Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Mike Newell) 2010

The movie is about Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) who was a street urchin but the king was convinced of his good nature and made him a prince.  Dastan helps to overthrow a kingdom due to misleading information from an unknown informant.  The purpose is that someone in the court (Ben Kingsley) with an ulterior motive (Ben Kingsley) for overthrowing the king (Ben Kingsley) wants a mystical dagger inside said city which can turn back time.  Dastan must uncover the mystery (Ben Kingsley) of whoever this master manipulator (Ben Kingsley) is…Ben Kingsley.

I know I try to avoid spoilers but come on, is this even spoiling anything!?  Who looked at the trailer and the posters and thought “Hm, that evil Jafar looking dude who is played by the guy who almost always plays the villain seems like a trustworthy guy.  I’m sure he is just Gyllenhaal’s Yoda like mentor in this movie.”  But I digress.

This was a movie that I was actually interested in despite the negative track record of video game movies.  It was produced by the people who made Pirates of the Caribbean, headed by a solid director in Mike Newell, and it looked like they were really trying with this one to make a franchise other than most of the video game schlock.  And really, Prince of Persia shouldn’t be that hard of a movie to make good material for.  After all, it is not like Super Mario where he you have to make a coherent narrative out of plumbers, killer turtles, and mushrooms.  All I was really expecting was some good parkour action scenes, some sword fighting, and some interesting characters and I would have been good.

Newell may be good in other genres, but he doesn’t seem to know how to shoot an action scene.  All of the fighting scenes are shot super close and with frantic cuts to where I don’t know what the hell is going on.  I seriously didn’t know what was going on, who was getting hit, who was winning, or anything else that was happening in the scene.The parkour scenes are equally frustrating.  In one scene we go from a wide tracking shot of Jake running, to a first person perspective which is disjointing, then some nauseating shot of the camera rolling 360 degrees as he is swinging around a pole (I guess to show his perspective but it is annoying as hell), back to more spastic cuts and he is someplace and we don’t know how he got there.  It doesn’t help that any of these places Jake is running around doesn’t exist.  There is absolutely no tension seeing him jump from one green CGI block to the next, or seeing some wire team hoist his ass up a wall.

The plot is okay.  It serves its purpose and there are some fun, lighthearted moments (especially with Alfred Molina).  I heard some complain about the ending (which I won’t go into) but all I’ll say is if you have played the video game, it is basically the same thing.  That doesn’t necessarily excuse it but it wasn’t exactly a shock to me either.

The acting is actually pretty good in this.  As I mentioned Alfred Molina has a good supporting role and I did really like Gyllenhaal in the main role.  Not only did he have a good physical presence but he was quite charming during his screen time.  He did as much as he could with the limited material he was given.  My one gripe is with the role of the princess.  Instead of being intelligent and self reliant like in the games, here she is a shrill harpy who is the stereotypical spoiled royalty.  There is almost no difference between her and Princess Vespa in Spaceballs.

This is one of the better attempts at a video game movie but really that is a low bar.  At the end of the day this may work for a slow night on the tv.  But I wouldn’t recommend you go out and spend money on theater tickets.  I didn’t like this movie, but I can see it appealing to a few.

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