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Write every day no exceptions – Prince of Persia June 3, 2010

Posted by Conventioneering in write every day no exceptions.

On Memorial Day, I went to go see Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Initially, I exercised cautious optimism about it. Everyone knows that movies based on videogames universally suck: there has never been a good film of this nature, mostly because they are put together very quickly to make as much money as possible after fooling die-hard fans into thinking that they’re going to get a lavish tribute to their favorite time-waster. At least Tomb Raider had Chris Barrie in it.

Still, I was optimistic about Prince of Persia. It was being carried by Disney, which, say what you will about them, they’ve proved that they can do epic adventure films with Pirates of the Caribbean. This is what I was hoping for – a kind of Arabian-themed Pirates, and I think this is what Disney was aiming for.

Unfortunately, much like the later Pirates sequels, they may have tried too hard to do this. There’s so many moments that feel like “Pirates but in the desert.” Spunky female lead, wacky sidekick guys, ominous black guy (though he’s a good guy this time, which was ratherrefreshing0, bizarre supernatural elements.

But that’s not really the biggest flaw here. Nor is the movie’s loud nonsensical nature, its emphasis on action over plot. I love cheesy action movies. There’s nothing I like more than sitting down with a bucket of popcorn for some good old fashioned escapism. I don’t like deep melodramas, I don’t like quiet character dramas, I’m not a fan of scare flicks, and romantic comedies are right out. AA movie can make me think, sure – in fact, I love science fiction films with a brain (my favorite movie of last year, for instance, was District 9, which I felt did a far better job of getting across the same messages that Avatar hit us over the head with a sledgehammer with. A sledgehammer and pretty blue catpoeple.). In that regard, Prince of Persia more than delivers. There’s a dude who throws snakes at people! There’s Hasassins (which, as an aside: Dear The Washington Post: Hasassinis actually the original name of the sect that the modern day word “assassin” comes from. Do your research before you go off labeling something as cheesy or contrived. Even if the hasassins in this movie ARE a bit cheesy and contrived, it has nothing to do with their name.) There’s time travel – though not nearly enough of it (more on that later). There’s epic battles! In this regard, I was thoroughly entertained.

Even the plot isn’t that terrible. I liked the bit about Dastan and his adopted father, and trying desperately to clear his name, and evil vizier uncles (though, as my brother said, did the trailers and posters HAVE to broadcast that he was the villain? I mean, really, that ruined the suspense that the movie was trying so hard to create).

But despite all this, the movie still fell flat for me, and I think there’s a few reasons. More than just these, but these are what I can think of off the top of my head.

1.The opening and closing titles. Why. Why did you have to use Papyrus font, Disney? Is it because James Cameron did? Here’s a hint: If James Cameron did it, it’s probably a bad idea for you to try. James Cameron will make billions off of doing something badly. You will make yourself look vastly silly. Cheesy poems at the beginning of action movies just don’t work, and the opening and closing titles would have been far better as just nice bookended shots of the sunset.

2.The Princess, just. The Princess. It’s clear that whoever was writing this film intended for her to be a dark, edgy, spunky heroine, one who doesn’t take shit from the hero, or anyone else for that matter. The problem here is that she repeatedly takes advantage of Dastan in the most bitchy, underhanded ways possible; she outright abuses him, and then once she runs off and tries to play hero, she gets in trouble and has to be rescued by the dashing prince. Which she immediately bitches about. It takes till the end of the movie for her to come around to his strong, manly heroic ways, and by then she’s gone from moderately useless to completely useless. Except of course for killing herself in a heroic sacrifice.
Please, Princess. Kill yourself so I don’t have to suffer through your whining and bad acting any longer.

Every time she opened her mouth I had to bite back the urge to yell at her to shut up. I don’t mind spunky heroines; I ind spunky heroines who are both rude and incapable of backing their spunk up with actions. The princess is set up in the beginning as competent and a possible warrior by her actions in the temple, but later she can’t even hold a sword straight. She’s what TVTropes called a Faux Action Girl – a woman set up to be awesome and kickass, but who comes off as weak, dependent on the hero, and at worst, just plain annoying.

