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Action-Adventure In the Sands of CGI Eye Candy!

  • May 29, 2010
Rating:
+3

Video game to film adaptations. We all know such efforts are always found wanting and video games are hardly ever given the respect they deserve. So why do we still always have high expectations for films that are based on video games? I think it is because of the hope that we may see our favorite video game characters come to life in a credible motion picture. Well, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and his “Pirates of the Caribbean” crew have recruited director Mike Newell to adapt the 2003 video game franchise. Their efforts have brought movie fans “PRINCE OF PERSIA: The Sands of Time”. Please note that it has been awhile since I last played the original video game and I am totally unfamiliar with the sequels.
 
Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) is young orphan who had been adopted by the King of Persia and now he has become a courageous, fierce warrior at the service of his king; despite the fact that he has no royal blood, he has earned the respect of the kingdom. During an attack on a neighboring kingdom, Dastan comes across an extraordinary dagger kept safe by its princess Tamnia (sexy Gemma Atherton). Dastan is unaware that the dagger has the power to rewind time when energized by an enchanted sand. Dastan finds himself in a situation where he is blamed for the death of the Persian king and must now race through the desert to prove his innocence avoiding his brothers’ soldiers, hordes of mystical killers called the Hassansins and with the aid of an entrepreneur (Alfred Molina) and Princess Tamnia, Dastan must fight to learn the secrets of the dagger and the King’s killer…

              Gemma Arterton as Tamina and Jake Gyllenhaal as Prince Dastan in "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time."

             Jake Gyllenhaal as Prince Dastan in "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time."
 
I had extremely low expectations going for the film considering the history of video game adaptations. The plot of the film offers nothing complex; it has the usual themes of betrayal, political manipulations, lust for power and brotherhood and honor. The King of Persia saw something in Dastan when he was a young boy and he has proven to be a noble son; so in part the film is also a play on ‘destiny’. The screenplay does attempt to try to mislead and redirect viewer expectations when it does feel like a sibling rivalry at first, but it is, only it was misdirected at where it was at first impression. The powerful kingdom attacking a lowly one seems a little too suspect and the motivations behind it were pretty predictable.
 
Aside from the familial betrayals, we also see some subplots that range from the scoundrel played by Alfred Molina who breeds Ostriches, the time-travel mumbo-jumbo and the mystical role of a guardian of the dagger. There are also some legends that involve the gods of this time, but they were just minor ‘fillers’ to add more ‘meat’ to its predictable plot. This is an action-driven film so expect the low development of its plot and characters; but the film does feel it is a little too overcooked and yet underdeveloped and over-scripted that it lost its focus in some ways. Director Newell attempts to overload the screen with as much action as possible, and doesn‘t allow for any real emotions in a scene to set in. Note to Hollywood: when making a comic book or video game adaptation, do not treat the source material as such and always remember to treat it as one would a legitimate, dramatic motion picture. 

                  Jake Gyllenhaal as Prince Dastan in "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time."
 
                 Jake Gyllenhaal as Prince Dastan in "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time."

                Jake Gyllenhaal as Prince Dastan and Gemma Arterton as Tamina in "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time."
 
So does “Sands of Time” carry enough video game tributes to satisfy the fans of the game? Well, there are several iconic shots and action scenes that did feel like they were ripped from the game. That 360 degree shot while Dastan looked over the kingdom was a nice touch as well as the arrows that he used to scale the wall. Some characters in the game do make appearances (the mystical warriors) and the action does feel like the ’game’ itself as we see Gyllenhaal jump around rooftops, and this does keep the film at a fast pace. The swordplay and stunts of the film are good, but in all honesty, they aren’t anything we haven’t seen before. The acrobatic moves appear to have been inspired by Hong Kong action films; they do look real cool and very graceful. Unfortunately the special effects and set designs are rather uneven. Some looked better than others (the light trails were good) while some looked very fake. I almost did feel like some CGI-rendered environments were just borrowed from the game.
 
