Review: Prince of Persia
PLOT: When King Sharaman discovers a young boy who attempts to fight for someone less fortunate, he takes him into his home. This boy grows up to be part of the family, along with the Kings two sons. But when this young man Dastan is betrayed and blamed for a tragedy, he is forced to trust an enemy, a mischievous princess. Princess Tamina hopes to escape with him, only to get something he has which belongs to her. This magical dagger he carries contains the sands of time and the power to change past events. All the while, it is swordfight, chase, swordfight, chase and a few bits of dialogue in between.
I have to admit, I was truly impressed at how well Jake Gyllenhaal handled himself as an action hero. He was fairly suave and dammit, even charismatic. That was the biggest surprise I found while watching PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME. He was believable enough with his English dialect and the way he carried himself in general. I had some serious doubt that he could take on the role and not feel like the wrong actor showed up. But he did show up, and he played this young dashing prince with charm to spare. Add a touch of humor and a surprisingly machismo edge, and you have yourself a new action/adventure star. If only the movie had been as good as his performance, this couldve really been a massively appealing summer blockbuster.
The story begins as a young boy named Dastan (William Foster) is taken in by King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup). His Majesty already has two sons, but he takes this child in as his own. Why? The boy is able to jump around on walls and across buildings without breaking a sweat. Well, that is a pretty general description of the reason, but the official reason was kind of lame anyways. Basically, he sees greatness in the overly hyper lad. And of course, fifteen years later we find that Dastan has grown into Gyllenhaal. He has been accepted by his brothers and even his Uncle Nizam (Ben Kingsley). While he is treated as an equal, he never seems to want to obey the rules, and as the King and his army descend on enemy territory, Jake Wonderful takes charge. Thankfully, all that jumping around he was so good at still seems to be in his blood. I dont know how many times he runs across a series of thin wooden planks as a bunch of evildoers follow close behind. What a sprightly and buff dude this Dastan is!
Now this daring display helps him earn some brownie points with the family, even though he disobeyed their orders. But luckily, he helped bring in Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton, in an uninspired performance) who seems to desperately want to save some sort of dagger. But that is clearly not what King Sharaman is looking for, he is looking for weapons of mass destruction that she is hiding or is she? Well pretty soon, what we have is a series of fight sequences revolving around a murdered King, a magical dagger and something called the sands of time. This sand can quite literally, turn back time, but you dont want to go too far back. Lets just say that if the glass on the dagger is broken and too much sand is used, bad things happen. But honestly, the only bad thing is the repetitive nature of Prince of Persia.
While the film looks slick and the special effects are very good (aside from some not so great CG) it was hard to be taken seriously. Mike Newell directs with a very modern feel. The image jilts and jolts and goes for the slow motion shot much too often. Slo-mo shot after slo-mo shot; it quite literally became a distraction, this lameness even happens when Dastan and Tamina hold hands near the end. Really? You need a slow motion shot of them holding freakin hands? Ah yes, this is a Bruckheimer production isnt it. While most of Newells directing was perfect for this type of feature, that kind of ridiculousness bothered the hell out of me. As did the monotonous fight sequences. Dont get me wrong, they were well done, yet they are beyond overused. Other than that, this is a visually impressive film. I think if Mike had a better final script to work with, he could make something much more exciting than this. Maybe for Prince of Persia 2, he could team up with Jake and tell a solid tale that doesnt suffer from the myriad of adventure film clichés found here.
As much as I found the films action repetitive and less than stellar, there are a handful of moments that worked for me. There is a definite homage to early cliffhangers from days gone by which was fun. I even enjoyed the final sequence involving the sands of time, it was a satisfyingly cheesy bit of excitement. But then there are times where this is clearly a video game inspired movie, and not in a good way. The constant jumping and hopping and kicking of Dastan had me checking my seat to find the game control. Yet Gyllenhaal makes for a good hero and you could probably create another MUMMY franchise with the very nimble Dastan. Lets just hope that next time the Prince of Persia gets it right. My rating 4.5/10 -- JimmyO
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