Which she is. Annoying as all get out. If she’d been better written, she might have been an fun character, her banter with Dastan might have been amusing rather tha grating, but, as I said, when half the theater starts cheering when she dies, it’s probably a sign that your character is a total failure.

3.The knife. One of the main (and awesome) conceits of the game is near unlimited use of your time-travel abilities. I know that this has something to do with the world ending or something in the game (I haven’t played the first one, and I’ve only watched the second and my recollection consists of “why is that woman in a bondage outfit” and “Oh man yeah jump off that wall and kick that guy in the head! Awesome!) But the time travel is only used three times, and the first one only to establish that the time travel exists. I understand, on some level, why they made this choice – they wanted to make certain that the time travel was special, that it wasn’t overused. And the last time it’s used is actually a rather unique and cool use of time travel which actually had me going “oh man, cool!” – hard to do, as most of the time I think time travel is one of the stupidest contrivances of modern cinema.

But I was expecting and hoping that during the climax we’d be treated to scenes more like from the game, with near constant rewinding and fast-forwarding of time, with elegant or even impossible acrobatics executed only because of the time travel.

In conclusion? I didn’t hate it. It wasn’t a terrible movie. It wasn’t a great movie, either. It’s kind of a forgettable movie, which is unfortunate because I think great things could have come out of it.



1. Allandaros - June 3, 2010

Like your gripes about the casting of the Airbender movie*, one of my ticks of irritation with PoP is its casting of pretty uniformly Caucasian folks as its cast of “Persians.”

The fact that it has Hasassins is frustrating, since it seems to be set in the sixth century BCE, which is slightly problematic time-wise. (Oh well, Disney rollicking adventure romp, take your history and go elsewhere, etc. See also Gatling cannon on Davy Jones’s ship in PotC).

I’d strongly recommend checking out the first game. It’s fun.

*I almost typed “Avatar movie” and then did a doubletake. Damn you, James Cameron!

Jensen - June 3, 2010

Re: casting, I had this problem too, actually; but I decided not to go into it for this particular rant because I was going for my gut reactions to the movie, whilst I had the casting gripe months ago. That, and everyone else has already said it.

Re: Hasassins, this is true, but I tend to take movies like this as delicious rule-of-cool anachronism stew. PotC, as you say, gleefully chucked history out the window (Gattling guns were the least of what’s going on). If we’re already going to have knives that control time and random time-traveling Hindu/Buddhist/Zoroastrian/What the hell religion ARE the dagger guys anyway? sects, then we can have Hasassins.

Re: game, I will see if I can get a used copy the next time I am out game shopping then 😉

Re: James Cameron, damn you James Cameron, indeed!

2. Ash - June 3, 2010

Ah yes. Nash and I saw this together once this flu shrieked and died. He wanted to see it so bad because Richard Coyle was in it – an actor in a sitcom we both enjoy: Coupling. He plays Tus. (And Jeff the crazy Welshman with a theory about everything in Coupling – you might want to check that out you and I seem to be same minded about stuff – you might get a kick out of it. I have gotten my BBC education from the boyfiend – yes that was not a typo.) I agree with just about everything you said. In fact Nash and I had one of those arguments where it’s not in fact an argument. In reality you’re just talking loudly about the same topic. It was regarding the Princess and mutual dislike.

Jensen - June 3, 2010

I will have to check that out. I should really watch more British comedy in general – Red Dwarf, especially! – but I have no free time ever. And my brother and I did the same thing about that Princess.

RIUM+ - June 3, 2010

Yeees, watch Red Dwarf! It’s a BRILLIANT show. A complete classic. 😀

Ash - June 3, 2010

Red Dwarf is great.

I’ve borrowed that, BlackBooks and Coupling. Had a bizzare moment with Dad actually – ‘Oh yeah wait Dad’s Irish’ where I was blithering on about this ‘great show Chris introduced me to’ and Dad just sort of says, serenely: “Ash I know that one’.

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