Jake Gyllenhaal is a capable actor and his chemistry with the commanding presence of beauteous Gemma Atherton may appear a little forced but the two managed to get by and convince me anyhow. Gyllenhaal does make good as the lead protagonist despite the fact that he isn’t Persian (no one in the film is, so get over it). His action scenes are aided by flashy editing tricks that make his moves look good (but it does get hampered by some quick cuts at times). The opportunist played by Alfred Molina does almost steal the show along with his knife-throwing companion. I found him to be the comic relief of the film as he comes out with comedic one-liners about corruption in the kingdom. Ben Kingsley is the uncle Nizam and well, he is his usual self; and after seeing his abysmal role in “Bloodrayne”, this is a relief. I was real disappointed that his brothers were severely underdeveloped. The older brother showed promise but was ignored in favor of the set ups for the action.
 
“Sands of Time” isn’t a bad movie if you look at it from a viewpoint where almost all video game adapted movies proved lacking. It is entertaining but unfortunately it entertains for the wrong reasons. It spent too much time trying to explain itself, and pretends to be more intricate than it really is; after awhile, it feels a little disjointed because it lost its focus. It does feel rather overcooked, dry and over-thought out that it nearly choked under the sand. But if you’re just looking for escapist entertainment, “Prince of Persia: Sands of Time” may prove a diversion. The screenplay is kept at a brisk energetic pace and it does have a lot of action to distract us. It is a jumbled piece of stunts and eye-candy scenes abundant with green screen trickery; it isn’t an epic adventure but popcorn summer entertainment and this may be the best anyone can hope for in a video-game adapted movie. What exactly were you expecting…one made by Michael Bay or Paul W.S. Anderson? For my money,  this would be better than anything those two can come up with...
 
Recommended with caution, RENT it first!
[3 out of 5 Stars]

This is a Lunch.com First!

HYPE LEVEL: Quite high since the movie was produced by the guys who made "Pirates of the Caribbean". Combined with the credible resume of Gyllenhaal and Kingsley, the movie has a good hype going for it. But it all depends on who you ask. 

            
 
 
Action-Adventure In the Sands of CGI Eye Candy! Action-Adventure In the Sands of CGI Eye Candy! Action-Adventure In the Sands of CGI Eye Candy! Action-Adventure In the Sands of CGI Eye Candy!

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June 01, 2010
Great review. I think I'll skip this one at the cinema and watch it when it's released for rental. Nice to hear Alfred Molina is good in this. I think he's a very underrated actor.
June 02, 2010
Molina was the saving grace of the film for me. Yes, I would recommend a rental, I cannot give it a full recommendation though fans of the game is probably going to enjoy the movie.
 
May 29, 2010
I think I'll wait for the DVD and such, great review WP.
May 29, 2010
Agreed, it sounds like a rental.
December 14, 2010
I bought the BD on Black Friday for $ 6.99!
 
May 29, 2010
Very interesting and while +3 may be a substandard score to most genres, I have to say that for a video game to movie entry, it might as well be an A+. Great review and in a sense, what I kind of expected out of it. I would probably rate Pirates about the same (despite the hype surrounding that franchise). Great review as always and I will be by to enjoy the rest of your new reviews as soon as life slows to mudslide pace.
May 29, 2010
Thanks, man. This wasn't horrible and it is better than other video game movies. Hey, don't forget to check out my review for IDENTITY CRISIS comic starring the Justice League...it's for you!
 
May 29, 2010
I wrote in my write up of Video Games that there are actually pretty good reasons that video games just don't make good adaptations in general.  And it also why I keep sticking to my rule of "Don't Compare Mediums."  Video Games is probably what best proves my rule. 

One of the reason, I realized is that there are a lot of video games that, for the most part, don't give movie producers much to work with.  Everyone keeps being surprised at how Mario turned into such a disaster... of course it did.  What exactly did Super Mario give producers to work with?  There's literally no story and no plot!

Prince of Persia falls into the latter category, though.  That being that there's just too much game.  The game is a pretty lengthy expenditure that, once again, doesn't give producers a whole lot to work with in terms of plot (though given when it came out, much more than games in the 8-bit and 16-bit era).  There's usually more game than actually story telling in a video game.  In the case of The Prince, there actually is something there they can use.  Can't tell you if they used it, but it sounds like they did what they always do: Pull bits and pieces while overall putting it into a story that they've written instead of lifting it from the game.  Perhaps.  And I don't mind that.

