Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Every now and then, time forgets the almost resoundingly negative fervor that surrounds movies premised upon video games and green lights another. And perhaps most fortuitously, the release of this “Prince of Persia” adaptation allows me nothing more than the satisfaction of reviewing yet another movie with whitewashing. Yes ladies and gentlemen, it’s not just for Beyoncé on the newest cover of Glamour.
Unfortunately this early nineties favourite takes none of the Gulf War style action from the period in which it was created, nor does producer Jerry Bruckheimer or director David Newell fully embrace the obvious potential for the same, a fact most surprising of Bruckheimer, a man known for more explosions and unnecessary set pieces than most in Hollywood. It is rare that any director is capable of leaving their own unique imprint on such a production, but here the results have resulted in something altogether silly, monotonous and simultaneously insulting to one’s intelligence.
There are certainly no weapons of mass destruction to be found here either.
Based around 6th Century Persia, Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the adoptive son of King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup), having demonstrated his valor at a young age. After aiding his brothers in the storming of the holy city of Alamut, he is betrayed by the family he wished only to be a part of and framed for the murder of his father. Fleeing with Alamut’s Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) with the hopes of clearing his name, it soon becomes clear that the reason for such a betrayal revolves around a dagger Dastan took as a spoil of war.
Try as they might, the chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Arterton is completely charmless, with the latter relegated to tempestuous statements and a general shrillness that goes beyond a mere irritance. She is a woman portraying the stereotype of pouting princess but appears comfortable to never rock the boat by injecting any life into the role, happy to operate on autopilot. The Prince himself however, try as he might to pervade an air of confidence inevitably ends up relying upon his looks, an inherent lack of any certainty or charisma in anything he does undermining his very likability as a character. Such a role could have easily been fulfilled by an actor with more screen presence to greater effect, so long as he had a affable nature to match but Gyllenhaal has neither, only further begging the question of why a white actor ill suited for the role was chosen ahead of an actual Persian or Middle-Eastern actor.
Such ignorance of culture is evident in the cast being predominantly white, a fact that no amount of tan enhancer can redress, perhaps only highlighting how foreign they look. Yes the central conceit of most period pieces is evident within the English accents adopted by all, but how this dismisses all non-white players from having a central role I’ll never know. Unless perhaps it has been decided for us that we cannot fathom something other than the Caucasian norm.
Action, or lack there of, continually raises itself as the central flaw within the piece. We are treated to an Errol Flynn style swashbuckler in its vision but not in execution. Flynn might have only had to compete with 90 minutes of story and several crisply executed set pieces but the few that are present here in the roughly 2 hour running time never feel fully worked out, ending before they’ve even began. The specific series within the ‘Prince of Persia’ dogma upon which the movie anchors itself does involve a great degree of acrobatics and stealth but even the moments of violence that arise with them immerse the gamer more than these despondent real-life scenes can. Even the degree to which Gyllenhaal is infused with muscle seems redundant for a man who so rarely shows any degree of physical strength. Instead we are privy to petulant verbal exchanges between the central characters that amount to nothing or cameos from veteran actors such as Alfred Molina, going through the motions whilst waiting for their cheque to clear.
The direction does manage to emulate the video game style yet for all the wrong reasons. Often the screen will rotate 360 degrees for little or no reason whilst actions scenes will often have the camera so disjointed or stuck in the wrong place that you’ll be banging your imaginary control to get it to move around to a more suitable vantage point.
Innocuous but drawn out, what this piece was inevitably lacking was its own sands of time, something to edit away the many unnecessary scenes and conversations that plague a potentially slick but otherwise shallow crossover.