentlemen.) Then there’s an extremely long siege on a peaceful neighboring town where Dastan gets the dagger. And back to the capital of Persia (wherever that is in the confusing alterna-universe of this movie) where the king is assassinated and Dastan framed for it. All of that before we get any sands of time at all. I think that one thing this movie very much needed was a ruthless and creative editor. If your movie is about the manipulation of time then perhaps it should not be so ploddingly linear – and perhaps you should set a better pace from the outset.

I won’t say that I expected more from this movie. It delivered pretty much exactly what I saw in that preview in the movie theater. In the end though it doesn’t have a creative moment in the entire film (you know what would have been a cool and unexpected twist? If Ben Kingsley had turned out NOT to be the bad guy!) It borrows not just from the game but from the Disney Aladdin and the Indiana Jones movies. It is about half an hour longer than it needs to be. After watching the whole thing tonight I wanted to hold the ‘L’ button and re-do it. I leave you with another quote from the classic game this was based on: “Wait. That’s not how the story goes.”

February 7, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

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