Comic book movies have started to be extremely successful in recent media, what with box office hits like Iron Man 2, The Dark Knight, and Wanted. However, video games never seem to translate as well to the big screen. There are a few reasons that might be. For one, comic book heroes are just better known in general. It would be hard to find a person that doesn't know who Batman, Superman, or Wolverine is, even if they've never picked up a comic. The same cannot really be said of Lara Croft or Marcus Fenix, even if video games are slowly making their way into popular culture now. Disney got their hands on one of the most famous video game franchises of all time, known as the Prince of Persia. While this story has had a few reboots, they focused on the famous trilogy published by Ubisoft: The Sands of Time, Warrior Within, and The Two Thrones.
Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Prince Dastan who teams up with Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton), who doesn't like him at first but will likely love him by the end because that's how it always works, to take down an evil nobleman named Nizam (Ben Kingsley). Dastan gets more than he bargained for when the mysterious Dagger of Time gets placed into his hands, and suddenly the ancient world he lived in is a great deal more dangerous. It's hard to explain the movie without getting into the spoiler specifics, but basically it's two snarky people trying to save the world and messing with time travel. In ancient Persia. Jerry Bruckheimer of awesome action fame directs, and there is a very Pirates of the Caribbean feel to this film just by the trailers alone. Wonderful sword play, strong CGI, some witty dialogue, and probably a movie that is a lot of fun but lacks value outside of simple entertainment.
The question on a lot of fan's minds is if this movie will be a good video game crossover, or if they will forget the point of the original series altogether. Honestly, it will probably be the latter. There are elements of the game and the plot that they promised will be used in this film, although why they had to change the background of Dastan or change the names of the main characters is beyond me. Giving the Prince an actual name is understandable, but if the character of Tamina is basically Farah from the game, why not just name her that? The truth is that video games are rarely successful in film form because they usually take 30 hours or more to complete, and to crunch that into a two hour movie is nigh impossible. The gameplay elements cannot directly translate to the screen either, so the parts of the video game series that are particularly fascinating - the creative platforming and acrobatic fighting - will not work.
Looking back at the worst video game movies ever made, you have Bloodrayne, Street Fighter, and the shudderingly awful Super Mario Bros. They were all creative and box office disasters. If Disney is capable of turning this series into an even moderately decent franchise, it will be a surprise. Tomb Raider at least made two decent box offices, but that might be due more to the star power of Angelina Jolie. As much as gamers would like to see the story that they love play out on screen, it might never be possible. Video games are long and intricate and rely too heavily on the player's actions. The important thing is whether or not the theme of the movie fits the game, and most of the time you shouldn't hold your breath for that to happen. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time might be based on the game, but if you go in looking for entertainment and not cropping up comparisons, it'll probably be a fun film. Will it succed as a real video game crossover? Probably not, but looking back at the films that tried to do that (Doom, House of the Dead, Double Dragon, Mortal Kombat), it might be for the best they went in a different direction. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is out this weekend and rated PG-13.