Saturday, 22 May 2010
Director: Mike Newell
Screenplay: Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard, Boaz Yakin
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina, Tony Kebbell, Richard Coyle
Synopsis is here
Based on a video game produced by Ubisoft; Prince of Persia had something against it before it came out of the stocks. As soon as the words video game are uttered, the same old cliched comments are spouted, even by myself. As a gamer (not a great one) before I became a film fan, I also found the cinematic adaptations more than a little disappointing.
Unlike Comic Books and/or Graphic Novels, which have come from forgettable endeavors (Spawn, 1989 Punisher anyone?) to a rich commodity. Video Game movies however; have only ranged from shite (Street Fighter, Super Mario Bros) to just about watchable (Mortal Kombat's fight scenes). Like other adaptations; it's about time that someone tapped into the spirit of the medium and bring some real fun out of the movies produced. Does Mike Newell's blockbuster feature do this? Well....just about I guess.
First thing I'll say about the film is that, along with the other 2010 blockbusters (Robin Hood Iron Man 2) is quite plot heavy. In fact surprisingly so. However, while I enjoyed Robin Hood and Iron Man for the gradual build of narrative; mainly due to their solid lead characters (and actors) managing to carry the story during the "lower" moments, POP seems to be lacking in that area. It's not that I didn't care for the character, as the beefed up Jake Gyllenhaal (with nice British accent) manages to put a lot of energy into the role of Dastan. However, the personality just doesn't feel as rich.
It seems that the difference is that characters like Tony Stark and Robin Hood have deeper wells to draw from. Hood has his history, Stark is coming to terms with ego and mortality, Dastan is a character that feels like he's truly bound to the screenplay. He has personality (the chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Arterton brought many a sly grin to my face) but his actions don't feel as organic as his aforementioned contenders. POP not only feels like it could have been shorter, but also more focused. Like Ironman 2, the film has a lot of people battling for screentime, however while the former felt, to me, that it knew what it wanted to do with all it's players. POP tries to value everyone as equal importance.
The film is also quite obvious, the moment you meet characters, you know of their fate. Yes, it may be a blockbuster but you can tell from it's subtext (clear parallels to the Iraq war yet again) it's trying to encompass as much as possible and make accessible to as many people as possible.
Ambition is good and needed for these future video game adaptation but POP works best when it forgets all that and focuses on the battling and the banter. Getting that right will make it so much easier to expand.
But it's not all bitching and moaning; Mike Newell, a director capable of large projects and stars, delivers a film with some fun set pieces, while the screenplay has some pithy lines, despite not having the most engaging story. Newell's film also remembers it's origins and many moments feel like a Ubisoft game... It's a shame said game is Assassin's Creed and not Sands of Time however (although there's a nice two thrones feel to some of the film). From a performance point of view, everyone is enjoying themselves here. Once again it's hard to keep your eyes off Gemma Arterton due to her screen presence and not just her smoldering looks Molina and Kingsley clearly like working on projects like this in between more serious works, while Richard Coyle and Tony Kebbell are welcoming additions.
Prince of Persia is forgettable fluff which works best when things are kept simple. There's some genuine moments of amusement throughout and I'm sure many gamers (in particular the younger ones) will hopefully get their money's worth. Once again it's a video game adaptation that's not all I hoped for, but it's a step in the right direction.
Tuesday, 11 May 2010
With this said Ridley Scott has gone against the grain with his movie, placing the fictional story of robin hood within an even more "realistic" construct than before. What we get is Robin Hood Begins. A rough and ready origin story, which also (due to the script delays) has come out with a slight topical edge. This Robin Hood isn't so much about robbing to the rich to give to the poor (although he does a little), but trying to spread the idea of liberty and fairness to every man; in a government which has done much to demoralize it's people. It's a nice concept for the man in the hood and it works well.
Starting with a weary Maid Marian (Blanchett) doing her best to drive away the youth. The younglings have become mini outlaws themselves, due to their fathers being away due to Richard the Lionheart's crusade. Scott sets this film up almost like a medieval broken Britain. We have a broken Britain with misguided children due to absent fathers, a broke country and spirit broken due to war (I bet someone is shouting Labour somewhere). Much like Gladiator, this beginning does have a feeling of familiarity, particularity in the films first battle: a storming of a french castle. The words and players may be a different but the message is the same; the nation is at a pivotal point and correct guidance is needed. To ask if it does would be a huge spoiler so lets get on with how I felt about it eh?
Well this is all solid stuff. It does feel like Scott's previous historical works, but this isn't a bad thing. It's been ten years since his Roman endeavor and this feels like a well thought out hundred plus year progression. The battles are brutal (not gory however) and the narrative while at first feels a little unwieldy slowly knits itself into something quite compelling. The film is also quite witty with many of the characters having some surprisingly sharp moments of humor. The patriotic and political subtext may arouse some interesting after film talk with the film (which to me has a quite conservative view on things) coming out a day after the reign of Cameron begins.
Performance wise, the film is yet again quite dependable; with Russell Crowe bringing down to earth humbleness and roughish charm to the role of Robin. Cate Blancett gives Maid Marion a well rounded feel but doesn't set any scene alight, while Mark Strong once again put in yet another imposing villain performance. Oscar Issac has some choice moments as Prince John however William Hurt doesn't appear to be too bothered about the proceedings. Nice casting touches also appear in the forms of Danny Huston as Richard and Max Von Sydow as Marion's father. Mark Addy and Matthew Macfadyen also provide amusement alongside the three merry men of Alan Doyle, Kevin Durand, Scott Grimes.
Coming off the back of the brighter more youth friendly Iron Man 2, Robin Hood provides a healthy alternative. You do feel the length of the movie a little and you can be sure that Scott will most probably bring out a directors cut filled with more back story. But while it's not your Granddads Robin Hood, it is however; an entertaining, more adult blockbuster than usual.
Monday, 10 May 2010
"I operated an HD camera once, and it's like having a race car without an engine. I'm always a little suspect when someone is telling me that HD is great and that it looks just like film. Why not just shoot film? When you're trying to emulate something else, there's something fundamentally wrong, and I think it becomes more complicated."