Budget-wise, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is the biggest videogame film of all time. Its budget was even bigger than that of the the infamous money pit Final Fantasy: Spirits Within, but spending big money doesn't always equal business. And after an opening weekend that saw it surpassed by the week old Shrek: Forever After and barely being beaten by Sex in the City 2, we bet the executives who were in charge of PoP wish they could turn back time just like Jake Gyllenhaal’s mundane and slightly douchey hero. The movie site BoxOfficeMojo.com put the film’s relative success into perspective when they compared it to the first weekends of previous gaming “classics” of the cinema.
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Now third isn’t so bad, but when your movie is beat by the first Pokemon movie, which made that total with 1999 money by the way, that can’t be seen as a success. Still on BOM’s list of highest grossing videogame films of all time Prince of Persia is already ninth and we’d give it a good chance of being the top entry eventually, but it’s not going to be making the Pirates of the Caribbean kind of money that the film’s parent company had hoped for.
But why didn’t Prince of Persia light audiences on fire? Probably because it’s a very hum drum, by the numbers, boring action film that lacks any real hook. Gyllenhaal, though a fine actor, does not work as a leading man in a big action movie. He and Gemma Arterton, the female lead, are both very attractive, but have very little chemistry, and all and all she puts in a bad performance. In fact the whole film lacks any standout showings even from well-regarded actors like Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina. It just goes through the motions of a big action flick.
Above: Please shower and shave Jake
At a glance it seems to be inspired by the games, mostly in how the Prince runs from one place to another and jumps around a lot, while occasionally rewinding time to prevent his death. But if was going to be really true to The Sands of Time’s spirit, he’d be alone and mostly silent, dodging deathtraps for the majority of the picture, and that would admittedly get old when you can’t control the guy on screen. Meanwhile the film tries and fails to capture the old-style excitement and charm the game pulls off so well. And once you get to the very predictable and frustrating ending – no spoilers, but it’s like the finale of Sands of Time the game, except more tedious – you’re left with just a weak overall package and a film that’s a pleasant enough distraction for plane rides or rental if all the good stuff is out.
Before I saw the film I thought that maybe Prince of Persia had a chance of being the best videogame film of all time just by being competently made by professionals and having a real budget. But now I know it’s just so dull and conventional, fulfilling the bare minimum of what was expected, that I don’t feel that way anymore. Yes, technically it’s “better” than nearly every other gaming adaptation, at least in measurable talent and production values on display, but I didn’t go to that movie to give out awards for good effort.
Were I making a list of five best game films of all time, this would be on there and near the top because the bar is so ridiculously low, but I’d rather watch the ludicrously campy films of the past than PoP’s meeting the action status quo. Give me Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, which have such great/terrible dialogue and moments that they leave a much bigger impact with scenes like this than Jake Gyllenhaal did with his shitty non-beard and attempts at charm. So yeah, it’s better than unwatchable shit like Dead or Alive, Doom, or any Uwe Boll’s work, but that doesn’t mean it gets a pass. Maybe Prince of Persia is the best game film of all time, but that’s less a cause for celebration and more of a reason to just stop making game films in general, because if this is as good as it gets, forget it.
Jun 2, 2010
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