It's not a new phenomenon for video games to be adapted to film, though it is rare that it's done well. Mortal Kombat is my favorite such effort, and even it was a fun popcorn movie of little substance. Yet such translations continue unabated.
The latest attempt to carry a game's success to the silver screen is the storied Prince of Persia, which dates back to an Apple II program originally released in 1989. The game enjoyed many ports and sequels, then lay dormant for some years. In 2003, the franchise was revived for a new generation of consoles with a trilogy of 3D action-adventure games, many of which bestowed the protagonist with power over the timestream. It's those elements that are behind the subtitle the star-studded film The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley, and Alfred Moina star in this film, opening May 28, 2010. Here's the trailer:
After watching the trailer, I have a similar opinion of the film as I do with the majority of today's video games: it's not all about the graphics. The above trailer is absolutely gorgeous, and the action sequences look quite intricate — but, in a way, they also seem rather standard. Okay, so we have people running and jumping and climbing and fighting, and a princess and a street rat making snide yet flirty remarks at each other. Is this Aladdin? That film's "gimmick" was the genie, and PoPSoT's should be the titular sands of time. It's apparently a sparingly used plot device, as the trailer overlooks the consequences of this mystic artifact in favor of action that could be found in any number of other frenetic films.
I love Jordan Mechner's original Prince of Persia (also available via Xbox Live Arcade) and admire him for keeping the franchise alive across so many decades and media, and I appreciate that even this trailer acknowledges this property as his creation. As he said in Game Informer magazine:
With Prince of Persia, I've had the opportunity and the challenge of recreating the character and story anew, not just once but several times, since the first Apple II version 20 years ago… Each of these projects gave me the chance to work with a great creative team in a new medium — a triple opportunity that in my Apple II days I could have only dreamed of.
Mr. Mechner recently engaged in a more in-depth interview with ComingSoon.net:
I did the best I could on a side-scrolling Apple II to try to capture that kind of excitement, and running and jumping and really the first 10 minutes of Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981 was the immediate inspiration for the first "Prince of Persia" game. But I think the movie, as you've seen, goes very far beyond that. There's Parkour, there's sword fighting. It's pretty extreme.
I hope the latest adaptation of Mr. Mechner's prince is something he and his fans can all be proud of.
(Hat tip to Juiced.GS!)