Recreating the Gaming Experience in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time through Its Setting and Properties Adaptation

Posted on November 8, 2011


Recreating the Gaming Experience in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
through Its Setting and Properties Adaptation

by: Dita Surya Kartika


Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010) was one of successful video game to movie adaptations1. Like the other video games adaptations, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was not fully adapted all the game elements (characters, storylines, settings, etc.) for the film. Instead, the movie only derived some elements of the video game that resembled the soul of the game itself. The screenplay writers were free to modify other elements that suited up with the audiences needs. However, deriving “the soul” of certain game is not easy because not only movie fans but also the fans of the game itself will watch the film. The game’s fans will critically make review whether the movie adaptation is appropriate or not. By seeing this fact, the authorship must observe carefully the video game to recreate the appropriate atmosphere similar to the gaming experience.

The movie distinctly adapted the setting and properties from the game. This is not surprising since the game’s strongest elements are in setting of time and place. It is interesting to see how the authorship had successfully brought the setting in game into real live-action movie. This paper examines how the movie tried to adapt the setting and properties to create similar atmosphere of the game and what elements that made this adaptation successful.

Keywords: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, properties, setting, video game to movie adaptation

Adaptation is an effort of transferring a work into other mediums. It is a type of derivative work. Video games have also been adapted into films. Although there are numerous films adapted from video games, many of them are just categorized as B movies. Most of them are parts of the game publication itself so they rarely receive either audience attentions or critics. A case study is about the publication strategy of Assassin’s Creed video game. The game publisher, Ubisoft, released official game trailer featuring a B movie via YouTube channel. The movie acted as an introductory story to the game. In the end of this 20-minutes-movie, the video game’s release date is informed. Yet, some of the adaptations have good reception such as Mortal Kombat, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Silent Hill, and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

The later movie is an adaptation from a video game with exactly the same title. Prince of Persia is an action-adventure game originally made by Jordan Mechner. The first game released at October 3, 1989. The game itself is about an ordinary boy taken from slum area by Persian king. This boy grew up to the Prince of Persia. He has the ability to perform parkour-like technique, jumping from one obstacle to the others. With its setting in Persia, there are palaces and other buildings that portray the Persian architecture. The protagonist is able to make use these buildings to perform beautiful assassination skills. The game became a well-known franchise. It is still being produced until present.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time movie version, however, is not merely transfer the video game sequel to film. It is an incorporation of three Prince of Persia sequels; Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2003), Prince of Persia: Warrior Within (2004), and Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones (2005) simultaneously. The film story is a modification of the game’s basic elements —Persian setting of time and place, treachery, the Sands of Time and the Dagger of Time—which is not directly related to the three games. The story was made by the same author which is a strong reason why the film has the similar spirit to the video game. Yet, the excution of a film is not based on one single author but also from the screenplay writers (Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard), director (Mike Newell), actors (Jake Gyllenhai cs.), and the crews.

Let us look at some prominent properties in this film. First, I would like to present the costume. As seen in the official poster, the protagonist wears a light Persian battle armor. The armor is designed such in a way that it also depicts Prince Dastan’s characterization as a young, noble, and energetic prince. It also accomodates him to move agile. This armor, however, is not the same as Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time video game. As I have mentioned before, the film merged three sequels. It substracted the elements here and there to recreate the new formula of the story. If I compare the poster to the three game covers, it seems that the costume Dastan wearing is similar to Prince of Persia: Warrior Within’s armor. Moreover, his physical appearance—hairstyle, facial figure,

body built—does resemble Warrior Within rather than the other games. To those audiences that have the experience of playing the three games, they will recognize the image that is presented by the actor and his costume. It creates a proximity between the film and the audiences. Not surprisingly, to those audiences who do not play the game, the image is not odd because we have already introduced to the Persian setting and had some rough references of what would we expect from a Persian prince.

The picture of official poster and video game covers



The second prominent property is the Dagger of Time. The narration said that the dagger holds magical power. When someone presses the jewel on its hilt, it will turn back the time and only s/he realizes what is going on. The Dagger of Time appears in two games; Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones. Both games have the same references on how to make the extraordinary dagger works. Furthermore, it also informs that if the sandglass is full the dagger can rewind maximum 60 seconds. Since this information is important in the games, it will be an important memory towards players even after they finish the game. This aspect is happily maintained in the film thus make the same effect as similarities in costume and physical appearance on the first point above. If only the storywriter does not maintain this information, gamers will be less interested in keeping up with the story because it had gone too far from their gaming experience. The importance of this Dagger of Time is also emphasized by numerous medium close-up and close-up shots of the dagger.

The repetition of showing the Dagger of Time indicates its importance in
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time film

Although the instruction of using the dagger remains the same, the storywriter still has room for alternating other aspects of it. If we compare three daggers as follows:

From the left: the dagger in the film, in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time game, and in
Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones

all of them are not similar to each other except they have the sandglass. The sandglass is important since it is used as the place to put Sands of Alamut as the “fuel”. The difference in the dagger’s designs offers an idea that the film is just using several cool elements from the game to recreate a new story, without leaving the excitement in both media.

The last point, considered as the most important point, is the recreation of the setting. As we know that this film is based on an action-adventure game, meaning that the playable character should overcome obstacles in order to reach the checkpoint. The architecture of Persian palaces, dungeons, and houses is beautiful and complex. It often has several points that can be used for climbing to reach the goal. It is why the protagonist is equipped with certain ability that can make him overcome the obstacles. The film recreated these settings in a good way that it has the characteristics like setting in the games. Below is the comparison between them:

The architecture in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time movie (first and third pictures),

Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones (second picture) and

Prince of Persia: The Sand of Time game (fourth picture)

In the pictures above, we can detect the similarity of the architectures. They depict Persian architecture— huge fortresses, sand-colored buildings, Middle-East ornaments. We can also see the protagonists performing their actions here. The mise-en-scène suggests the movie to be set in Persia. It also makes the character plausible to do his parkour-like ability. The soul of an action-adventure the video games (and the movie) is constructed within this mise-en-scène. It can make implication to the figure behavior to utilize the film set (climbing the wall, jumping from one platform to another, etc.)


From the evidence I have presented before, I believe that video games to movie adaptation can be success if the movie can maintain the soul of the video game itself. Setting and properties used in the film give a great role in creating images appropriately. A successful adaptation is much freer than the expectations because the storywriter still has enough area to create his/her own original story. However, some important and prominent elements should be maintained in order to create the proximity between the film and the audiences that are also playing the original games. The storywriter must not left out parts which will be the memories remaining in the gamers’ mind even after finishing the game, because they will judge that the movie has gone too far from the game’s core.



Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Mike Newell, Walt Disney Pictures, 2010)


Villarejo, A. Film Studies The Basic. Routlegde, 2007.


1 Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is on second rank of video games to movie adaptation based on

Posted in: essay