Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Directed by: Mike Newell
Written by: Boaz Yakin & Doug Miro (screenplay)
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton, and Alfred Molina
I must say, after seeing the abysmal trailer for this film, I’m somewhat pleasantly surprised with the end result. What initially looked like another bad video game adaptation with worse graphics than the actual game, Jerry Bruckheimer has done the unthinkable: taken the (resident) evil act of adapting a movie to screen and having it actually be entertaining. Alas, no Jack Sparrow to make this tale interesting or worth embarking on.
Bruckheimer makes a living off of these ridiculous ideas. He grossed more than a billion dollars off of a trilogy based on a Disney ride.Though he has production credits only, you can see his swash-buckling touch all over this desert tale. The Sex and the City girls decorate their Middle Eastern adventure with desperation mixed with luxury and a hint of American arrogance. You’ll find no such things metastasize on the surface of this film, though they are all there behind the scenes; a dwindling economy prevails but Bruckheimer still finds $200 million for his vision. It’s not so much arrogance as studio caution that a white male has been cast in the lead role as the Prince of Persia.
Some politicos may make smug comparisons to our role in the Middle East with the act of having a white male movie star be the hero of the desert, but this movie is all about the surface. Any smug conclusions you draw will have to be on your own, because the screenplay sure isn’t giving you anything but uninspired action “go, go, go!” from the get-go.
When peasant-turned-prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) is framed for his father’s death, he goes on the run with princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) and attempts to clear his name from afar. Yes, familiar. Throw in a dagger that can turn back time for the holder, and you also have that tired plot strand mixed in. As usual with blockbusters this recycled, there are the occasional highs and the many, many lows.
Though there is no defining, gaping canyon in the film other than it’s boring complacency to stay unoriginal, Ms. Arterton’s performance is laughable, not even skin-deep. I suppose a highlight would be that there aren’t more like it.
Gyllenhaal is surprisingly adequate as the lead, blending his baby face smirks with a blockbuster physique and finding an actual character in it. Dastan knows he does not belong, and it partly fuels his early actions and later regrets. He had fun with his wall jumping, time reversing and PG-13 sword slashing.
Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina both go above the call of duty. Kingsley adds genuine political intrigue to an otherwise mundane royal family. Molina is excellent as a bandit who is against taxes but for slavery. Is it just me, or are these summer movies all incorporating an anti-government theme or character?
The action sequences are also hit and miss. You’ll have the occasional thrill, but many yawns as the realism dwindles and the PG-13 rating becomes overly-apparent. As a fantasy, it doesn’t have many fantastical visions. When your movie’s best action scene involves an ostrich race, you have to begin questioning your script. Director Mike Newell is merely a Bruckheimer chess piece, but he should have been a king, not a pawn. He did well with the Harry Potter franchise, but fails to make one out of Prince of Persia.
As a whole, Bruckheimer has proved that he could invade the video game genre and find something people would go and see. That it is an adventure rich in some ancient Muslim tradition and culture is a sign that times may indeed be changing. Then again, having a mostly white cast get tan and sculpted to present it with British accents shows that this is still Hollywood after all.