After bringing back the Pirate movie back from Davey Jones’ locker, super producer Jerry Bruckheimer then turned to the video game genre to try and find the next fantasy craze to sweep the world’s multiplexes and settled on cult platformer Prince Of Persia. Hiring Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire director Mike Newell to try and add some much needed respectability to video game adaptations by curiously ignoring the film’s pixelated origins in favour of hailing it as the the next Pirates Of The Caribbean.
Yeah, nice try…
Armed with a sizable budget, a likable cast and a hero who, like his console based ancestor, can pull off all that parkour style floppy boy shit with the rest of them, Disney was obviously hoping to have yet another gargantuan fantasy hit on their hands – instead it fell through everyone’s grasp like grains of sand…
The Persian army prepares to assault the holy city of Alamut under the pretence that they’re forging weapons for Persia’s enemies and the three sons of the king weigh up their battle plans. Two of the princes, Tus and Garsiv favour a direct route of battle but Dastan, a street urchin adopted by the king fifteen years ago, has another idea that will avoid unnecessary loss of life. Infiltrating the city with his vast portfolio of death defying flips and jumps, Dastan manages to lower the cities defences so a protected battle is averted but in the effort, he obtains an ornate looking dagger from a member of the royal guard. This piece of elaborate cutlery turns out to be the conduit to the fabled sands of time, something entrusted to Alamut’s willful Princess Tamina and can send its user back in time with a click on the button on the hilt. This handy little find will prove useful as the king is suddenly assassinated and Dastan is framed for the murder, leaving him no choice but for him and the hostile Tamina to go on the run as the kingdom cries out for their heads. Dastan figures that the primes suspects are either his two brothers or his uncle, Nizam (played by Ben Kingsley – so the choice is fairly obvious).
As Dastan and Tamina gradually go from killing each other to falling for each other, they’ll have to avoid the Hassansins, a covert band of assassins tasked with retrieving the dagger and the self serving acts of roister doister crime boss Sheik Amar, in order to make sure the dagger doesn’t fall into the wrong hands and is a accidently used to unravel time itself.
It seems that by trying so hard to avoid the curse of the videogame adaptation, the filmmakers forgot about that other curse that lurks out in the dark, the curse of the Disney live action movie. Soon to be joined by other such grossly expensive movies that disappeared without a trace such as John Carter and Tommorowland, Prince Of Persia made all the imprint on popular culture as a sandy footprint in sandstorm. But did it deserved to be brushed aside so callously – uh, kinda, yeah…
I mean, it’s not like Prince Of Persia is badly made or technically inept, it’s just that it’s just not particularly engaging on any level and turns out to be just another costly burst of cinematic white noise that comfortly wastes two hours with all the lasting effect of playing on a game on your phone and losing track of the time…
It’s somewhat perplexing considering all the factors are there for a blisteringly entertaining romp. Bruckheimer has been behind more deliriously fun movies than almost any other producer alive, while Newell not only banged out one of the better Harry Potters but gave us Four Wedding And A Funeral and Donnie Brasco too and on top of that, both Gyllenhaal and Aterton are both actors of considerable charisma and yet all of their efforts ultimately fall flatter than a opened can of soda left on the sun – it frankly seemed impossible.
Gyllengaal is rightfully hailed as a fiercely memorable character actor who makes interesting choices in his roles, but while the role of Dastan allows him to deploy his considerable charm, he’s also a defiantly vanilla hero with no real qualities that differentiate him from the countless other heroes that ever swashed a buckle. It’s the same with Arterton too (weirdly looks like Megan Fox) and in fact it remains a potent metaphor for the movie in general which never seems to shift out of second gear for the duration.
Frustratingly enough, the movie has a macguffin right there that could have been a game changer, especially when considering the action sequences, but the movie never thinks to use the magic, time reversing dagger in any other way than to overturn plot cul de sacs in place of any real plot twists. In one of the games you can use the dagger to reverse things mid-fight, so imagine the crazy, Edge Of Tommorow_Doctor Stange/Matrix/Tenet-style, reality warping shit we could have had that would have gotten the scoop on that kind of thing.
As it stands, the only thing that truly stands out from a film that remains as defiantly “decent” as a three star movie can be, is Alfred Molina’s Arthur Daley-esque Sheik, who swans about the place with a broad cockney accent while going on constantly about his love of ostriches while other actors of his calibre (Ben Kingsley, I’m looking at you) phones things in as his eyes glaze over from all the green screen.
On the plus side, the movie looks great and the sets and costumes are stupendous, but even then, there’s that inescapable fact that almost all the main cast are white people slathered in bronzer to play Persians in a movie made in 2010.
So, yet another lost life for the seemingly unkillable genre of the video game adaptation, but the question remains – can anyone manage to crack this enigmatic puzzle before audiences simply decide to stop playing?