Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time: Insert Pun About Wanting To Turn Back Time And Never See This Film Here

For a film that looks so much like a video game, I’ve watched scenes from video games with better storylines and special effects than Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Its leads lack charisma, its story lack suspense, its dialogue lacks wit, and its effects lack realism. It took a bunch of parts from better movies and sewed them together into a Frankenstein-like creation. The only difference between this film and the Frankenstein creature is that the Frankenstein creature was given a brain. Summer blockbusters can have a thin premise and still be fun if there is intelligence in the execution. Unfortunately, this film is even worse than unintelligent—it assumes its audience is unintelligent, and as a result borders on the insulting.

A young rebellious Caucasian orphan named Destin saves a child from the king of Persia’s guards and proceeds to fight back admirably—so admirably, in fact, that the king rewards him for his nobility and adopts him. No word comes on whether the king’s guards were punished for being the opposite. No word, also, on why there seem to be an abundant of young white orphans running around Persia… although most of the Persians in this film appear to be Caucasian, so perhaps I’m digging too deep. Being the most Caucasiany of all, Destin (Jake Gyllenhaal) is obviously going to show that’s he’s better than his brothers in every way, be framed for some foul crime that the gorgeous Jake Gyllenhaal couldn’t have possibly committed, fall in love with the most gorgeous princess (Gemma Arteton) who couldn’t possibly love any character that looks more ethnic than Jake Gyllenhaal, and save all of Persia from his villainous uncle (Ben Kingsley).

How can we tell the uncle is evil? (1) He’s played by Ben Kingsley. (2) Anyone who’s seen any movie before knows because the king’s brother who is also his chief advisor is the most obvious villain possible. Even children who have only seen Disney films know that a king’s brother is liable to want the throne (The Lion King) and the king’s chief advisor is usually the one with the power to hurt our hero (Aladdin). (3) The movie pretends for so long that Ben Kingsley isn’t the villain that everyone in the theater is likely to start shouting at the screen, “For the love of God, isn’t it obvious?” It’s as if the director of a Dudley Do-Right cartoon zoomed in on Snidely Whiplash twirling his mustache as an evil musical sting played… and then proceeded with the story as if the audience still thinks that Snidely is the only person Dudley can trust.

Let’s also ask: why did a Hollywood studio think that Jake Gyllenhaal would be a good action hero? Gyllenhaal’s strengths have always been playing emotional characters, characters with a deep sense of longing or mourning—he’s made his career doing this. In Prince of Persia, Gyllenhaal adopts an unfortunate British accent and does his best action movie hero impression. There doesn’t appear to be anything at stake other than future action movie paychecks, and there doesn’t appear to be any notable character trait other than glistening muscles and maybe an overwhelming sense of familiarity, like we’ve seen this role played before by many actors more suited to the role. Even a younger Vin Diesel or The Rock would have been more convincing. And less obviously white.

Why did they cast a bunch of white people in all the main heroic roles? Would it have killed them to include one or two Persians? Or, assuming that Americans are idiotic enough to accept the blue-eyed Jake Gyllenhaal as any sort of Middle Easterner, would it have killed them to include a couple of actors with darker skin? Outside of throwing Gemma Arteton into a tanning bed for a few days, it doesn’t seem that they cared at all that Persia is actually a real place. Instead, they seem to think it only exists in video games, especially by the way the film is shot. A character will announce where they are going, and the camera will suddenly be zooming around tracing the path the character must take, as if the audience member is holding a joystick and will have to help Destin retrace the path that was just revealed to us. It’s an inordinately strange visual technique that seems designed to remind us that this is, in fact, a video game.

Why couldn’t they have provided better visual effects? Sure, the shots that aren’t edited and chopped to hell are pretty, but anything involving CGI looks like something I’d see as an intro to a Playstation 2 game. Actually, that’s unfair to Playstation 2 games, some of which take great pains to deliver engaging effects and usually have an interesting story. Any time that a character pushes the button on the dagger containing the Sands of Time, we are instantly transitioned away from reality and into a special effects world that reminded me distinctly of The Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns. That’s not a good thing. Also, the big effects sequences that should inspire awe, such as a giant landslide during which a fake Jake Gyllenhaal hops around like a frog, are instead cartoonish at best and boring at worst. They try to incorporate parkour into the proceedings to show Gyllenhaal’s gift as a warrior (no one else in Persia was capable of doing parkour?), but because they show multiple shots of him leaping farther than any human is capable of, let alone Jake Gyllenhaal, it takes us out of any sequence that we might have believed Gyllenhaal was actually doing. There’s a thrill in seeing an actor do his own stunts that they robbed us of by removing any attachment to a sense of reality.

