Friday, May 28, 2010

Higgens Network: Prince of Persia

Movies based on video games haven’t had the breakthrough like comic book films. It took awhile but those films have gained a level of respect through audiences and critics once they had more quality in them. With Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the long journey continues.

This movie is loosely based off a few of the games in the series. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the titular Prince named Dastan. He grew up in the slums of Persia until one day he impressed King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup). The King adopted him as his own son. Years later Dastan joins his adopted brothers in a quest to take over a city that may be harboring DMD (Daggers of Mass Destruction). It is a holy city protected by the beautiful Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton). After their victory, Dastan is framed for murdering the King and escapes the city with a mysterious dagger.

The dagger ends up being the Dagger of Time (Note the all powerful capital letters.) If this dagger possesses the Sands of Time, then it could be used to move backwards through time if only for a few moments. Everybody wants this dagger because of its potential power.

The TV show LOST took great pride in its storytelling by avoiding non-paradoxical time travel. If a character goes back in time and undoes everything then the previous parts of the story become irrelevant because they are erased. Prince of Persia remarkably only deals in paradoxical time travel. If Dastan gets stabbed, he presses the button on the dagger and the entire thing is immediately resolved. There’s no drama in this.

The movie realized how much power is in this dagger so they avoid it as much as they can. For almost the entire movie, the dagger is empty and is just tossed around like a prop. Majority of the dialog of this film is “Who took the dagger!” “Give me the dagger!” “Dagger dagger dagger!” It quickly became monotonous as with the rest of the over-written scenes. Scenes are constantly over-explained or unneeded. This is what makes the pacing for this movie so bad. Some of its chase scenes are enjoyable, but the path to get there is rather dumb so they lose its fun.

Visually the movie is great. It does what a movie of this caliber to spend its budget on: making a great looking period. It’s no surprise this is the same team behind Pirates of the Caribbean. Yet that movie succeeded beyond just its cool look. It had characters worth following. Dastan is no Jack Sparrow. In fact he’s barely a character at all. He’s just a guy jumping around and smiling. Sure he bickers with the Princess but that’s only because they are romantic interests. Speaking of, poor Gemma Arterton. She is a very talented actress but she’s stuck playing the exact same role as she the one in Clash of the Titans. She’s above this dumb script. All she has to do in this is change outfits, quip a few times, and speak nonsense about “destiny” despite the fact that destiny doesn’t really play a part in this movie at all.

One day they will be a video game movie that will shake people up and Hollywood will realize its potential. There’s true potential if they capture Bioshock’s atmosphere or Metal Gear Solid’s plotting properly. Until then we’re left with Prince of Persia and its terrible terrible ending.

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