If you were to tell me a year ago that one of the best video game film adaptations would be produced by Disney, and would be made out of the Prince of Persia franchise I probably wouldn’t have believed you.
In fact since Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time began production, thanks to the over-abundant leaked shots of a sweaty beefy Jake Gyllenhaal – the film probably never got the fair shake it deserved in the blogosphere. But let me tell you Prince of Persia is the video game film we have all been waiting for. This is the first video game film where they took a story that worked, and instead of reinventing it (ie: Super Mario Brothers) they built upon it’s characters and world to craft a much better story.
I wasn’t expecting much from Prince of Persia, probably due to a pessimistic attitude towards video game to film adaptations. As an avid gamer, I’ve watched far too many properties I cherished get “re-imagined” (aka: ruined) by someone who’s probably never played the game in the first place. That is the attitude I walked into the theater, and I was happily proven wrong.
The plot of Prince of Persia is the most Disney-esque thing about the story, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Young street urchin is taken in and adopted by the king for a gallant act of bravery, the king is killed, street urchin is framed for his murder and must prove his innocence – all while trying to win the love of the fair and beautiful princess.
Of course there is a dagger that grants the ability to control time and space to it’s user, and a subplot about unleashing Armageddon – but someone at Disney obviously got the memo that plots based on character development work much better than plots based on gimmicky time travel devices and end of the world scenarios.
The writers seemed to really have spent their time taking the game into consideration and crafted a plot around it. And while the story may be simple, it is very accessible to people who don’t even own a gaming console. Also, for a film that involved time travel as a plot device, it was surprisingly very easy to follow. I found the plot well thought out, focused and very well paced for an adventure film, with some good laughs thrown in for good measure. You can definitely see the Jerry Bruckheimer touch on this one, you know the guy behind National Treasure and Pirates of the Caribbean; this will most certainly be yet another notch in his belt.
The Cinematography on Prince of Persia was as breathtaking, as one would expect from a big budget film shot on location. But since this was based on a video game, there are also some really great action sequences in the film. They are frantic and sometimes have you on the edge of your seat, with some great over-the-top high-flying acrobatic shots of rooftop leaps and impossible fights. They really took into consideration the video game aspect in shooting the film as well, not just with action sequences either. There are some really great picturesque shots of Jake that look pulled right from a CG cut-scene and probably were or soon will be. Obviously the DP really sat down and watched the camera angles used in video games and took those into account in shooting this film with great success.
In terms of performances, I feel everyone in this film did a great job with his or her roles. Since this was an adventure film there were of course the stereotypes you would expect, but they were done in such a way not to be too cheesy. I think my biggest concern for the film was Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance as Dastan, but by the end of Act 1, I was already cheering him on. He was definitely channeling the reluctant Disney hero but in a way where he still was hip and edgy enough for the adults and teens as well.
I can’t go without mentioning the outstanding supporting cast members, like Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina who played Doctor Ock in Spiderman 2, talk about a show stealer. This guy took a role that could have just been annoying, and really took the comedic heart of the film. I also have to give a big thank you to Gemma Arterton who gave Disney another kick ass, independent princess for little girls to look up to for years to come.
Prince of Persia was the first video game film that I have ever seen which ended in applause, and this wasn’t a video game or comic convention crowd either. These were normal people just out to see a good adventure film. The film was a solid effort for fans of the franchise, and incredibly accessible for those unfamiliar with the game.
I enjoyed this film immensely, because like all good adventure films, it was a great journey and a lot of fun to watch. I think this should be the benchmark for video game to film adaptations from here on out, and as a video game film that defied all odds, I am giving it a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Go see it today, and to win a free Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time T-shirt, simply comment with your thoughts on the film, I will pick 5 to win a free shirt courtesy of Disney on Tuesday.