The last thing this world needed was another videogame-to-movie adaptation. With “legendary” director Uwe Boll bastardizing videogames as he wishes, survival-horror classic Resident Evil being converted into a gore movie of all things, and a cult mega-hit like Max Payne being brutally ripped apart from its core, videogames have had a hard time of it on the silver screen. The latest character to get a taste of the action is Jordan Mechner’s Prince of Persia, who is the protagonist of what is undoubtedly one of the most beloved action-adventure game series of all time. However, unlike the aforementioned movies, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is certainly worth the price of admission and, surprisingly, works even when taken out of its videogame origins and seen simply for what it is: an entertaining, wholly watchable summer action-adventure flick. Not only that, most fellow gamers will also be thrilled to hear that it is the best game-to-movie transformation that we have seen yet (having already played the new Prince of Persia games, I do have some context in this regard), and we can only hope this represents a sign of things to come for proposed movies like Bioshock, Halo, Mass Effect, and the whole gamut of blockbuster games awaiting a movie debut.
If you didn’t know it already, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time has nothing to do with its videogame namesake, at least insofar as the story is concerned. While the Dagger and Sands of Time form the basis of both of them, the story is wildly different as was to be expected because a straightforward conversion has never worked. However, since the screen story for the movie is also written by Jordan Mechner, it remains, for the most part, on the right side of the absurdity-line that nearly every previous adaptation has stepped over freely. In addition to that, the director and screenwriters have also neatly worked the mechanism of the Dagger and Sands of Time into the movie. What this means is that even if non-gamers feel cheated at the movie’s less-than-conventional closure, gamers will smile at the similarity in the manner in which both the game and the movie move from the opening to the closing frames.
As the film opens, we are introduced to King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup), the current ruler of the Persian Empire, and his 3 sons: the eldest and heir to the throne Tus (Richard Coyle), followed by Garsiv (Toby Kebbell), and adopted son Dastan (Jake Gyllenhall). The king’s brother and the person who provides him with council is Nizam (Sir Ben Kingsley). When the Persian army is asked to investigate the happenings in the sacred city of Alamut, Tus learns that the city has turned traitor and decides to overrule his father and orders for the city to be invaded. By dawn the next day, Alamut is under Persian control, the Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) is getting ready to be married to Tus, and the sacred Dagger of Time has fallen into Dastan’s hands. But when the King is murdered and Dastan is help responsible, he is forced to flee along with the Princess in order to escape the charges against him, bring the real murderer before his brothers, and help Tamina to protect the Dagger.
Prince of Persia is the kind of movie where the actors are generally inconsequential. Jake Gyllenhall is a decent actor, but he is more or less in this movie for his looks than his acting skills, which are not troubled. I did, however, find myself missing the wonderful voice-actor, who infused the Prince in the game with a wonderful sense of boyish charm that was sadly lacking here. And since I spent most of my time ogling at Gemma Arterton, I couldn’t care less whether she acted or not which, at least on the basis of this movie, she definitely has difficulty doing. Sir Ben Kingsley has nothing of note to do in his role as the villain of the movie. Alfred Molina, who is the only member of the cast to get himself noticed amidst all the special effects, has a lot of fun playing Sheik Amar, a role which has striking similarities to Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow.
The film is unquestionably all about the special effects and stunt choreography (which show an obvious inspiration to Assassin’s Creed, the pseudo-sequel to the POP games, than the actual Sands of Time game itself), both of which rival the best of what other action/adventure motion-pictures have to offer. This is largely thanks to producer Jerry Bruckheimer of course, without whose involvement, the movie might have ended up like other game-to-movie adaptations. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time definitely offers fun time at the theatre whether you are interested in seeing how they have transformed your beloved game onto the cinema screen, or are just looking for some way to enjoy yourselves at the cinemas before the real summer blockbusters (a la Inception, Toy Story 3, The Expendables, The A-Team etc.) start rolling in.