Prince of Persia (2010) dir Mike Newell
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemme Arteton, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina,
By Alan Bacchus
This latest Jerry Bruckheimer/Disney production seems to be another attempt to create a new franchise in the vain of Pirates of the Caribbean. The title even suggests a chapter format or some sort, as if there’s a library of stories waiting to be told. Apparently there's a number of video games instalments of the story which serves as the source material. The full title of this one is called Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. While there’s plenty of swashbuckling action, there’s little creativity or panache in Mike Newell’s direction, none of the gleefulness of Gore Verbinski’s work in the Pirates pictures, or Louis Leterrier's scope in Clash of the Titans and most importantly there’s no Johnny Depp-worthy character icon to give cause for further instalments in this series.
Set in Persia (aka Iran) Jake Gyllenhaal plays Dastan a former street kid adopted into a royal family who is now one of the King’s trusted warriors. Rumours of illegal weapons being built in a neighbouring city prompts the King to invade and takeover the city. Dastan is the hero of the battle, and along the way comes into possession of a mysterious mystical dagger. Just like George W. Bush’s false pretences of the current Iraq war, the weapons of mass destruction in the film turn out to be a rouse to extract the ‘Sands of Time’ hidden underneath the city which fuels the dagger‘s power to travel back in time.
Soon after the king is murdered Dastan is blamed and forced to flee with the comely princess of the city, Tamina (Gemma Arteton). As fugitives, Dastan and Tamina have to fight to clear their names of the King’s murder and protect the dagger from the evildoers hot on their path.
Gemma Arteton who is in every film now is unrecognizable as the Princess. Her dark face makeup covers up her lilly-white skin complexion, and her black hair and short bangs give her an exotic look. She’s turns out to have the soul of the film. Ben Kingsley is the baddie, which isn’t revealed until the second act, but it’s not spoiling much. Though he’s completely bald he might as well be twirling a greesy moustache in the opening scenes. He’s fooling nobody. Alfred Molina is the best of everyone, but underutilized, if he was 25 years younger, he could have been the Johnny Depp character this film needs.
If anything, the Prince of Persia film would seem to be an excuse to update the old Arabian Nights tales. The middle eastern lands hasn’t been exploited for this type of Hollywood entertainment in years. Jake Gyllenhaal sports a British accent even though he’s playing a Persian. It would be a head scratching decision but it’s been the Hollywood convention to use the British accent to be the non-American catch-all manner of speech. Most importantly Jake lacks the required charisma of an Errol Flynn, Harrison Ford or Burt Lancaster (three of the great swashbuckling heroes) to make this series succeed. His parkour skills are impressive, especially when highlighted by Newell’s super slo-mo camera work, but his sleepy eyes and mostly dour expression is too downbeat to make this film a winner. Put a fork in this franchise, it was worth a shot.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Disney Studios Home Entertainment