It’s not hard to argue that game to movie conversions have been given a bad name, mostly deservedly. I put this down to film companies who assume that including features from the game verbatim, tick list fashion, is the way to translate that medium into cinematic success.
As a person who loves both film and interactive digital entertainment, I’ve watched enough great games that could have been brilliant franchises flushed down the toilet to have almost despaired whether there would ever actually be a good one.
Actually, they’ve been so bad on occasion, I’d have happily taken a mediocre one, which is probably the category that Prince Of Persia falls into. Yes, it has those obligatory scenes lifted directly from the game, but it doesn’t insert them in the perfunctory style that others (Tomb Raider, Max Payne, Street Fighter, to name but a few) did. Here they actually manage to tell a reasonable story, aren’t too enslaved by their source material, and the narrative is moved along at a reasonable pace and delivered with gusto.
For those unfamiliar with the games, the Prince Of Persia is about a street urchin taken to live in a royal household, who, as an adult, comes into the possession of a magic dagger which can rewind time itself. It draws inspiration from A Thousand And One Nights, The Thief Of Baghdad, and a million other Persian fantasies.
I didn’t quite buy the relationship between Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Tamina (Gemma Arterton), but some of the other performances weren’t cringingly bad. Sir Ben Kingsley is kept on a tight leash by director Mike Newell, and instead it’s Alfred Molina that he lets open the Pandora’s box of panto in an over-the-top delivery worthy of Brian Blessed.
You get the feeling that those working on this project enjoyed themselves, and it’s possibly a shame that the box office performance has probably killed the likelihood of another Prince Of Persia outing (although, thanks to non-US takings, the film still pulled in over $300m worldwide).
Others have commented on how odd it seems to have Jake Gyllenhaal playing a Persian with an English accent, although, in retrospect, it might have seemed stranger if he’d had an American one, or tried some peculiar middle eastern inflection. Others have mentioned that neither of the lead roles is remotely of Persian origin, but then Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani was to test for Tamina, before she was arrested at the airport and refused exit from her country of origin by Iranian authorities. So, it’s not like they didn’t try to put some genuine ethnicity in there.
What you get here is an almost perfect popcorn movie that’s not overly complicated nor especially memorable, but fun all the same. It might not, for some of the reasons I outlined at the start I suspect, have got as many people into cinemas as Disney would have liked. Yet those who like some sword and sandals adventure can now experience it in the comfort of their own home.
Like most Disney Blu-ray releases these days, the movie comes in a double pack with a DVD copy along for the ride.
The English soundtrack is in DTS HD, and DTS 5.1 tracks are provided for Italian and Spanish, and a Dolby 5.1 track for Hindi viewers. There is also a stereo track for described English and subtitles for Portugal, Scandinavian countries, and the Netherlands.
The video quality is good, although some might scorn at the artistic introduction of grain into some interior and desert shots. I didn’t catch any obvious artefacts, and the colour in some of the CGI cityscapes is just wonderful. Sound is also top notch, but then, as it has the full range and majesty of DTS HD, so it should be.
In terms of extras, this isn’t a feature-heavy offering, but it’s not just a movie exclusively either. The Blu-ray disc has a single deleted scene, presumably removed to make Dastan’s brothers seem less bloodthirsty, and an impressive 116 minutes of featurettes, accessible through a Dagger of Time icon that appears when one of the segments relates to that part of the movie, if the feature is active. This didn’t work on my PC Blu-ray software, but did on my PS3.
On the DVD disc they also put a 15 minute Making Of The Sands Of Time featurette, which, given how short it is, I’m curious why they didn’t put a HD version on the main disc. It will be interesting to see if they ever bother to make a collector’s edition with more material, but my guess is that this is it.
If you like the movie, or want to see it in the best home quality, then this is an acceptable offering that won’t break the bank or disappoint many Jerry Bruckheimer movie fans. And it’s something to watch while we’re waiting for the fourth Pirates movie, from the same stable.
Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time is out now on Blu-ray and available from the Den Of Geek Store.