There were seven wonders of the ancient world, but apart from the Pyramids of Giza they were not wondrous enough to stand the test of time. There are probably more than seven wonders of the modern world, if you were to try to count them up, but one of the most significant is undoubtedly the fact that I’ve managed to keep churning out this blog to the same middling quality for almost a year now. Yes, on the 27th April I will have been writing this blog for a year, so I thought I needed to do something to mark the occasion, and that seeing a whole day’s worth of films would be as good as any option.
It’s a regular occurrence for me to spend the day in the cinema, and seeing four or five films in the course of a day is not an uncommon occurrence for me. Indeed, I’ve managed to squeeze in seven a couple of times, and I’ve also achieved some other feats of endurance, including seeing over 100 films in a year at the cinema twice, and a period last year when I racked up 21 in 11 days during the Cambridge Film Festival. Over the next month, I’ll be blogging about all of these feats, and also why – and how – you should give them a go, if you haven’t already.
I’m now up to 40 films seen this year, and at the rate I’m going, that would put me on pace for just over 100 again this year. It’s not a goal I’m aiming for (been there, done that, didn’t get a T-shirt – maybe I should), just to see good or interesting movies whenever they come up. But it’s also about maximising the spare time I have to see as many as possible, and that’s where I wonder if I do sometimes take things too far. Take for example this Sunday just gone.
The following takes place between 11:30 and 8:30 p.m. Events occur in real time. Ish.
11:30 Get in the car to drive into Cambridge. My wife is at work for the day, and her shift runs from 12:30 to 8:30. I have three choices for the day: church barbecue (but it’s the hottest day of the year, and being part ginger I can’t be out in the sun and it’s not as much fun without my wife), carry on with trying to get some work done (been doing for two days, including some on Saturday, and that’s driving me mad – need a break), or heading in to see something at the cinema. Four movies I want to see at the moment, and having done some pre-planning I think, with a fair wind and a bit of luck, I can get three of them in today.
The Review: Movies based on video games are almost invariably bad movies. From the spectacularly awful Super Mario Bros. onwards, the genre (if it deserves such a grand title) has thrown out bad movie after bad movie, so it would take a brave soul to invest major summer movie money in a video game adaptation. On paper, this had two things going for it – it’s based on one of the best games from a series of really good games, and it’s a Jerry Bruckheimer production, which normally ensures at least some level of quality threshold.
But there’s something else in common with most video game movies – any of the best bits in most of the not completely terrible ones do have that feeling of watching someone else play a video game, in that it would be more fun to be controlling the action than watching someone else do it. As video games themselves have become more cinematic over the past ten years, you could reasonably hope that adaptations would also improve, and to a certain extent that’s true here. If anything, the biggest single failing here is of the movie to use the video game power effectively – the rewinds thanks to the sand offer less here than they did in the original game, and somehow feel less mythical.
There is good stuff here if you’re patient, but it’s mixed in with some not so good. Jake Gyllenhall was an unlikely choice for the titular prince, but brings a flawless English accent when, after movies like Robin Hood, people may not have complained if he’d stuck with his own, and he has also acquired the appropriate physical stature. Gemma Arterton, sadly, fares less well; she gets some good lines, although oddly her accent is less convincing than Gyllenhall’s in some places, and she doesn’t have the same sense of fun that she’s managed to bring to some of her other movies. That’s left to Alfred Molina, who is comic relief to such an extent that he appears to be in almost an entirely different film, but one that while not necessarily better, may at least be more fun. Ben Kingsley delivers a rent-a-baddie and manages to be clichéd without being scenery-chewing, when neither or both may have again served better. The script is the most variable, keeping things moving along nicely with the occasional surprise, but sometimes featuring exposition so heavy you can almost see the bottom of the screen sagging under the weight.
Going in, you’d hope that the movie might evoke comparisons to Pirates of the Caribbean or an Indiana Jones movie; instead the level is more Romancing the Stone and its desert based sequel, The Jewel of the Nile, with the main characters bickering their way through a sort of road movie adventure. This is the best video game adaptation yet brought to film, and that is damning with faint praise, but the action scenes are all well realised (to the extent where I’d almost like to see what Newell could do with a Bond movie) and there is more fun and adventure than many failed summer efforts, just not enough to make this more than a passing entertainment. If only Bruckheimer had a real Sands of Time dagger, he may have been able to rewind enough to tweak this to greatness.
Why see it at the cinema: It does deliver on scale and spectacle, and thankfully escaped a fate worse than box-office death (a 3D conversion).
The Score: 6/10