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STUDIO: Walt Disney Home Entertainment
RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes
Blu-ray Bonus features:
• CineExplore: The Sands Of Time
• Deleted scene – The Banquet: Garsiv Presents Heads
DVD Bonus feature:
• An Unseen World: Making Prince Of Persia
Yes, it was his birthday. Yes, it was technically his cake. Yes, he washed the knife proper later.
No, it didn’t make this shit less creepy.
“Well, if we turned a shitty theme park ride into a billion dollar trilogy, why not a shitty game?”
“But, Mr. Bruckheimer? The games aren’t shi–“
“DO NOT QUESTION ME! I AM JERRY BRUCKHEIMER!”
dir. Mike Newell
Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina, and approximately 3.78 actual Persians.
A Persian prince (Gyllenhaal), adopted heir to the throne, and a mysterious princess (Arterton) guarding a sacred time-altering dagger search for answers after the prince is framed for the murder of his father.
At this point in my life, rather than get angry, it’s better to view Hollywood’s continued attempts to marry movies and video games like you’re watching the world’s most embarrassing episodes of Blind Date, complete with the hilarious captions, thinly veiled propositions for sex, and crying into a punch bowl full of Fruity Pebbles at 2 in the morning over the sheer misery of what your life has become. At least thats what it means for me. Anyway, once, maybe twice a year, they keep sending this scuzzy, rich, sunglass-wearing, fake-tanned, judgemental asshole (Hollywood, for those keeping track) out with these hot looking, but socially stunted barely-legals with zero self-esteem who’ll end up in the hot tub with him as a thank you for the free dinner. Occasionally, the first date goes well and there’s a sort of hilarious charm watching two severely retarded overgrown children sloppily love on each other like Rancors in heat. These would be the first Mortal Kombat, Tomb Raider, Resident Evil films. Course, by the second, third, even fourth date, the charm’s gone, the constant Cro-Magnon groping is just disgusting, and you just kinda wish this love affair would just end, swiftly, with hammers to the face. Possibly yours.
Then there’s the dates where the girl’s got a little more pride, respect for herself, and some God’s honest ambition, and she’s sleeping with him because he might be able to pay off some school loans and get her a job at William Morris. It’s pretty much just Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and Silent Hill here. The end result is fascinating, but a relationship based on shallow criteria, and the guy SO doesn’t give Shit One or Shit Two when she gets to talking about art or Dario Argento’s use of color.
The rest? Just a successive string of greedy wannabe celebutantes who’re just happy to be on TV. Meanwhile, the audience has already fallen asleep while flipping around to see if Family Guy‘s on somewhere.
“…’To A Wonderful Mum.'”
“Yeah, I thought it’d be funny, y’know, because of what you said last night”
“The dagger’s for your mum, isn’t it?”
Prince of Persia is in a different, brand new category of video game movie, though. It’s not entertaining enough to be that first kind of affair, not smart enough to be in the second, and yet still not wincingly bad enough to be in the third. Somehow, they’ve made a video game film that, even if viewed in the MST3K sense, is just criminally mediocre. Which, somehow, ends up being worse.
Prince of Persia is faithful to the source material in the worst kind of way. The studio behind the game has spent countless reboots and sequels and spinoffs trying to figure out what it was that made The Sands of Time special, and they can’t get it exactly right either. However, their sins come down to diluting and mixing up the character of the Prince to the point where the classically loveable, but flawed rogue from the first game is a bygone memory, but the solid, fun, thrilling gameplay keeps us coming back. The film, on the other hand, has the inverse problem. Ignoring the fact that the cast has been whitewashed to hell, and the fact that it isn’t Naveen Andrews’ chiseled, Middle Eastern grizzliness looking determined off into the distance on posters throughout the world like it damn well should’ve been, the actors are actually well suited to their roles, and bless ‘em, try their damndest to elevate the film. Gyllenhaal in particular. His accent comes and goes at his leisure, but he brings a natural charm to Prince Dastan that shines through even the worst script throws at him. When you can tell what’s going on in the action scenes, you can see him embodying the physicality in a way you’d never expect from Bubble Boy whatsoever, though ladies who pretty much went into this just for Sweaty Dirty Donnie Darko might be disappointed at how much he keeps his shirt on. Same goes for guys expecting much out of Gemma Arterton, though even the harpy her character is written as can’t hide her natural spark and beauty. Kingsley and Molina both slum with the best of them, and their quality was never in question. Molina in particular is having a blast playing a swarthy yet goofy scumbag.
