Thursday, June 3, 2010

Prince of Persia: Video game movies can be not bad!

A follow-up of sorts to my previous post, Prince of Persia: Can video game movies be good?

Well, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time opened in U.S. theaters last weekend with $37.8 million, coming in second for the holiday weekend (Memorial Day) behind the second weekend of Shrek Forever After. Considering the $200 million budget, this was considered a disappointment, though not a disaster thanks to its $87.5 million so far from overseas markets. (Studio Briefing) So thus far, the box office suggests the movie is neither a hit nor a flop.

What do critics think? Studio Briefing's handy summary of the critical reception suggests the critics thought it was bad, but the two full reviews I read were marginally favorable. From my last post:
A review at Variety said that the movie was enjoyable enough, but forgettable. Lisa Schwarzbaum gave it a lukewarm to favorable review at EW, summing it up with a respectable grade of B.
Metacritic finds that critics have given it an average grade of 50 out of 100, "Mixed or average reviews" (in this case, both). Smack-dab in the middle. That's not good, but, strictly speaking, it's not bad either.

What do audiences think? At the time of writing this, from 12356 votes on IMDb the movie has an average user rating of 6.9. Compared to other movies out right now, this puts it just below Robin Hood (7.0) and just above Shrek Forever After (6.7). But to put it in perspective by comparing it to movies that have had a little more time to settle into their reputations, Prince has the same rating as X-Men: The Last Stand and Terminator Salvation. Both of those movies are considered to be pretty big disappointments.

But perhaps it is unfair to compare Prince of Persia to those two films, since both were sequels in franchises with some previous successes, giving them high expectations that they could fail to meet. Let's compare Prince of Persia to other movies based on video games. Suddenly it looks really good. As I mentioned last week, the previous record high IMDb user rating for a video game movie was 6.4 for Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Prince of Persia comes in 0.5 points above this. That is a significant difference, and even though the score may fall a bit before leveling off over time, I think it is unlikely that it will fall that far. IMDb users have spoken: We have a new winner! It's the best movie based on a video game, ever! But...still not great.

What do I think? I went to see it in the movie theater on Saturday. I've never played the game, so I don't know how much of the plot they changed or embellished, though I did pick out some very game-friendly action sequences, maneuvers, and baddies that I imagine are straight from the game. I can't compare the movie to its original source, but I can give an action video game fan's perspective on the movie.

Really, I'm a little like the average IMDb user: the movie could have been worse, but it could have been better; it's the best video game movie so far, but that's not exactly a lofty accomplishment. When I say it that way, it makes it sound negative, like I didn't like the movie. This is not the case. Let my try again:

I found Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time to be really entertaining. Sure there were flaws--the writing had some awkwardness, the editing was uneven in places, there were a few kinks in the acting, etc.--but I can forgive all that stuff as long as it doesn't hurt the fun in the movie. And it didn't. I found the two leads very appealing, the action sequences were exciting and cool, the actors for the most part did a good job with what was given to them, the story held together pretty well, there were moments of humor, and of suspense, and the ending was very satisfying.

I had a really fun time seeing Prince of Persia. It definitely raised the bar for movies based on video games. Of course, seeing as the bar was only up to my knees before, that's not saying much. But it's a start. It's progress. It is finally proof that movies based on video games can be not bad. Even kind of good. This is reassuring, and I only hope that future video game movies will continue to improve. Maybe someday they will be respectable. Eh, don't dream too far, right?


Hezabelle said...

I'm going to see this on Tuesday, but I haven't played the game yet either (not for lack of trying, I bought it the day before my Xbox red ringed.) I'm glad to hear it isn't awful at least!

Someday they'll learn to make good movies from video games. Hopefully during that process they'll also learn how to make good movies from musicals.

Eleni said...

Shame about your Xbox. What bad timing.

Good movies from musicals would be nice. I saw the Rent movie and it was so disappointing. I didn't even go to see The Producers because I heard it was so bad. But I thought Hairspray was pretty good (except maybe John Travolta), and Chicago won all those Oscars.

SparklingBlue said...

I went and saw it last weekend, and I LOVED it! I was hanging onto my candy the whole time.

Eleni said...

It's great fun, isn't it?

Mmm, candy.

LiLu said...

I've heard it was fun, which frankly, is all I'm looking for in a movie like this. I'll definitely see it, even if it's on DVD.

Eleni said...

Yeah, it's not competing for an Oscar, it's just a fun summer action movie. Better than, like, Transformers 2 last summer.

Mei said...

I never played the game, but I thought the movie was pretty fun. There were definitely some parts that felt like they were straight out of Assasin's Creed though!

Eleni said...

Hi Mei!

Like when Jake scales a tall building in some unlikely manner and stands perched on an outcropping looking down on the town below him? I've never played Assassin's Creed, but that's the image that I associate with it.