Jerry Bruckheimer has become somewhat of a staple in cinema summer schedules and, having produced the likes of Box Office-friendly Pirates of the Caribbean and National Treasure, it’s not hard to see why. Prince of Persia ticks all of the boxes a Bruckheimer film commands – expect swashbuckling, elaborate set designs, quippy remarks and feisty lead women. Where, however, films such as the National Treasures felt somewhat lacking, Prince of Persia seems full-bellied and, most importantly, enjoyable.
Having been adapted from the classic video game (a step-up from being derived from a Disney attraction, at least), Mike Newell-directed Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time follows the chaos that follows the murder of King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup). Wrongly accused Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) finds himself faced with the task of finding the true culprit for his father’s death whilst trying to rectify the wrongful acquisition of Alamut. Accompanied by Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton), he soon discovers a hidden world of mystery in which his beautiful charge is heavily embroiled. She protects a secret dagger given to her people by the Gods that possesses the ability to reverse time and that enthuses lustful longing in the easily corruptible. With obvious links to the power governments have to manipulate its people, the film combines old tales and settings with modern twists.
The film avoids what many of its counterparts fall foul to. Instead of spending the entire run-time tracing Dastan’s history it jumps straight into action, allowing a few moments to be spared to explain that Dastan was an orphaned boy who was taken in by royalty at a young age due to his charitable character. Although not dialogue-heavy, the film is complex enough to maintain interest and has well-choreographed fight scenes. Alfred Molina provides an enjoyable performance as Sheik Amar and luckily fails the become an annoying sidekicks so many similar films seem to be littered with (Beni from The Mummy, anyone?). The inclusion of Ben Kinglsey in the cast may raise some eyebrows as to his character (Nizam)’s reliability as Kingsley himself produces an average performance that doesn’t touch some of his other projects.
Although Gyllenhaal’s English accent is nigh-flawless and his physique suits the role perfectly some have questioned his suitability for the film itself. If the film follows other Bruckheimer projects then it may one day spawn several sequels and Gyllenhaal may grow into the role, a career-defining role he (arguably) has yet to achieve. With pre-production rumours whispering that both Orlando Bloom and Zach Efron were being considered for the part, Gyllenhaal may be more suited to the part than some give him credit for.
The effects deployed when the film’s mystical dagger reverses time are enthralling but the experience sometimes feels as though it would have been heightened by the inclusion of 3D in this film’s arsenal. In a world where audiences are fast becoming used to the thrills provided by the medium, one gets the feeling that scenes that involve whirling visuals of sand dispalcing time may have been better if the entire audience where wearing (albeit sometimes cumbersome) 3D glasses. Without giving too much away, if you’re expecting the scene of the final battle to be awe-inspiring, you may be slightly disappointed with the slightly disheartening end set piece. In true blockbuster style however everyone’s stories are resolved and villains face justice but those that could quite easily have stolen the show (namely the time-displacing dagger itself) could well have done with slightly more screen time and explanation.
Best prop; The emus.