The problem is just that all this effort is being directed towards a script that offers them next to nothing to play off of. Nothing disguised as a complex mystery and adventure, which is even more annoying.
There’s a bit in the bonus features for this film where the two writers mention that they wanted more of a Shakespearean story to tell as opposed to the “typical” video game story, which leads me to believe these two dicks weren’t paying attention. What was once a simple story of two people, isolated within a ghost/zombie/trap littered palace, slowly growing fond of one another as they save each others asses from truly mortal peril, we have a plot involving a murdered king, a war started over weapons of mass destruction that were never found (OHSNAPALLEGORY), delivered in sloppy chunks of exposition, and a mysterious dagger that our fair maiden has been sworn to protect. All this is held together by a loose collection of potentially cool elements that are never fully taken advantage or or crafted into anything more than ho-hum, overedited action sequences. What this all leads me to believe is that it’s not that the writers wanted to add depth to the story, its that they couldn’t write dialogue or develop character better than what’s in the Sands of Time game.
And this would be fine if there was action that made the lackluster story worth sticking around for, but Mike Newell seems like he’s grasping at straws this entire film on what to show and when, resulting in an ADD during the action scenes that seems like we’re always missing the good shit because we cut away too early. The parkour from the games makes its appearance early on, and never really becomes a vital part of the Prince’s repertoire ever again. The best executed fight in the film, a tense knife-throwing showdown in a throne room, doesn’t even involve The Prince. That character, in fact, is one of several cool elements (along with the Hashashins who show up halfway through), the movie seems helpless on what to actually do with. The time travel gimmick, while I get that the effect cannot be cheap to pull off, isn’t utilized nearly as well as it could’ve been. And the ending, a mild alteration on the game’s bittersweet closing notes, just comes off unearned just because you never feel like anyone’s in any real danger at any point, nor is there the chemistry between Dastan and Tamina to make it stick.
And yet, it never truly sinks to the depths of a bad film, ever. The entire film has a kid in a toy store feel, where it’s fully of pretty, shiny, happy things that could be amazing, so amazing in fact that nobody knows where to begin. So, it just sits in the exact middle road of quality. Utterly forgettable the second it’s over. And say what you will about, say, Street Fighter, Mario Bros., or DOA, at least they’re memorable, albeit for the wrong reasons. This just comes off like a waste of a story that could and damn well should have been anything but.
It’s a fairly strong transfer, despite the Crow: City of Angels monkeypiss-yellow filter getting way too much play. The film still sports rich colors, skin textures, and contrast throughout. A fairly thick level of grain is pretty omnipresent, but you’re also dealing with a film perpetually bathed in sand. What hurts it is a simple lack of fine detail in some spots that should be absolutely stunning. There’s a moment early on with Dastan standing on a ledge over an entire city (a moment that, ironically, bears more than passing resemblance to Assassin’s Creed‘s Eagle Eye cutscenes) that should be jaw dropping but comes off flat. Having said that, I blame much of that on the film, not the transfer. Everything else is damn pretty, though, especially on the dagger-time effects.
Crystal clear, though surprisingly not a whole lot that’ll really give the home theater a workout. The opening battle scenes and the knife-throwing shootout are probably the two points the rear speakers are forced to do any serious gymnastics. The time travel scenes are weirdly front loaded.
There’s a White Rabbit-style feature called–original, I know–The Sands Of Time that houses the majority of your making of featurettes. Nothing to write home to mother about, though the stuff about the ostriches is amusing, ladies will enjoy the continued, expanded antics of Sweaty Shirtless Gyllenhaal, and guys will enjoy the continued antics of Not As Shirtless Than We’d Prefer But Still Damn Cute Arterton. If anything, seeing the action scenes as uninterrupted takes makes one respect how much work got put into them, but despise how much of it gets absolutely crushed by the non-stop editing. The feature is neat, but I encountered problems with it on my PS3 where, if I didn’t hit the activation button for the next branching clip before time ran out, the sound would die for the remainder of the current one. A minor annoyance, but nothing heartbreaking.
The only other feature on the Blu is a deleted scenes where one of the king’s sons presents him with the heads of his enemies on golden platters during a celebration. Fun for the whole family.
Oddly enough, the DVD included has a more straightforward Making-Of that’s not on the Blu Ray. Most of it gets covered in The Sands of Time, of course, but still, that’s just slightly puzzling. Other than that, the set has the now-standard digital copy for your downloading pleasure.