But that also brings about the last reason that video games don't make good adaptations: They think most gamers are teenagers, still... and they think most teenagers are stupid and don't care about story (you'd be surprised how many I've found who do).  They think the teenage gaming crowd just wants special effects and something pretty.  Because they think the graphics is why a lot of these games sell so well.  It's not.  It plays a role, but it's not the reason.  If that were so the Wii shouldn't be as big as it is.  Neither should the Playstation 2... or the original Playstation for that matter.  In short, Hollywood just doesn't take the medium of gaming seriously.

Gamers don't help the situation much either, though.  Most of them are acting like little immature idiots that it's no surprise to find out that, yes, people DO think most gamers are teenagers (the average gamer is in his mid 30's, a fact that people still refuse to accept... in short, I'm pretty damn young compared to the average!).  Not to mention networks like G4 only push already untrue stereotypes such, "We only care about something shiny and hot ladies."  Works... IF YOU'RE TRYING TO APPEAL TO YOUNG GAMERS!  It doesn't if you're trying to appeal to the gamer that actually cares about story.

Unfortunately many of the most story driven games aren't the ones selling and the reason most would buy something like Modern Warfare 2 is mostly because of the multiplayer not exactly the story.  When they see that Modern Warfare 2 has sold, oh, 18 million copies worldwide and see what it's about.  Modern Warfare is a great game, but it's story is not the greatest reason you'd want to buy it--and it IS a pretty good story, but I assure you when they decide to make a Call of Duty movie, it's going to be about guns blazing, big explosions and being pretty... but it will ignore the complexities of the story that even the games themselves actually have.

Likewise, there's just this sense that most people in Hollywood... don't play video games.  And much of the movie going public doesn't play video games (or so it seems, there are a lot of closeted gamers out there).  These video game adaptations aren't made for gamers... they're made for movie goers, and a good deal of them have no knowledge of the game and don't WANT to need to have that knowledge when they go in.  Likewise, those teenage ones that they want to get into the theater who might've played the game... are giving them the characters at the least.  And maybe some obscure references.  Sometimes that works but I think for most video games... it doesn't.  Some video games could probably get by with a straight shot adaptation, but the number of video games that could can be counted on one hand.  Even the ones with a narration couldn't be done unless they're willing to make several movies... but there's no guarantee that'll work.  It's not profitable enough to do that for Hollywood (the highest grossing video game adaptation is Tomb Raider... the only one to break the $100 millon mark... it's sequel?  Less than $70 million... and with how much it's starting to cost now they don't want to take that risk).  

In short, I think the mediums are a bit too different to actually do it.  With adapting a graphic novel you can at least... well... use the graphic novel itself as a storyboard.  And books can work in a similar way (although you have to cut A LOT of stuff out) but gaming in and of itself doesn't have a happy medium with "Too much plot and story" (that would be games like Metal Gear Solid that drown you in hours upon hours of cutscenes) or "Too Little Plot and Story" (games like Mario, Metroid, Mega Man and even games like Devil May Cry--hell almost ANY action game, even the 20 hour long ones). 

You want to know what I think would work?  If you adapted video games into television shows or a short series rather than films.  Since film is hampered by time restraints... it's nearly impossible to see some of the best narrative video games turned into movies (the idea that you could make a two hour long movie based off a 40 hour long game--or even a mere 10 hour long game--is absurd!).  So do a TV series instead.  In Japan this little tactic works!  And it works VERY well for most games (Pokemon, anyone?).

Sorry for such a long comment.  I just think that the two mediums just don't mesh well together... at least in movies.  When video games incorporate film into their games they work because they actually have the time for it.  A big movie doesn't.  That, and the topic fascinates me to no end because I'm a huge gamer.

