In most cases, if a movie adaptation of a video game is to work, it ends up forging a new story for itself, instead of copying the one already laid out in the video game. The Resident Evil series is a prime example of this, including a protagonist that didn’t even exist within the game franchise. In Prince of Persia, the characters are similar, the Dagger of Time still exists, but the story is completely separate from the games.
Like I said to open off, when a different story is used, that’s when a video game adaptation has the greatest chance of success. Not trying to copy something that fans are already greatly familiar with means that when it appears on the big screen, direct correlations and comparisons do not arise, at least, not right away. Instead, fans of the series are treated to something fresh, while non-fans are given something that might entice them to want to try out the games, without feeling like they are reliving a story they’ve now witnessed on the big screen.
This is pretty much exactly what Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time does. It takes already familiar elements of the games, and puts them into a separate story, one that hopes to keep things fresh, while being entertaining for fans of the series. This is basically what it is, translating the fun, acrobatic gameplay of the game and turning it into a fun, acrobatic action flick.
Which isn’t to say that there is any depth in the film, because there isn’t. Characters don’t develop or feel like real people while the story is bare-bones, with any plot twists being easily visible for miles. For an action film, whose basis also had few plot points, this is actually okay in my eyes. Sure, it means that people who need depth to mindless entertainment will be disappointed, but doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of “mindless entertainment”?
That is what Prince of Persia is: Mindless. I mean that in the best possible way I can, but yes, it is still a problem. The film doesn’t need to have a lot of depth to be fun and accomplish its goals. Unfortunately, it doesn’t transcend its genre in any way, existing for the sole purpose of entertaining the audience for a couple of hours, and then leaving the audience’s minds, never to be thought of again.
This is especially true because of the way the film ends. It’s incredibly hard to mention it without spoiling how it ends, but it was really disappointing. In fact, mentioning that I don’t like the ending before even mentioning the plot seems kind of fitting, now that I think about it. Take that as you will.
The main plot involves Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), a prince who was adopted by the king, being framed for the murder of his adoptive father. His uncle (Ben Kingsley) and brother are on the hunt for him, and he has escaped capture with Princess Tamina by his side. They are untrusting of one another, causing some sort of tension between them through most of the film. At one point, they meet up with Sheikh Amar (Alfred Molina), who plays more of a comedic relief role than anything. He doesn’t like taxes, to say the least. (Just roll with it, you don’t have much choice).
And, well, there is about one major plot twist within the film. That’s about it, and you’ll likely see it way before it is revealed to you. Essentially, the plot serves as a reason for us to see Prince Dastan jump from rooftop to rooftop, swing across conveniently placed wooden ledges, climb buildings and fight with swords. It’s reasons like this one, where the plot is a backdrop to a bunch of action scenes, which is why I don’t think depth really matters when it comes to a film like this. It’s an action film through and through, and people will want to watch it for its action scenes, not for its great character development or plot.
The action scenes are fairly fun to watch. There were some entertaining parkour sequences, some exciting sword fights, and … actually, that’s about all. Those two things occupy pretty much all the time of the action scenes, save for the opening “storm the castle” part, which actually ends up being the highlight of the film.
I have two issues with the action sequences in Prince of Persia. The first is a problem with the film as a whole, in that its pacing is somewhat out of whack. If feels too long, with a large, slow part near the middle that could have been shortened. The second problem is with the use of slow-motion. Sometimes, this does make things look impressive, but there were some slow-motion shots where there wasn’t much point to it. There were times when there wasn’t even any action going on, but slow-motion was applied anyway.
Look, you don’t go into a film like Prince of Persia and expect great depth. That’s just not how it is, and if that’s what you do, you need to realize that a film like this isn’t going to bring you that. Instead, you get fun action sequences held together by a barely relevant plot, with characters that have no real personality other than to accomplish their main task. That’s fine, but adjust expectations accordingly when considering watching this film. It’s entertaining, but not much else. Once it’s over, you’ll forget it even exists.