Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Movie review: Prince of Persia

I haven't played the video game, but my boyfriend has, so I'm at least familiar with the aesthetic and the quirks of this franchise. It was with mixed feelings we went to see the movie. I had already decided that Jake Gyllenhaal was the wrong choice for Dastan. He's got such a baby face, and Dastan is supposed to be this brawny, street-smart thug-with-honor. It just didn't work for me! I nearly cringed whenever I saw a poster advertising the movie.

Well, walking out after the movie, I said "if I had the opportunity, I would apologise to Jake for doubting him". My boyfriend laughed, but I meant it. Gyllenhaal bulked up, grew his hair and a bit of a beard, and the make-up department adorned him with a few choice scars. The overall effect was fantastic in terms of character, and really broke him out of the boyish mold I'd mentally stuck him in. The costumes suited him and the stunt-work was magnificient. I don't know how much of it he did himself, some of it was wire work and a lot of it looked like actual base jumping. He had some really great non-verbal moments - he has a very expressive face, and the director played on it a lot, using face-focused medium close-up shots during action scenes to convey little things that would normally have been communicated to the audience by voiced comments. I personally am not a fan of those - who takes time to talk out loud to themselves when there's something alarming/surprising happening? - so I really appreciated that.

The stunts in this movie were dazzling. The game features a lot of almost-physically-impossible jumping, climbing and feats of ingenuity and physical prowess. As I said, I don't know the game very well, but I do think it delivered. There was some amazing work, mostly done by Dastan, but there were some nice bits done by minor characters as well. There's a knife-throwing scene right near the end of the movie that was awesomely done - mostly CG, but still good. I really loved all the wire-work done by Gyllenhaal, it was really unrealistic but so awesome you just didn't care. The beginning of the movie featured a very, very cool wall-climbing piece.

The sets and costumes were lushly gorgeous. I can't speak the historical accuracy, but it does have a fantasy element to it which lends it some leeway. Really lovely deep colour palette, textured fabrics, great amour and weaponry. I especially liked the design of the dagger which is the focal point of the movie. The blend of CGI and live action, and the skipping between set-work and on-location stuff was seamlessly blended. There were barely any points during the movie where I saw a backdrop or a stunt move and thought "oh, this is CGI". I didn't even find myself evaluating the obiously-CGI-bits (the fantasy elements) like I usually do in movies.

Gemma Arterton had the role of the princess Tamina. I really don't know what to say about her. First of all, the accent was freaking weird. It clashed with all the other plain American ones that are native to Hollywood. Faking a good American accent is pretty much a given, even for Australian actors, isn't it? And then there was the fact that the princess was apparently the sole ruler of her city. Maybe this is game lore I don't know about, but it really didn't fit the time period of the movie. It allowed her to be headstrong and devious, though, which was something this character needed to be able to keep up with Gyllenhaaal. She still kind of annoyed me - and this is no reflection on Arterton. I've seen some of her other stuff and I've always liked her. Tamina didn't feel like a properly fleshed out, rounded character, though. She fell a little flat. As a ruler and priestess with a solemn, sacred duty, she seemed a little too flighty and sarcastic. Maybe it's just me. I like my female characters to be more than flirty arm/eye candy. Again, I don't really know if her character features much in the actual game. It's called Prince of Persia, so her character might have been 'coloured in', so to speak, just for the movie, in which case the director wouldn't have wanted her to steal too much focus from Gyllenhaal. At any rate, her costumes were lovely, she put in a really good performance with all the nuances I know she delivers, and she looked stunning. Very different to what she normally looks like, though - I'd say her appearance was quite heavily altered for the role.

Overall, the storyline was pretty good - not complex, but not overly simple. There were a few twists, and a few 'just-for-lulz' type moments courtesy of the minor characters. It had kind of a cop-out ending. But they set it up so nicely, it's hard to complain. You have a certain margin for the impossible in fantasy genres, and they utilised it. Not everything was perfect, either - without spoiling it, there was a small price to pay for the happy ending.

Between Gyllenhaal's performance, the stunt work and the magnificent CGI, I would absolutey reccommend this movie. For both fans and non-gamers.


  1. Thanks for the review! I'll see this one for sure! :)

  2. I've been really skeptical about this, because I AM a gamer, but maybe I'm being biased prematurely. Though, there has yet to be a really good video game based movie in my opinion.

  3. Never too busy: I had a chat with a friend who's played PoP before, and had seen the movie, and he said the most altered character was the Princess. Apart from that, he and my boyfriend both agree it's the best game-to-movie translation they've seen so far.


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