Directed by Mike Newell
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton
It has been a truly rocky road for videogames to make it to the silver screen. There haven’t been any successes really unless you’d consider a guilty pleasure a success. The first Resident Evil film isn’t a good film by any stretch but some people enjoy it for what it is. The same could be said for Tomb Raider, by some fans. The point is that the pedigree isn’t great so even with Disney behind a videogame adaptation that stars Jake Gyllenhaal (Zodiac, Jarhead, Donnie Darko) and Ben Kinglsey (Shutter Island, Gandhi, Sexy Beast) and directed by Mike Newell (Donnie Brasco, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) anticipation is low.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays the adopted son of the King of Medieval Persia. He’s a street savvy sort and not of noble blood so he’s quite a different person than his brothers. After an unprovoked attack on a holy city by the Prince and his brothers he finds himself teaming up with the Princess of the city to protect a magical dagger that can control time. They do battle with rogue criminals and other elements that have their own dastardly plans for the dagger.
The story is fairly paint by numbers schlock fantasy all the way down to the Prince finding a group of heroes to back him up among thieves and miscreants. If you’ve seen movies like Conan the Barbarian, Krull, and The Scorpion King then you pretty much know this film. The writers attempt some twists and turns with the plot but it’s all pedestrian and predictable. On the upside Gyllenhaal has great charisma as the troublemaking hero and Gemma Arterton seems to have been born to play these exotic sorts of characters in fantasy films having done this one and Clash of the Titans. Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2) is also in the film and he’s great as always. Ben Kingsley is wasted in this film as he’s playing essentially the same character he’s played in a ton of these low budget fantasy films, unfortunately some directed by the scourge of videogame movies Uwe Bole. Ben Kingsley playing any role in a film is never a totally bad thing though, even if it is a little formulaic for him.
Action scenes are a real mixed bag. Some of the fight scenes and swordplay is surprisingly exciting and well done while other scenes are so riddled with CGI that they feel almost videogame like. Utilizing CGI for the sand makes perfect sense but did the filmmakers really need so much CGI for what amounts to extreme parcour scenes? What about stunt men and wires and real sets? There are plenty of real sets and they feature great art design. There’s just an overall inconsistency to the look of the film and that’s simply due to overuse of CGI and a few rough cut spots.
Even with its problems this film still has some fun to offer in its lighthearted approach to a genre that has been dominated by darker tones lately. Is this a good movie? Nope that it’s definitely not. Is it a popcorn movie with some fun moments of escapism? Yes I believe it is that.