Congratulations, Jerry Bruckheimer. While Prince Dastan was not exactly a breakout new movie franchise character like Captain Jack Sparrow, Box Office Mojo reports that the 2010 Memorial Holiday attempted summer blockbuster Prince of Persia is the largest grossing video game movie with a worldwide gross of $293.9 million. That passes its predecessor of Lara Croft wth $274.7 million in the 2001 hit Tomb Raider.
But before Bruckheimer and Buena Vista can pop the champagne for such an achievement, perhaps they need to take look at a few caveats. First, inflation rates have soared since 2001 meaning more expensive ticket prices. And second, Prince of Persia cost about $200 to produce, which does take a major chunk out of the gross for a rather paltry profit.
Nevertheless, Bruckheimer can now brag about having a golden touch for film that even extends to video game films. As someone who plays his share of video games, I notice the trend of most films based off video games are generally awful. I think the trend started with Super Mario Bros. but Uwe Boll and his triple strike out of House of the Dead, BloodRayne,and Alone in the Dark helped cemented the bad reputation. The problem with video game movies is the transition between interactive media of video games to passive media. With video games, the story can be generic-though better video games will have a better story with better storytelling-but it is the player’s actions during the game that makes the video game entertaining. Turn the player into a movie viewer and all that is left is the series of jumping and shooting through which the actor is guided.
Prince of Persia turned out to be an okay film with a hodgepodge of action, combat, and humor with an Arabian setting. But an okay film becomes a great film when matched among the video game curve. The larger budget and bigger names did grant Prince of Persia a better production scale that went well for the attempted summer blockbuster release while still capturing most of the jumping and fighting action mixed with the witty exchanges between the prince and spunky love interest. Jake Gyllenhaal proved to be quite a fit actor-or at least had a fit stunt man-for the part of an action star. Perhaps if additional Prince of Persia films are planned, the franchise might flesh out well. But given the lackluster performance of the first film, that seems best left as a one hit wonder.
In the meantime, perhaps the best progress of Prince of Persia is the revival of the games. The classic version is out again and the new Forgotten Sands feels like a good mix of the film and the original Sands of Time video game that inspired it.