The Prince of Persia Movie

Here be minor spoilers, but what the hell are you saving yourself up for?!?

I saw the Prince of Persia movie. Executive Summary: It’s just like every other videogame movie. It may be one of the better ones among the videogame movies. But it’s still simply not a good movie.

It’s surprising too. For example, it is one of those movies where there would seem to be plenty of opportunities for iconic environments and deep characters. Both of which made Pirates of the Caribbean so successful. But instead we only get a load of missed opportunities.

Case in point: the prince. He is supposed to be a streetwise kid, who was adopted by the king. The movie tells us that the king was impressed by something the prince did when he was living on the streets. He rebelled against a guard to save a friend. But when you think about it, it doesn’t seem like anything exceptional. Being cocky and rebellious is what street kids do. Why would the king be impressed by that so much?

But nevermind that. In the first scene where we see the prince grown up, he is involved in a fight against a seemingly stronger opponent. There is a bet going on. The prince is aware that he might lose. He drops a cocky one-liner, starts another attack and… loses. And that’s pretty much the introduction. When I saw this at cinema, I was stumped. What was the point of this scene? Shouldn’t this go differently? Shouldn’t the prince use his wits to out-smart the stronger opponent? Or maybe his acrobatic skills? Or how about making him realize that he lost because he couldn’t foresee the moves of his opponent? It would make the power of rewinding time more meaningful later on. Why did they miss this perfect opportunity to characterize the protagonist? Did the writer fall asleep while he was writing this?

And if you think this is bad – the princess is even worse than that. We know nothing about her, only that she is a hottie and she turns out to be snappy and rebellious without any clear reason why.

I know the setup is well-known but a good movie would at least try not to depend on the audience’s knowledge of typical adventure movie clichés. The audience shouldn’t be expected to make up for the shortcomings of exposition.

But where the movie REALLY falls shorts is in the environments. A Prince of Persia movie sounds like it would be perfect for scenes where the heroes would perform mind-boggling acrobatic stunts in well-defined, iconic locations. What we get instead are bland, repetitive and uninspired scenes. They are poor at conveying a sense of space, size or layout. Whenever there are acrobatic stunts, they boil down to confusing jump cuts and shaky camera. This is not a movie where you are supposed to understand what the hero is doing or where. It is a far cry from the perfectly choreographed action sequences of Pirates of the Caribbean.

And finally, the plot itself is just full of holes. The prince spends most of the movie convincing his brothers that he didn’t commit a crime he is being accused of. Each of his brothers gets murdered shortly after being convinced by the prince. So all of the prince’s actions are meaningless. That makes for rather dull cinema.

The climax is especially confusing. Because what basically happens at the end is exactly what the prince and the princess are trying to prevent the whole time. So it’s not really clear what they actually achieve.

The movie’s gadget, the time-rewinding dagger is used meaningfully only twice in the entire movie. The movie fails to reflect the concept of time in it’s themes. Instead we get characters dropping some corny lines about “following you heart” or something. What does this have to do with anything?!

My favorite videogame movie is still Resident Evil. The first one. It’s not a better movie by any means. But it’s honest. It’s not trying to be more than a fun, silly zombie flick. It lives up to it’s full potential. Prince of Persia doesn’t.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

One response to “The Prince of Persia Movie”

  1. Leonard McCoy

    Thanks for this insightful short résumé of what to expect from the Bruckheimer’s latest. I really hoped PoP: The Movie would have been one of the better theater adaptions of a videogame. Apparently this is not the case.


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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