Why couldn’t the premise have been more airtight? Destin is given a robe which he presents to his father. The robe is poisoned in an obscure Medea-esque way that causes the king to melt… or something. The story as it has been told to this point dictates the following: (1) The brothers know Destin isn’t in line for the throne, and thus wouldn’t have motivation to kill the king. (2) The brothers trust one another, and while they might envy Destin, they certainly wouldn’t think he’s plotting against them. (3) Destin didn’t find the robe, he didn’t handle the robe, and he didn’t even want to be the person to deliver the robe in the first place, so he couldn’t have poisoned the robe. (4) The uncle has been telling his children a story of how he saved his brother’s life as a child for their whole lives, which should tell the brothers that the uncle envisions a world where his young brother dies and he becomes king. Plus, he’s played by Ben Kingsley. (5) Brave noble Destin would have immediately afterward revealed who handed him the robe in the first place. It’s the obvious thing to say. Of course, these five points must either be conveniently ignored or deliberately spat in the face of in order to make this movie have the paper-thin plot it has, so the king dies, the brothers believe with lightning speed that Destin is making a play for the throne, and Destin immediately starts beating up guards and escaping.

Why is the main romance so completely lacking in chemistry? One could blame the terrible dialogue, which mostly consists of “women can do things just as well as men!” and “I don’t find you attractive… but secretly I do.” This is the type of dialogue that Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn excelled at. Yet, those scripts were written with wit and realism, and those actors were far superior to the ones we have here, and 50-60 years after Tracy and Hepburn, we’ve seen that type of dialogue so often (also recently spotted in Robin Hood) that it’s played out. Also, Gemma Arteton, who was so bland and lacking in charisma in Clash of the Titans, is equally terrible here. She is quite easy on the eyes, but not nearly easy enough on the eyes to forgive the made-for-SyFy-movie performance she gives here. If they had made her character a sexy, midriff-baring mute, the movie would have been ten times better, if only because we would then have cut all that bad dialogue, and we could have wondered if the character had depth rather than hearing what she says and realizing she doesn’t. We might also have been spared the silliest action movie cliché of all: the characters kissing at an inappropriate moment of extreme danger when there’s a deadline that you must meet in order not to die. This cliché (also recently spotted in Robin Hood) happens TWICE here.

The final question I have after sitting through this is… who asked for a Prince of Persia movie? Was there a big demand in the videogame community to make this happen? I realize that it’s damn near impossible for a film to be made without having some sort of marketable brand name—and that Disney in particular has come out and said they will not be making any original films until the economy turns around—but what kind of irreparable damage are these people doing to otherwise fine franchises? Of course, I realize that as a reasonably intelligent moviegoer, perhaps it’s easy for me to sit in my ivory tower and say these franchises are getting damaged, with the mediocre Alice in Wonderland being the highest grossing film of the year and the mediocre Clash of the Titans and mediocre Robin Hood not far behind. Prince of Persia didn’t have an established name in the film community like the other three, and now it never will. It’s one of the worst Jerry Bruckheimer produced films ever (a feat), because it manages to be a fast-paced action effects bonanza that bores its audience.

~ by russellhainline on June 3, 2010.

4 Responses to “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time: Insert Pun About Wanting To Turn Back Time And Never See This Film Here”

  1. “the characters kissing at an inappropriate moment of extreme danger when there’s a deadline that you must meet in order not to die.”

    LOL! I also felt that the timing was terribly bad. I mean, come on!!!!

  2. I personally thought this movie was very good, Its easy to believe these kinds of movies will be garbage as other game to movie ideas have been disasters. I gave this a try mainly because of Ben Kingsley. I’m glad I did. The dialogue is fairly flat but the characters are very good the acting is pretty good Ben is brilliant as per usual. And persia and its setting look amazing. It also comes with a good plot! Well worth a watch! 7/10

  3. הכרויות חינם

  4. OK seriously, I’m white and I found myself asking what’s with all the white people? Couldn’t they find any arabs or indians? And the kiss was out of place. Otherwise, awesome movie.

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