Friday, July 15, 2011

MR Prince of Persia

By now, you've probably seen I'm sort of an expert on all-things Prince of Persia.
We've seen last time the comic book, but what about the movie adaptation?

Movies based on video games tend to suck, mostly because Hollywood decides to take the easy route and turn those into cash-ins. (and also, for some strange reason, adapt fighting games, which aren't the best type of narrative-filled games...)

Also, don't miss my previous PoP reviews (you can find listed on this page if I don't forget to update it sometimes...)

Movie: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time 
Directed by Mike Newell
Release date 2010
Genre Action adventure/fantasy
Country USA
For quite some time, Jordan Mechner always wanted to adapt the Prince of Persia series into a motion picture.
During the mid-90s', an animated motion picture based on the original Prince of Persia games almost came to be. But due to a lack of interest from producers Mechner wasn't able to pull it....

Then, thanks to the current mainstream popularity of the series under Ubisoft, Mechner was able to first adapt it into a fantastic comic book (link above), and finally convince a studio, Disney nonetheless, to buy the license and make something out of this cult series.
The comic book can be seen as a tryout. Nor a particular adaptation of one of the games but its own product developing its own narrative.

This movie was written by Jordan Mechner himself (the screenplay mostly), Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro, and Carlo Bernard. It was directed by Mike Newell and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer for Walt Disney Pictures.

New PoP requires a new Prince and Princess.

What is it about?
The story is loosely based on the very game it shares its title with.
It follows rather closely the Sands of Time distinctive plot.
Jordan Mechner changes a lot of details, kept some of the best elements and dragged some references from almost all of the video game entries. Since he's the creator of the IP, I didn't had much problem with that.
The plot as usual still revolves around a Persian Prince who turns into a fugitive, embarks on a journey and fights his way back against evil forces all the while ending up with a Princess and battling a corrupt power. (the Vizier usually)
It didn't keep all of the series trademarks (the evil doppelgänger) but kept most (time, duels, parkour...).

Some non-Prince of Persia elements find their way into the movie...hint for upcoming Ubisoft adaptations?

The plot is about Dastan. Yes, the Prince is named this time. (Hollywood hates unnamed protagonists)

Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) was an orphan living in the Persian Empire. He was adopted at a young age by the King Sharaman himself. There, in the palace, he grew up along his step-brothers Tus and Garsiv.

Several years came by, now an adult, the brothers are planning an attack on the sacred city of Alamut, rumoured to have been selling weapons to their enemies.
In fact, a treachery of their own uncle Nizam (Ben Kingsley) who was seeking this city for his own reasons...

Dastan leads a surprise attack in the city and ends up finding a magical blade, the Dagger of Time.
The brothers forces the local Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) to marry Tus as a peace agreement.

Short story short, Dastan is tricked, accused of the murder of the King and has to flee the kingdom.
Accompanied by Tamina, he goes on a journey first to get more Sands of Time for his Dagger, and then to strike back at his deceivers.
On his adventure, the Prince goes through a lot. He meets Sheik Amar (played fantastically by Alfred Molina) and his fidel "Um Bakr" Knife thrower Seso, faces the legendary Hassassins, participates in ostrich racing(!), and much more!

 Spinoff potential?

Jordan Mechner wrote a very fun script.
Rather than a plain straightforward word-for-word adaptation, he took the best elements of PoP and used the story arc of the first Ubisoft-produced Prince of Persia to showcase the most of the series.
The story deviates, sure, but in a very fun and entertaining movie.

There's a lot of elements ported directly from the game.
The Prince is loosely based on both the Sand of Time trilogy and the 2008 Princes. As such, he starts the movie in the Warrior Within garb and end up in a pretty similar costume to the one wore by the 2008 PoP hero.
While the game's about getting the Sands back into the hourglass/sealing it back, the movie is about preventing it to be released in the first place. (which sort of makes more sense in my eyes, though it takes the fantastical monsters and enemies out of the movie)
The Prince Tamina serves a role similar to Farah in the SoT game, but seems to draw a lot more from Elika from the 2008 game (as well as her relationship with the Prince).

Similarly, the overall plot is pretty close to the one from the original 2nd game The Shadow and The Flame. The hero flees the palace but needs to get back to it in the end.

The score is amazing!
Best aspect of the movie for me. Pretty epic, well composed and conducted by Harry Gregson-Williams. It's not that far from the 2008 PoP score itself, with some tunes sounding pretty close to some of Two Thrones or even, dare I say, the Arabic melodies of Prince of Persia 3D.

 Face-off! It all comes down to this, an hourglass, a Prince and an evil Vizier...

The movie's pretty entertaining.
Fun and epic. For me, it's the (proper) return of the adventure genre!
Without silly gimmicks like movies such as Journey to the Center of the Earth  and its 3D-in-yoour-face.

It feels like a cross between the Arabian Nights and Indiana Jones.
The movie doesn't contain much magical/fantasy elements, but it's in the backdrop beneath the story or in the musical approach.

The new characters introduced are fun.
There's some humour, even one of the most memorable action scenes ever featuring osterich in a movie. A scene that will have people talk about for years to come fo' sure!

Overall, a very good movies in my own opinion.
It was able to adapt most of Sands of Time while not being trapped by it and being able to feature elements from most Prince of Persias.

Easily the best video game adaptation. Probably because the team behind the movie didn't want it to end up being just another usual bad video game movie. But a proper movie in itself.
Sure it might not be something new. A hero needs to prove his innocence, a magical object, tagging with a disinterested Princess, facing the corrupt member of the family and getting the girl in the end... But it's the whole package and atmosphere that really sold it to me.

The movie incorporates for the first time in the series the fabled Hassassins, who originally came from the old Persia. And main characters of that other platform-ysh parkour-inspired video game series developed by Ubisoft. Is Ubi trying to tie Prince of Persia and Assassin's Creed? (there's some elements that seem to be directly referencing AC, from an "Eagle View" moment, early in the film, to the order of the Assassins, the acrobatic sequence in the flashback sequence, etc..)

It's a pretty good movie, already one of my favorites. And much better that I hope it would be!

I give it:

2.5 / 3 Films!

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