I'll probably see Prince of Persia.  It looks like it'll be better than most game adaptations.  Although some of it is my bias... because if Jerry Bruckheimer could turn a theme park ride into a fairly good movie.... you'd think a video game would be no problem if he made a similar approach to it.  Sounds like it might be better than most (although, I really think they're just godawful films in general... as I said, "They're horrible films but even WORSE adaptations.").  Even if Prince of Persia is nothing like the game (and I'm guessing the similarities are very subtle) I'm hoping that at least it utilizes good techniques of the film medium.  Not sure when I'll see it, however.  I just think the mediums are... way too different to ever expect a movie to be like the game.  Most games a plot moves forward because you've done so... when the bad guy gets his comupence it's because of what you may have done in the battle.  A movie... can't do that.  The loss of interaction makes adapting a video game much more difficult than we previously thought.
May 29, 2010
wow! This comment is worthy of being posted as a review by itself. I agree with everything you've said, Sean, there is just something about video games that oftentimes doesn't translate well, and I definitely agree with you that comic books make for better adaptations than games. You clearly put a lot of thought in this comment and I admire your passion for games. Killer comment about the bad guy, couldn't have said that better. I know RE would've been a lot better film if it stuck to its source material and yes, these games can be adapted better into a TV series.

I think for the most part, games aren't getting the respect it deserves and H-wood just wants a quick buck. "Prince of Persia" is NOT an inventive film but I have to say that it is one of the more decent video game adaptations out there. (and I've seen most of these adapted films) Have you seen the Japanese adaptation of the RE games in CGI? They are pretty good.
May 29, 2010
Haha, if it's video game related I can go on like a drunk philosipher in a dark tavern.  The topic of video game adaptations is fascinating to me because it's one time when I really think the two mediums really are just too different.  Ironically enough, video games based off movies are usually no good either... although the reasons are different (rushed development to meet the release date of the film, mostly, but also that some movies just don't have enough CONTENT for a video game anyway... Iron Man 2?  They had to add an awful lot of stuff that wasn't in the movie just to get a decent game length).

Funny you should mention Resident Evil.  A lot of gamers I meet seem to really like the Paul W.S. Anderson films (I can't stand them... but I also can't stand Paul W.S. Anderson).  Resident Evil actually gave them something to work with and there was even a somewhat manageable timeframe to work with it on.  If they'd called that remake of Dawn of the Dead "Resident Evil," then I would've been like: "Best. Video Game Movie. Evar!"  Instead what gamers were forced to settle for was a movie that (at least in the case of the first one) didn't even have the characters from any of the games.  The second one was (somehow) worse and that had more resemblence to the games... and then the third was made me wish I had a neurolizer from Men in Black so that I could forget I ever saw that movie!

I haven't seen the Japanese Adaptation. But I'm guessing it's probably good because almost anything Japan does based off any of their video games is usually pretty damn good.
May 29, 2010
LOL! a drunk philosopher in a tavern! now that is something I wanna see! You make some amazing observations and each one of them is valid. In all honesty, I didn't hate Anderson's RE films, I thought # 1 and 2 just ruled in action until I sat down and really thought about it, it just didn't do anything to expand its source material and made a story that was totally different from the game. That is when I felt like it was a hack job, using characters but never capturing the spirit. RE was supposed to be a horror movie after all. SILENT HILL the movie tried but then it never really delivered in making the plot more solid. Japan has a knack for their own video game movies...no matter how silly the premise is! LOL
May 30, 2010
I hope you do see this and review it for our community!
December 14, 2010
hey, Sean--I'd like to copy and paste parts of your comment as part of an essay..can I please?
December 17, 2010
So, apparently it didn't post my last reply. But yes, if you want to use pieces of my response for your essay go right ahead. I'm a little curious as to what you'd pull, though.
 
May 29, 2010
Amazing review I am planning to see this either this week or next week it looks very good in my opinion and is to date the best video game adaption ever made so that is a plus for me. Nice work.
May 29, 2010
if oyu look at movies like DOOM and RE Extinction then yes, this is pretty good.
May 29, 2010
Those were excruciatingly bad but I have high hope since this one has Jake Gyllenhaal.
 
May 29, 2010
I was considering seeing this at the theater this weekend. I may wait now. Thanks for a great review. I have seen the trailers but did not realize this was adapted from a video game.
May 29, 2010
Hold off, it isn't horrible and if you judge it against other video game movies, it is pretty good. But I just cannot give it a full recommendation.
May 29, 2010
All things considered, I am thinking video for this one.
 
