What is interesting about the video game industry is that it has been evolving towards movies. What once used to be hackneyed and formulaic, video game plots have grown from the standard “defeat the minions, destroy the boss, save the princess” to games with some amount of depth and plot. While this isn’t always the case, the graphical fidelity of some games’ cut scenes rivals the impressive CGI of a summer blockbuster. Even though there have been multiple failures in trying to adapt video games to the big screen (let us please forget Super Mario Bros. (1993) and Double Dragon (1994)), occasionally there comes a movie that takes the settings and characters from a video game and puts them in an arrangement that is at least entertaining to watch, if nothing else. Considering the rate at which certain franchises are being made into films, it’s only a matter of time before we see some truly great adaptations based on some excellent video game franchises. But for now, this week’s two films examine some gems in what can be a disappointing field of video game adaptations.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Length: 116 minutes / 1.93 hours
It would come as no surprise that a film like this would fall under the Jerry Bruckheimer production house, considering the successful adaptation of a Disney park ride into a film trilogy (or quadrilogy, if you want to include the most recent one). However, considering the groundbreaking changes that the original Prince of Persia game made on the industry, it would eventually become a film adaptation based on the merit of its ability to break out of the limitations for platformers at the time of its release. The amount and quality of animation and action in this newly defined genre of the platformer adventure certainly provided a lot of material to work with when adapting something for the silver screen. Of course, the original game left a little to be desired in character design, so the 2010 film adaptation used the “Sands of Time” reboot from 2003.
The eponymous “Prince of Persia” in this film is known as Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is in reality not a prince by his blood lineage, but rather by his adopted right. And yet, this gets Dastan into trouble when the king favors him over his own sons, causing Dastan to be framed for the king’s death. While he’s on the run from those who have wrongfully accused him, he realizes a dagger he had picked up in a raid actually has the magical ability to reverse the flow of time. Unfortunately, by the time he has recognized this, the mystical sand that powers the dagger has run out. In order to clear his name and reveal the true assassin, Dastan must find the source of the Sands of Time and refill the dagger so he can use it to reverse the clock and save the day.
Length: 100 minutes / 1.67 hours
The “shoot ’em up” style of video game has been around for a while. And though even Doom has had its day on the big screen, the real trick of bringing a video game to the movies is in how you adapt it. For something senseless with minimal plot, a story usually has to be contrived for an audience (as the passive participant) to fully enjoy the film. Yet, sometimes the opposite is true. In the case of Max Payne (2008), the plot of the game was used as a starting point for the characters and setting, but not necessarily for the plot of the film as a whole. It is important for adaptations to be able to stand by themselves without the need for previous knowledge of the source material. In fact, sometimes knowing where a movie came from could ruin it for those expecting something else.
The movie starts off (a la Sunset Blvd. (1950)) with Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) sinking to the cold, icy depths of a river bottom, giving a preface to the end of the film. The audience is then transported back one week to see how the plot unfolds. Max Payne is a cop who works in the Cold Case division of the New York Police Department, trying to find his family’s killer. The few people who get close to him are mysteriously killed, prompting the sister of one of the victims, Mona Sax (Mila Kunis), to join forces with Payne and dole out vengeance on both their parts. Investigating the deaths leads Max to the pharmaceutical company where his wife used to work. It is here where we start to unfold the untold story of “Valkyr,” a surprisingly addictive substance wreaking havoc on the streets of New York that Max is trying to clean. And yet, what events leads to him being drowned, and can he get out of it?
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 video game adaptations