I’m convinced that no one will ever be able to make a decent video game movie. Why is this? Because video games are basically interactive shadows of movies and television shows. In addition, video games typically don’t have storylines to base a movie or TV show off of and if the game does have a story, its usually pretty cliche and/or lame. To then take a video game and adapt it back into a film or a TV series is simply a losing proposition and this is evidenced by the large number of pure crap that has come out over the years. The Prince of Persia is the latest game-to-movie adaptation and for 2 hours, I had to sit through a loud, obnoxious, ADD-fueled bloated monstrosity of typical Hollywood excess. It was 2 hours I will never get back.

Prince of Persia is about a street urchin (Jake Gyllenhaal) who’s adopted by the King of Persia to be his son. With ulterior motives to take over the throne, the king’s brother (Ben Kingsley) sets out to capture a holy city that guards a dagger that enables its holder to go back in time for 1 minute. The brother wants the dagger to go back in time so he can change history and make himself the king of Persia. The city is captured and Gyllenhaal is framed for the murder of his adopted father. Intending to clear his name, Gyllenhaal manages to escape with the captured princess (or queen?) (Gemma Arterton) of the holy city and the magic dagger.

One thing I’ll give Prince of Persia, it doesn’t have a bad story. In fact, I really dug the plot. It has everything you would want in an adventure story: a hero facing big obstacles, a girl he tries to win over, magical treasures, formidable villains, and a great Arabian Nights backdrop. All the elements for a great summer movie are present. Unfortunately, the filmmakers failed to gel everything together to make for a compelling film and instead we basically got a live-action video game thrown up on the screen.

I had read and heard some criticism of the decision to cast Jake Gyllenhaal as the lead. Many said Gyllenhaal didn’t possess the kind of action movie leading man characteristics that Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, or Johnny Depp do. But you know what? I thought he did just fine. Granted, Gyllenhaal hasn’t really been in any action movies unless you’d like to count The Day After Tomorrow. However, he brings some of the laid back goofiness that he’s exhibited in past films and it helps to identify the audience with his character. Of course, it didn’t help that he had atrocious dialogue to work with, but aside from that, Gyllenhaal does a fine job.

As usual, nothing bad can be said about Sir Ben Kingsley and even with the poor material he’s given, Kingsley is able to make it his own and give the audience something worth watching. The same can be said of Alfred Molina, who plays a shady businessman who spews lines that were obviously meant to be a parody of Right Wing/Tea Party philosophy. Gemma Arterton is another story. I never once bought into her or felt her plight or even care whether she lived or died. Her character is a frigid bitch who walks around with a cold supermodel look half the time. And she’s supposed to be our hero’s love interest!! I felt absolutely no chemistry between she and Gyllenhaal and the bantering dialogue between them is cringe-inducing. The filmmakers were clearly trying to recreate the sexual tension that Indy and Marion had in Raiders of the Lost Ark or the tension between Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn in The African Queen. But you know the difference between those movies and this one? Those had competent writers who knew how to write decent dialogue.

There is not a single moment in Prince of Persia that doesn’t contain CG effects, film score, or some sort of action. Like the video game it adapts, the film is a continuous stream of kinetic action. However, when you have to sit through 2 straight hours of this, your mind tends to burn out and the film just turns into a jumbled mess of pretty pictures. Surprisingly, I found myself getting bored 1/4 of the way through the film because of all the sensory overload. What makes this movie fail to emotionally connect with me is its lack of any character development or even a few moments of downtime so the audience can catch up. I didn’t want to essentially see a video game on the screen. True, there was a good story and a bit of good acting, but that was it. Character development? WHAT character development?

Another big issue I had with this movie is something that most action/adventure films seem to be suffering from lately. The main characters never seem to be in any danger. They never seem to be in over their heads or not know what to do in any given situation. Prince of Persia is especially guilty of this. Gyllenhaal has the entire Persian army out to get him on top of these shadowy ninja Arabian dudes. However, never once does he show fear or doubt and he escapes through every situation like it was a….wait for it….VIDEO GAME LEVEL!

Speaking of video game levels, although I really dug the magical dagger that allows its user to basically restart time, this totally reminded me of a video game character dying and starting the level over. Another problem with having such a device is that, once again, the personal stakes of the characters remain low. After all, if anyone dies, the holder of the dagger can simply go back in time and save the person.

Aside from a few things I liked (plot and a few actors), Prince of Persia was a mess I never intend to revisit. It reminded me of other Middle Eastern action/adventure films I hate with equal passion such as The Mummy series and The Scorpion King. I mean where the hell are the John Miliuses of the world with their Conan the Barbarians? Why can’t we get those kind of films instead of these formulaic and tired insults to our intelligence? I know this is a Jerry Bruckheimer film and he’s not exactly known for small, thoughtful indies, but I have seen him come out with far more entertaining material than this.

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