By definition, video game movies are a contradiction. One requires hours and hours of game play with a million different levels of action, and intricacies that have nothing to do with relatable human behavior or interesting character interaction. Movies are an entirely different beast. They must satisfy on a story and character level before any of the elaborate plot mechanics and visual razzle dazzle can make a satisfying impact.
All of this is to say that Prince of Persia is far from – pun intended – game changing. I’ll be nice and describe it as an expensive-looking, semi-successful attempt. It’s not as bad as Doom, where filmmakers actually resort to a first person, game player perspective – complete with kill count. But after watching the great balancing acts in the sand that are Raiders of the Lost Ark and Lawrence of Arabia (both excellent blends of epic action and character moments), I definitely vote for Bruckheimer and company to head back to the drawing board.
Unlike, say, Pirates of the Caribbean, whose bloat could be tolerated due to Johnny Depp’s ever-amusing Jack Sparrow creation, Prince’s desert sword-and-sorcery – a tale of feuding brothers wrestling for power in ancient Persia – has only the star of Donnie Darko at its center. Kudos to buffed-up Jake Gyllenhaal for not completey embarrassing himself, but his beefcake version of Jon Bon Jovi run amok in a video arcade offers nothing but dramatics and jokey asides. The same holds for Gemma Arterton as his exotic love interest. She looks great, but the chemistry of the duo is forced and shoehorned into a too-elaborate plot. As for Sir Ben Kingsley as the devious brother to the King…what’s the actor from Ghandi even doing in this project?
Thankfully, due to this weekend’s grosses (who thought Jake Gyllenhaal was a good idea to be the next Tom Cruise?), we’re probably saved Prince of Persia 2. Maybe I’m just being grouchy, but it was hard to take this guy in the desert after Indiana and Lawrence of Arabia. I know I’m not supposed to get too serious about it, but still, if summer movie rules are in effect, then I’m arguing for a 90 minute limit for all would-be epics that fall short. On a more positive note, we’re a quarter of the way to the 100 day mark, and my appreciation for movies that pass the quality test couldn’t be more sky high.