Movie #5: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

While I’d played the original 1989 game, I had not seen the 2010 video game on which Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was based. So, I was pretty surprised at the impressive scale of the visual effects that were put into this movie (though less surprised at how they still made the main character leap and vault from ledges and rooftops — it’s the character’s signature move). If it weren’t for the sub-par script and mediocre acting, I would definitely have regretted not seeing it on the big screen. Jake Gyllenhaal has the title role of Dastan, an orphan from the streets of ancient Persia whose courage is noticed by the king and so he’s adopted into the royal family to become one of three princes. Gyllenhaal does a pretty good job of maintaining a British accent throughout the film. He’s no Kevin Costner, but neither is he Meryl Streep. I think he’d probably give Gwyneth Paltrow a run for her crumpets, though. While he pulled off the accent, it only contributed to a misstep in the production of this movie: casting British actors to take the roles of Persian characters. Gemma Arterton might come the closest to looking exotic enough to have been Persian (especially with her tan and her darkened hair), but other actors such as Richard Coyle and Alfred Molina are less convincing. Then there’s Ben Kingsley, who can stand in for virtually a hemisphere’s worth of ethnicities, playing Nizam, brother to the king. As I’ve mentioned, the script was hardly anything to sink one’s teeth into, so if they thought they needed more experienced players for the roles I’m not sure why. The white-washing only added to the already tongue-in-cheek tone (think The Mummy with just as much sand, but fewer undead) despite everyone seeming to give a serious performance (except Molina, whose role as Sheikh Amar was clearly meant for comic relief). To make matters a bit worse, the story was unnecessarily convoluted, dealing with the normal themes of greed and struggle for power, it also touched on the ideas of family and destiny. Throw in a time-travel element and you end up with a plot that seems to be going too many places at once. That being said, I also think this movie did a pretty good job at being a grand, swash-buckling, family (though your kids might need some help understanding some of the finer plot points) adventure. I couldn’t believe how impressive some of the wide landscape scenes were. There were deserts (of course), but also mountains and one magnificent scene where Dastan climbs up to the roof of a building and looks out over the entire majestic city. Besides the backdrop, there were a lot of good fight scenes as well (especially when some nasty assassins show up in the second half of the film) that used slow motion and wire-work to really pull off some impressive stunts that reminded me a lot of the best Chinese martial arts movies in recent years. All tolled, maybe I should have watched this in the theatre. I could have really soaked in the visuals while knowing to ignore the story. Oh well, it’s not as if I can turn back time. (3.5 out of 5)

5 down, 45 to go!

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