Yesterday, I treated myself to the latest summer blockbuster, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Prince Dastan, Gemma Arterton as Princess Tamina, the venerable Ben Kingsley as Nizam, and Alfred Molina as Sheik Amar. This movie – which is loosely based on the video game of the same name – was the fourth movie under the Walt Disney Pictures umbrella that was rated PG-13, the last three being the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Full disclosure: I was very leery of watching this movie. I had a problem with the main cast being anything but Persian. On top of that, they speak with an awkwardly sort of British-Iranian mash-up of an accent. That being said, I decided to go ahead and bite the bullet and check it out. I went in with no expectations, so if I enjoyed it, I’d be happy; otherwise, I wouldn’t be too disappointed.
The movie begins with a young orphan named Dastan who saved a fellow orphan from being arrested and found favor with King Sharaman, the king of Persia. The king adopted Dastan and raised him as his own along with his two sons Tus and Garsiv. As adults, he and his brother raid the holy city of Alamut, where it is believed that they are selling weapons to the enemies of Persia. There are no weapons (sound familiar?) and they fold the holy cit into Persia itself. Bad things happen, and Dastan is then accused of a crime he didn’t commit. He is forced to flee with Princess Tamina where he discovers that they were actually after the mythical Dagger of Time – a dagger that can rewind up to one minute of time, and only the dagger holder is aware of it. What happens next is a myriad of desert chases, ostrich races, sword fights, parkour running, and Hassansin battles.
Like I mentioned, I was leery of the casting, but I managed. Jake Gyllenhaal really pulled off the look. If you’ve seen any footage of the original game, then you see that this is pretty much how Dastan looks. He pulls off some fantastic leaps and sword fights which are nothing short of amazing. In what I believe is his first action role, he seems very comfortable, albeit a little stilted at times. I blame that on the script.
The beautiful Gemma Arterton takes the role as Princess Tamina, and let me just say that she has been busy the past few years. She went from a bit part in Quantum of Solace – where a very bad thing happened to her, to Clash of the Titans – where a very bad thing happened to her, to this. I only had one real problem with this, and it’s where she shifted from a very regal princess in the beginning of the film to a spoiled prima donna halfway through. Maybe that’s the way it would’ve actually played out, but it seemed kinda off.
Sir Ben Kingsley played Nizam, the brother of the king and the antagonist of the film, and…well…he looked evil from the word “go.” His piercing gaze and almost unsympathetic tone just oozed, “I’m a really bad man.” He made do with what he was given, and it worked out okay. There were some parts of the movie that he did that surprised me, but other than that, he was fine.
My favorite part of the movie had to be whenever Alfred Molina was on screen. He played Sheik Amar, and he was just completely over the top. It’s almost as if the director said, “Go; have fun,” and he complied. Hearing him rant and rave about not paying taxes to the Persian government and his complete enjoyment of ostrich races were a hoot. Out of everyone, I believe he was the most entertaining.
The movie was directed by Mike Newell, and he put the movie through its paces. It was very well done, but he just failed to hit that fifth gear. Don’t get me wrong, the movie seems like a thrill ride, but he didn’t push it into overdrive. The script was fine, although some of the dialogue was a little painful to hear. The music was composed by Harry Gregson-Williams, and it flourished under his hand. The ending track featured Alanis Morrisette, which seems like an ill fit, but it worked out fine.
The movie was pretty fun, but then, something happens that just made me go “Huh. So that happened.” It lead me to make the following statement on my Twitter feed:
Prince of Persia was okay. Not great, not terrible, but it was just okay.
I’ve seen painful movies, and this wasn’t one of them. I’ve seen spectacular movies, but this wasn’t one of them. I think the best way to describe it is to say it was “fine” and leave it at that. It warrants three dragon heads out of five, and I’ll say this much; there are worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon.