After years upon years of writing, casting and overall production, what is perhaps the most anticipated game-to-film adaptation yet was released today. I went and saw it with an open mind, hoping for the best yet preparing for the worst. Could this possibly be the beginning of genuinely good videogame movies? Finally?
Unfortunately, no. Far from it. In fact, it’s so unbearably terrible that I’m not quite sure where to start. So in order to make things easier on both myself and the reader, I’m simply going to outline the major reasons why this movie failed so freaking miserably in order of importance, so you can understand just why. THEN we can get to the reasons why it ultimately wasn’t the worst movie ever, even though it was really bad.
Oh, and for those who haven’t played the games, there will probably be spoilers.
#5 -Awful Structuring
All great action flicks have one thing in common: fantastic plots. Why? Because the whole point is the action. And seeing as all action is essentially a form of confrontation, it has to have been set up for in some way when it happens.
Hence the fact that every element that comes into play in Terminator 2 over the course of the narrative is set up for in detail within the first twenty minutes. This allows for the second act to pull off one action sequence after another without the story as a whole running out of steam.
Did the guys who wrote the Sands Of Time know this? Apparently not. That, or they obviously didn’t care. The whole second act is overflowing with setups and character introductions that easily could have taken place in the first twenty minutes, as in any good action flick. First of all, it would have made the first act a lot more interesting, and secondly, it would have saved the second act more grind than you can ever know.
#4 -Redundant Characters
In other words, too many! I understand that the videogame didn’t have enough characters for a film and that improvisation was necessary, but they went way overboard! Perhaps the problem stems less from the fact that there are too many characters so much as that they are all pretty pointless and do little for the story.
Also, the main characters themselves were painfully shallow, derivative, formulaic, and stereotypical enough without all the fluffy, empty-shell side-characters pitching in, to be frank.
But that’s not the prime issue here. The issue is that there were way more characters than the story needed.
I think that this is partly an effect of the first problem listed above.
#3 – Completely Irrelevant And Distasteful Political Propaganda
Now, I’m not trying to spark any kind of political or sociological debate, but I absolutely hate getting hit over the head repeatedly by blatant propaganda. Especially when it detracts from the story. The writers of this film have single-handedly taken an action-packed epic about battling monsters and defying one’s own destiny in order to be with the one you love and…well, they’ve turned it into a sleep-inducing commentary on the negative effects of war.
Could the material have been handled so as to make an intriguing and compelling story? Sure. But it belongs in another movie.
Also, the villain, who in the game was referred to as “The Vizier”, has been renamed to “Uncle Vizam”. People call him that like fifty times throughout the plot. Uncle ViZAM. Zam. Uncle Zam. Tell me you’re catching onto this. Please tell me.
Can you say completely retarded, blatant, and inappropriate? I get the chills just thinking about how someone could possibly think it was a good idea.
#2 – Disney’s Influence Is Profoundly And Obnoxiously Obvious
This is most notably evident in the clear lack of violence. For the most part, the movie steers far, far away from the bloody, intense combat that the game is so well known for. And honestly, it’s very, very cheezy to behold. Sure, there’s one part in the whole movie where someone gets sliced open and blood splatters in an arc, but this only makes things weirder because it’s an entirely solitary instance. Bizarrely inconsistent, if you ask me.
Also, Sands Of Time suffers from what I like to call “Little Mermaid Syndrome”. Disney’s methods are simple. Step 1: Find a fantastic story that everyone loves. Step 2: If it has a down-ending, rewrite it into a happy ending.
Am I the only one who sees why that makes absolutely no sense? The rationale is that up-endings make more dough, but there’s little evidence to support this. There are plenty of movies with down-endings that have made record amounts of money. Titanic, anyone? The Godfather: Part 2? Hello?
And even that aside, it’s still an entirely illogical line of reasoning. If it’s an established story beloved by all, why go and mess with it? Am I the only one that thinks that that would be a completely retarded thing to do?
The original Little Mermaid was a dark story about life, death, and the nature of mortality versus immortality. A lot of this is symbolized, rather powerfully, by Ariel dropping the dagger into the sea at the end, because she’d rather die than kill the Prince to save her own life.
I’m guessing those who have only seen the film version of Little Mermaid have little idea what I’m talking about. Disney had the writers contort the script into a completely different story with an entirely separate message because they THOUGHT that that would allow them to rake in more cash.
The case for the Prince Of Persia movie is similar.
In the original Sands Of Time story, the protagonist ended up an outcast because of what he had to do. The whole point of the story was that the main character could not fight destiny, which was why he couldn’t yet be with the Princess. This aspect of the story is especially important for reasons I will soon point out. Needless to say, the film version’s ending is more than typical: the bad guy is killed, the hero gets the girl, and so on and so forth.
#1: The Whole Prince Of Persia Plotline Is Now Destroyed, Practically Beyond Repair
The changes that these writers made to the film have in turn disrupted the entire trilogy. The whole point of the plotline is the Prince’s struggle against destiny to be with the Princess. Let me break it down for you.
When fate kills the Princess, the Prince turns back time to save her by killing the Vizier. However, when he does this the Princess from the past no longer knows who he is, and he becomes an outcast and a “murderer”. He’s also being hunted by the “Dahaka” for disrupting the timeline, which is by them considered sacred(you can see how this plays into the Man vs Destiny theme).
His next move is then to turn everything back by opening a portal in time in order to kill the mystical Empress who created the Sands. Doing this would theoretically prevent the Sands from ever being created, and would allow him to finally be with the Princess.
Unfortunately, because he causes the events in Sands Of Time to have never taken place, the Vizier was never killed. The Prince returns to his kingdom in the future, but only to find it overrun.
Eventually, after many turns of events, he defeats The Vizier and finally saves the Princess, realizing that it was his destiny to do it all along.
Not the most complex plot, but it makes sense. Unlike the movie. The writers, who have probably never played any of the games, have managed to completely disrupt this overarching plot in several ways. Mostly by making up crap that makes no sense and doesn’t compute with everything else. I won’t go into all of it, but I will say this:
This is the work of people who are dumb and have no idea what they are doing.
I’m not kidding. A great deal of my hope in both the film industry and mankind at large was lost this day.
Of course, it’s not all bad. Here are some of the very few things that were GOOD about the movie:
David Belle, inventor of parkour and one of the greatest stuntment who ever lived, was hired to pull off some moves in this movie. He did a more than exceptional job, as usual.
Also, actors like Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Alfred Molina, Ben Kingsley, etc, all did an okay job considering what they had to work with.
The action sequences were momentarily satisfying in terms of choreography. Unfortunately, aside from that, they’re jumpy, erratic, and don’t flow very well. Everything particularly cool you’ve already seen in the trailer and clips.
Honestly, I’m still just trying to get over the fact that $200,000,000 was tossed into this. Two hundred million dollars! All that time and talent for nothing it seems, as the box office results are starting to show some meager numbers considering the film’s budget. Yikes.
Bottom line? This is one of the worst wastes of human talent and resources since The Phantom Menace. And it almost makes less sense. If you can help it, STAY AWAY. At least until it comes out on DVD. It’s painful enough having to pay to sit through it in a theater. These guys made almost every mistake in the book.
3 out of 10