Saturday, 29 May 2010

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (12A)

Ever since Bob Hoskins threw on a pair of red dungarees to play an irate Italian plumber, critics have been less than favourable towards video game movie adaptations. And with good reason; despite their best intentions, filmmakers seem incapable of finding a cinematic home for their 16-bit stars and many have questioned if a successful console conversion is even possible. Well, it appears that Disney’s latest, whilst far from a masterpiece, has at least put this particular curse on ice. Avoiding the pitfalls of its predecessors, Prince of Persia succeeds, somewhat ironically, by distancing itself from the source material. Whereas Max Payne (2008) or Silent Hill (2006) et al, were merely a best of compilation of the game’s most iconic moments, Persia merely name checks its videogame counterpart whilst remaining first and foremost, a film. This is affirmed when halfway through you find yourself realising for the first time, ‘this is based on a game.’ 

Not that you’ll be rushing back to see it. Not unless you’re 8 years old anyway. This is after all a Bruckheimer film complete with all the action, romance and lazy plotting that his name guarantees. Clearly wanting to emulate the success of a certain Pirate series, Disney has recaptured Verbinski’s epic setting but lost much of the charm. Alongside Jack Sparrow, Elliot and Rossio’s script featured a myriad of intriguing characters each spouting exceptional dialogue. Here, the only comic relief is Alfred ‘Doc Ock’ Molina’s morally compromised businessman and even he isn’t that funny. Everyone else, including a barely relevant Ben Kingsely, takes themselves far too seriously in a film which really requires a few more winks at the camera. Meanwhile, the protagonist Dastan is a surprisingly lightweight lead for such a potentially lucrative franchise, a likeable but ultimately uncharismatic hero whom you can’t help but feel should have been a lot cockier. Jake Gyllenhaal does his best but his English accent is far too dreary which only magnifies his unsuitability for such a huge role. The delectable Gemma Arterton is on full Transformers/Megan Fox mode as a Look But Don’t Listen romantic fling whose significance to the plot is of secondary importance to how many males will come to watch. 

But is it fun? Well, predominantly yes. The script keeps things moving at a brisk pace and the action never feels overbearing. Mike Newell, hot off the back of an Indiana Jones master class, balances the use of practical effects and CGI rather well, although the frequent slo-mo leaves the whole thing looking a little 1980s, while his over reliance on close-ups during dialogue scenes is often disorientating. However, the closed ending is a satisfying change and if you can sidestep the clunky story and expositionary dialogue you may find yourself actually enjoying the experience.


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Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) ***
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Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007) ***

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