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PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME – Movie Review

30 mai, 2010

I might lose some credibility for this one, but I never played any Prince of Persia game, like, ever. Maybe the reason why is that the first three came out when I was too young to be caught by those games, and when it comes to the last two games, I just… don’t care. No I don’t wanna play Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, simply because there are much better action-adventure games around and the go-back-in-time gimmick has not aged well. Yet, when we finally got a word that a movie adaptation of the series was coming out, I had the slightest though that it might not suck. After all, for such a fantasy-filled universe, having Disney backing it up with a big budget might actually help.

What you might not know, if you’re not really a true movie-goer, is that through all these years, there has not been a single good movie based on a video game. Not a single one. Oh sure, the first Mortal Kombat movie was fun, if a bit stupid, but its sequel and every other of these films are not good. Even Square couldn’t help as they have produced not one, but two films based on its Final Fantasy series; one of them was pretty much just fan-service and was kinda useless, the other almost bankrupt the company. But the video game industry has changed over the years, and when you get awesome example like Uncharted 2 and Bioshock that rival movies in the overall experience, you could have hoped things would have also changed here. And uh… we’re not there yet. Sorry.

Look I really wanted to enjoy Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, who didn’t? Sadly, I don’t think I can say it was a good movie; it was just a typical blockbuster that brings nothing new to the table. Maybe the reason behind this is that the movie is just not so good with storytelling.

Now, I have never played any of the games – even though I’m familiar with the franchise, and you could tell me that the first game of the series was also very light on the story, since video games typically aren’t very focused on a large story. I would respond by punching you in the face because here we’re discussing the importance of the medium that are video games. I am proudly one of the defenders that says this medium can provide solid, deep storylines. But even with that, this movie is incredibly light. The story is just really simple, really basic, and just not so interesting. It basically follows the tale of Dastan, Prince of Persia adopted at an early age by the king, as he is framed for the murder of his father and pursued by his two older brothers and his uncle, the antagonist of the film, Nizan. He also unravels a conspiracy with the help of Princess Tamina that has to do with the Dagger of Time, a weapon that can go back in time to alter history, and Nizan wanting the dagger to become King of Persia.

The problem here is that the movie just doesn’t give enough time to its story; it gives more time to the action, which consists entirely of chase scenes and fights, all of this taking a large part of the film. When Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time must do exposition, it tries to do it really, really fast to go to the next chase scene. Yeah, you could say you could resume the entire plot of the game in a single paragraph, but we’re not just talking about plot points. We’re talking about the movie’s biggest fault: characterization.

Yes, because if you want us to be impressed by the multiples chase scenes and big action scenes in the movie, you first need to make us care about these characters. You need to make us involved in the action and make us rooting for the hero, for some reason. Or something. Characterization works with these three ingredients: storytelling, of course, acting and casting. As I said previously, when the movie goes into exposition, it does it fast to not worry about it again. This applies to the characters of the film, to which we just highlights the most important components about them and leave at that. So we have the sage prince from the streets, the beautiful yet rebel princess, the very angry brother, the other brother who wants to be king, the evil bald uncle from Hamlet, and perhaps the most original character of the entire film, the Persian equivalent of Jack Sparrow. Because Disney says it’s good for you. If you feel I’m really botching the characters, I’m not. The movie simply doesn’t tell us much about them. They come out on screen, they introduce them… and that’s it. And sometimes, their lazy jobs pretty much hurts a character. I know Princess Tamina is supposed to be this nice lady who can fight back, but overtime she hinder the progress of the main character, for her own reasons, and she becomes really annoying and whiny. The characters are stereotypical, when it comes to action films. The acting isn’t really noteworthy, it’s alright, but what really kills me and pretty much every other critic I know who saw this film, is that… you know, for a movie called Prince of Persia, there really isn’t anyone Persian in it.

I kinda gave Jake Gyllenhaal a pass back then, but when I see him in action I… don’t buy it. I feel like the only reason why he was picked above all else, except girls just loving to see his muscles all over the place, is that he wasn’t all shaved that day. Jake Gyllenhaal is not an action star; he never has been! He’s more into drama, with films like Brokeback Mountain, Zodiac and Brothers. The most action-packed film he was in before this one was The Day After Tomorrow… which sucked, but for entirely different reasons. And in this movie, not only doesn’t he look Arab – really, who isn’t – but he also speaks with a British accent.

Jake Gyllenhaal is an American actor, pretending to be Persian, with an English accent… weird.

But I don’t think it’s his fault, because it seems like the director of the film really went for the British approach. Gemma Arterton, who’s portraying the princess here, is a British actress, and one of the actors playing Dastan’s brother, Richard Coyle, looks like he could be in a Viking flick with no problem. Really the most Persian people you can find in this movie are the extras who are consistently getting stabbed, tripped, and mutilated through out the film.

Yeah, you could say the action was good, if relying a bit too much on special effects, since literally every shot has something computer generated in it, but like I said, I never managed to indentify or care about these characters, which made the action scenes progressively more and more boring. It looks cool, sure, but I was just not into it. Oh, and did I mention there were a lot of chase scenes? Like, twenty.

It might look like I really hated this film, but I didn’t. In fact, pretty much every thing Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time screws up is sad. There really isn’t anything horrible about it, nor is there anything good. The thing is, what this movie does, it has been done in other movies, and done better. It doesn’t bring anything new to the table, and in the end, it has one of the most tragic sins an action movie can have; being forgettable. I seriously think I will forget Prince of Persia in a week. Sure, you could rent it one time, if you really want to. Me? I think I might play some Uncharted 2: Among Thieves…

There goes nothing.

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