I guess I made the decision after seeing the trailer. Prince of Persia : The Sands of Time was definitely on my ‘must-see’ list. But when the movie opened last Friday, I didn’t rush out to the local cineplex. I waited five days and saw the film on Tuesday, the 1st of June.
The pedigree was right – Disney, Bruckheimer plus Mike Newell in the Director’s Chair. Plenty of gee-whiz CGI effects. And after the somberness of Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, I was in the mood for a rollicking adventure across the Persian sands, or should I say the Moroccan deserts.
The film started off well enough with the familiar chase across the rooftops. We see this so often and yet it is always satisfying. But in all honesty, I thought that the rooftop chase in Tangiers, Morocco, in The Bourne Ultimatun was far more exciting, and the opening chase in the first Daniel Craig Bond film, Casino Royale – was done much better.
Once the chase concluded, we quickly advance to a time, a dozen years later when the boy who was Dastan in the opening chase has now grown into Jake Gyllenhaal‘s Prince Dastan. I’d seen Jake in Rendition and Jarhead, so I was familiar with him.
Likewise for Gemma Arterton who was cast as Princess Tamina. She reminded me of Julia Ormand who played opposite Richard Gere in First Knight. But this role was paper-thin as written, and so Gemma had little opportunity to act.
Which brings us to the script. Palace intrigue with political overtones is nothing new. As long as we have had politicians and or palaces, there’s been both intrigue and overtones which are always and essentially just power struggles. But the film’s concept originated in a video game. So I can’t jump on the script as heavily as I’d like.
So to make up for the weak script, and to give us something to think about when we aren’t watching the action, the rest of the ensemble cast was chosen carefully and precisely. You have to overlook the fact that everyone in the cast spoke with a British accent, including the American Gyllenhaal. But kudos must be given to Alfred Molina as Sheik Amar, an opportunist, a conman, and the sole anti-government spokesperson in the film. He was also the sole character who produced some moments of fun in the film. Especially when he railed against the heavy taxes.
I also liked Richard Coyle as Tus, and Ronald Pickup as King Sharaman. They made me think of some of the characters from Lord of the Rings, but neither appeared in those films. Be that as it may, they certainly looked and sounded right.
The action sequences were kind of cheesy to me. The invasion and the battle for the Holy City Alamut was far too brief. I desperately wished to see an army of Orcs but there wasn’t any. Dastan swung his sword, and swung from one rafter to another effectively, but the man-to-man combat scenes were edited in such away that it was difficult to follow. It was like a taste of combat, rather than Dastan was fighting for his life.
The CGI mountainous cities that seemingly reached to the heavens were marvelous to look at, but these are only matte images so you get to appreciate them for only a few seconds.
The impending doom – the onrushing sands of time – that threatened to obliterate everything before it seemed like it might have been done better. Even when the sand floors gave away beneath Dastan’s feet, I never really believed he was in peril.
And of course, the center piece of the entire film, the precious dagger that controlled the sands of time, seemed to be no more than a newer version of the Ark of the Covenant which was what Indiana Jones was after in Raiders of the Lost Ark which was made nearly 30 years ago. What goes around comes around.
But on a more basic level – the dagger was only a fancy and gimmicky object that armies fought over and evil men like the Nizam wanted. Nizam also was the first to float the concept of a weapons transfer (read as the WMD’s of that era) in the film. And they went to war because of it. Sound familiar? Ben Kingsley who played Nizam in this film, wore make-up that made him look like Ming The Merciless from the 1930’s Flash Gordon films .
But really, what was the mystical and magical dagger? When we were kids, all you had to do to correct a mistake was call for a “do-over”. Your second-chance do over gave you a shot at your target once more.
Who would have thought that having a do-over machine, aka deux ex machina, would be the idea in a historical epic adventure film that cost millions and millions to make in 2010. We had our own versions of do-overs as kids, mere decades ago and they were 100% free and 100% effective.
All in all, this ‘Prince’ was a nice try, an agreeable way to spend a few hours. You can think of a summer blockbuster another way if you like. For two hours plus you are cool, and being entertained, while someone else is providing the air-conditioning.