The Prince of Persia movie is a quite unique video game adaptation. Unlike most other Hollywood productions which belong to this category it was based on a game which actually has a pretty damn good story. So you would think that taking that story and giving it the professional Hollywood polish would yield something worthwhile. The movie could spend more time exploring the relationship between the two main characters and fully realize the hellish, warped reality created by the unleashing the sands of time. But the story didn’t get the Hollywood polish – it got the Hollywood treatment. That’s when you license a franchise with a decent story and setting, then you throw it all away and replace with something entirely different.
Frankly, the only thing the movie and the game have in common is the title and the fact that they both happen somewhere in Persia and that a dagger that can turn back time is involved. Everything else has been altered – including the names and back stories of the main characters. In fact, if Disney for some reason had to give up the PoP license during post production, they would only have to re-shoot 2 or 3 minutes worth of screen time. After that they could simply rename the film to “Arabian Prince: The MacGuffin of Power” and it would still work.
The only reason why the movie is not horrible is because it is a template job. This is a standard Arabian Nights styled tale about a young daring man who finds an incredibly powerful artifact and must protect it from an evil, powerful antagonist, and win the heart of a beautiful princess at the same time. It is basically yet another re-imagining of the basic Aladin story. But it works. This is what storytelling is about. Most of the time you want to take an existing framework and build on top of it.
Here is the deal: you may actually enjoy most of the movie, despite the fact that Mike Newell and Disney studios just shat all over the original source material. In fact, you will probably forget that you were disappointed by this after the first few minutes – or whenever you realize that the film really has nothing to do with the game, and it is simply riding its popularity. It’s a gimmick.
You see, the reasoning behind this is that 18-30 male demographic will probably remember one of the PoP incarnations and will want to see this film. They will then drag their significant others or their offspring to go with them. Thus the movie is a fast paced PG-13 action-adventure which includes Jake Gyllenhaal without his shirt on (which I am told is the primary reason why women go to see this movie). And even if you don’t care for the game, and don’t fancy the Bubble Boy, you may still be drawn to the cool parkour sequences or those maddeningly adorable freckles on Gemma Arterton’s nose.
Btw, she is great in this movie. She does channel Farah from the original game in spirit at least both protagonists have very similar relationship: bickering, backstabbing and lots of sexual tension. She does the “fish out of water” bits quite gracefully, and her bitchy, spoiled princess has the exactly right amount of bitchiness – not to much, and not to little. Oh, and did I mention the cute freckles?
Jake Gyllenhaal really tries very hard to fit this role. Maybe it’s just me, but for some reason I just don’t think he was the right choice for this role. He just seemed out of place. I’m used to seeing him in these more cerebral roles (Donnie Darko, Jarhead, etc..). This sort of straight action, cocky, arrogant Prince of Parkour type stuff just doesn’t seem like him. Don’t get me wrong though – I’m not complaining about his acting here. As I said, he did a good job.
All of this of course is spoiled by the ending. You have these two great actors go through the standard paces to build up their characters and tangle them together in this fun, wacky relationship based on mutual distrust, amusing back and forward often flirtatious banter and heaps of unresolved sexual tension. Then all of a sudden the plot thickens and heads start rolling. Before you know it, almost every named character is dead and you suddenly know what is coming next. The dreaded reset button. All of a sudden nothing that happened in the movie matters anymore. The relationship between the two protagonists – boom, gone. The quirky side characters and their sacrifices? Irrelevant. All the character development and plot gets erased and replaced by disgustingly happy ending that’s all rainbows and lollipops.
Granted, the original game also rewinds the time at the end but that’s actually a part of the story. There is just no other way to fix things, so the rewind is a bit of a sacrifice and the ending is somewhat bittersweet. The rewind in the movie on the other hand seemed drastic, unnecessary and cheap. I literally felt cheated out of the story, because it was rendered inconsequential. The ending was so upbeat and positive that I wanted to puke.
My recommendation: if you are planning to see it, turn of your brain, lower your expectations and prepare for a crappy, cop-out ending. Other than that the film will probably be somewhat enjoyable.