Prince of Persia: From game to film

November 26, 2009, Author: Ray Willmott

The transition from games to films hasn’t exactly been a smooth one. With the likes of Dungeon Siege, Alone in the Dark, Far Cry, Doom and even Super Mario Brothers being altogether forgettable experiences, it is a surprise that Hollywood and top flight directors still strive to get it right. Yet, in the pipeline we have Sam Raimi attached to a World of Warcraft movie, Peter Jackson’s on again-off again Halo project and also something from the Gears of War franchise. However, one film has the ambition to change our perceptions of ill dread and set things right: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, brought to us from Jerry Bruckheimer Studios and Walt Disney Pictures.

It’s no surprise that Jordan Mechner’s original masterpiece is being adapted into a motion picture; in fact, it is more of a surprise that it has taken so long. The original game came out in 1989, and was a fairly standard run/jump/fight affair, but with the added tension of a one hour sand timer constantly trickling down and reminding us that the race is on. In that regard, the game was exceptionally unique despite its platform foundations, and really drew you deeper into the experience. Over time, the game spawned several sequels, although not all of them were as grand as their predecessor, some arguably surpassed it.

Many would say that this film has some big shoes to fill, as it shares the same subtitle with arguably the series’ greatest game; The Sands of Time. Sands of Time is often uttered in the same words as ‘greatest game ever’ and regularly finds itself in the Top 100, 50 and even 20 games ever made, so it’s fair to say that a lot of gamers are quite nervous about the upcoming adaption. The source material and heritage of the franchise is strong enough that it can carry well onto the big screen and potentially stretch as far as a trilogy and beyond. Of course, this all depends on how well the script is put together, how good the characterisations are, and how well the actors play their respective roles.

This is going to be in Movie Theaters really soon.

This is going to be in Movie Theaters really soon.

Spearheading the picture will be Jake Gyllenhaal, best known for his roles in Donnie Darko, Jarhead and Brokeback Mountain, who has infamously buffed himself up to play Prince Dastan and really looks the part. Co-starring alongside him will be Gemma Arteton, known as Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace and Kelly in St Trinians, and Sir Ben Kingsley, known for just about every film made by humankind!

Even the director, Mike Newell, has an illustrious background, having worked on Four Weddings and a Funeral, Donnie Brasco, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and, upon seeing the trailer, it seems he knows something of the source material. It’s also quite obvious that the film is going to represent more about the franchise than just the sub-title ‘Sands of Time’, as the trailer makes a great point of the romantic tension between both Prince and Princess, which was more of a focal point of 2008′s PoP game than in previous installments.

We don’t get to see much from Sir Ben Kingsley in the trailer, although it’s clear he is a man driven by a lust for power and has an obsession with the dagger Prince Dastan wields, which has some pretty cool looking special effects.

I like the feel of the film, I like the approach and direction it’s taking, the scenery is breath-taking, the action looks tense and exhilarating, the narration over the trailer suggests a solid plot, everything seems excellent. Although, having watched the trailer, I find myself ever so slightly unconvinced by Jake. G. Of course, a trailer isn’t a proper depiction of a film, and doesn’t really give you the chance to get enough of a feel for a character outside of a single dimension, but while Jake has buffed up for the role and looks in shape, I found some of his line-delivery a little underwhelming. Perhaps I just wasn’t used to the accent he was attempting for the role or that was the point of the scene he was in. I suppose I expected the Prince to be a bit more chipper, much more tongue in cheek and very confident in his abilities, whereas something about Prince Dastan seems a tad timid and reserved. Again, I want to re-iterate that trailer impressions are not enough to dictate an opinion of a film and so I really cannot give much more than glancing observations.

However, despite my misgiving, I think this film has a lot of potential to change the general opinion of game to film conversions. It has a big budget behind it, Disney at the advertising wheel and an early Summer 2010 release date which means it won’t suffer competition from other big franchises due out next year. There’s also a strong rumour abound that a new PoP game from Ubisoft could be announced to coincide with the film’s launch. Could this really be the one game to film adaption to rule them all? I live in hope, and can’t wait to see the finished product.

Is it May yet?