Monday, May 24, 2010

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Medieval Indiana Jones

Unfortunately I do not have an iota of experience with the Prince of Persia games, given that they were all the rage some 20 odd years ago when I was still in school, being the oddity that used the Apple ][e computer before Apple became sexy, amongst a group of geeks swapping their latest adventures as the titular character on some computer based adventure. I'm sure Prince of Persia by now has a seizable fan base to warrant a large scaled action adventure slated as a summer blockbuster, but if only had Mike Newell's execution made it less meandering than a medieval Indiana Jones.

With three scribes working on Jordan Mechner's story from the game, the film suffered from the lack of coherence as it strung together premise after premise of mindless mumbo jumbo to pass off as mythology involving time travel with a dagger as the DeLorean and some precious sand as the fuel for its flux capacitor. And I wonder just who is responsible for the plenty of plot loopholes and conveniences found littered throughout the film, that you'll roll your eyes no sooner at the next cliche that managed to find its way on screen. Cliches so bad, you'll want to reach out and utilize the dagger of time yourself to escape from a horrible story.

Take for instance, the usual bad guy monologue, and the trust to an unidentified, faceless minion to finish off the hero, which led to an embarrassingly bad take (ran out of film?) on how an interrupt occurred to save our Prince. Or how by keeping mum instead of trying to kick our hero's rear in front of an adoring army just didn't make much sense other than to provide for a means to a more conclusive finale. And what about the inexplicable ego boosting of needing to have a precious artifact put in a display case for all and sundry to see and admire, with an "alarm system" of only 1 dagger throwing minion, again a faceless and glorious extra?

There are many of such strange set ups that you wonder if they should just junk the story, and show action after action. After all, with computer wizardry employed in full glory to bring about plenty of sand buffering around, and that tinge of thick orange that drenched the film, nothing seems to be impossible as our hero had to overcome jealous brotherly rivals, betrayal, a feisty princess (played by Gemma Arterton whose star is slowly but surely rising), with a mouth that just wouldn't stop spewing sarcasm (with lips always so seductively pursed that one wondered why it took so long for the Persian Prince to plant a big fat wet kiss to shut her up), and go up against enemies like the precursors of Assassins, soldiers, and ostriches even. Yes, I kid you not, as Alfred Molina's Sheik Amar runs an underground betting ring with expertise on ostrich races, and provides some laughter as an anti-government critic if you translate his lines into a modern day context.

Jake Gyllenhaal put on plenty of muscle to be that swashbuckling hero so sorely missed by Hollywood standards, and going by the skills of his character Dastan, one may mistake him for being Prince of Parkour as well, with his various leaps and jumps overcoming various terrain and enemies constantly. Gyllenhaal may just cement his reputation as a summer film marquee star with enough chops to take on action, and does a pretty decent job as the hero with street smarts and a devil may care attitude. As mentioned, Gemma Arterton's star is growing, and finds herself comfortable in period roles, though she has not much to do here other than to banter with Gyllenhaal, and be that obligatory love interest in the sea of men.

Prince of Persia may be Jerry Bruckheimer's hope of a franchise to be spawned, emulating the success of The Pirates of the Caribbean, but frankly requires a lot more stars and a solid story to begin with. Then again, hey it's a summer popcorn movie, so cut it some slack you may add, especially when the special effects here made time travel look good from a visual perspective. Sure, if you park your brains at the door and approach this with low expectations, you may just enjoy the roller coaster ride from start to finish, but it's no crime to ask for a little bit more.

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