1
More Prince of Persia: The Sands of... reviews
review by . November 24, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
They sure had some nice dentists back in Persia
Prince of Persia could be the start of another genre series of high action, special effect laden romps in the some vein as Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean films.  You got old tales of yore, colorful supporting casts, hissable villains and attractive leads in the heroes.  You also got some light entertainment that isn't too demanding of a story to entertain you, maybe it's too light.      A young boy names Datsun is taken in one day by the King of Persia …
review by . January 03, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*1/2 out of ****      Disney needs to realize two things. One of those things is that they haven't came out with a good swashbuckling actioner since the "Pirates of the Caribbean" trilogy gave up the gun. The other thing they need to realize is that in 2010, the "Clash of the Titans" remake released, rendering the existence of "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" nearly useless. I'm guessing you know what I mean by all of that: "Clash …
review by . January 22, 2011
We all know the history of videogame-to-movie adaptations, especially those made by the infamous Uwe Boll. Pretty much every single one of them has sucked, except this one. Prince of Persia is definitely the best videogame movie ever made, but that's not saying much, so I tend not to judge it as a videogame movie but instead as a popcorn movie. It definitely succeeded in what it was meant to do also because the few people that were in the theatre looked happy.      In terms …
review by . November 29, 2013
posted in Movie Hype
Before seeing PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME for the first time, I was already somewhat familiar with the general premise of the story because I had played a couple of video games the movie is based upon. The movie follows prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhall), the adopted son of King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup). In the aftermath of the invasion of an enemy city, Dastan takes a strange dagger filled with sand as spoils of the war and the city's princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) is captured. Shortly …
review by . May 29, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Nizam, Dastan & Tamina,
Let me be honest. The only real reason I wanted to see Prince of Persia was to see Gemma Arterton in a role with more screen time than her character “Io” in this year’s Clash of the Titans. To my surprise, PoP: The Sands of Time actually had some depth to it… something I wasn’t expecting going into the movie. It should be mentioned that Persia had quite the uphill battle considering its roots in the videogame genre. Historically, videogame movies haven’t exactly …
review by . June 01, 2010
Long ago in the mystical land of Persia there is a story told of a man, a man who is said to be destined to be a hero, a man would save his kingdom from an evil underhanded force that threatens to undone all that is good. This man is destined to become royalty but he is not born of royal blood this man is destined to become a hero. A hero known as The Prince of Persia "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" is a visually stunning and grand special effects extravaganza  that  is …
Quick Tip by . November 24, 2010
Far out fantasy in the Middle East where a Prince and Princess keep an artifact out of hands of the evil that is Ben Kingsley. Decent enough and I've sat through worse.
Quick Tip by . December 04, 2010
A film celebrating Persians but played by actors all with British accents? Don't look for ANY historical accuracy here!
Quick Tip by . November 02, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
its got nothing on the game but hey i liked it anyway. the only bad thing about it is it reminds me a little to much of the pirates movies and the national treasure films...but the CGI omg! worth the watch.
Quick Tip by . September 28, 2010
Again a video game-inspired film proves to be entirely predictable and wholly unsatisfying as a piece of storytelling. This being a Jerry Bruckheimer production, I knew that style would overtake substance, but still I hoped that there would be some form of characterization here. Alas, not so much. The plot is mess and fails to explain itself at times while at other times it allows for the characters to make logical jumps that are ludicrous. There are plotholes big enough for an ostrich and a camel …
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Wiki

Set in medieval Persia, the story of an adventurous prince who teams up with a rival princess to stop an angry ruler from unleashing a sandstorm that could destroy the world. Which is why after the prince was tricked by a dying Vizier to unleash the Sands of Time that turns out to destroy a kingdom and transforms its populace into ferocious demons. In his effort to save his own kingdom and redeem his fatal mistake, it's up to the prince and the princess to return the sands to the hourglass by using the Dagger of Time, which also gives him a limited control over the flow of time.
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Details

Director: Mike Newell
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: May 28th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: September 14, 2010
Runtime: 116 minutes
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures, Jerry Bruckheimer Films
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