Film: Prince of Persia – Sands of Time

Yes, I went to see “Prince of Persia – Sands of Time”. I went for various reasons, because it was so heavily advertised, because the advertising made it look like “fun” and because I generally find Jake Gyllenhaal to be utterly charming. Also, the film is based on an early  00’s video game of the same name, which proved to be very popular. Video game movies continue to be a difficult and complex situation, where finding the balance between similarity and development of narrative often create an interesting dynamic.

I would like to say that the story is a simple one, it’s not. There were moments when I was trying to back track, reconstruct and figure out exactly what the story was doing. However, this is a film mostly about visuals, and style – and not about a compelling narrative. Basically, what happens is we’re introduced to this mostly mythical version of Persia, complete with King, Princes etc. We then discover that the King also has an advisor/brother (Ben Kingsley), who is moustached and thus probably evil and that he’s adopted an impetuous and deeply brave orphan child, Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) because he perceives goodness in the boy. It’s all very huggy-family.

Then 15 years pass really fast, and Dastan is Jake Gyllenhaal for real, and he has some brothers and they are busily about to attack a religious city looking for WMD’s, no, wait, just regular weapons; swords and stuff. So with surprisingly little information they go in, with Dastan leading a rogue attack in through the side. Success. It mostly involves Jake wearing armour and running up walls. Inside said city is a beautiful Princess, Tamina (Jenna Artherton). She has a super annoying voice but is very pretty and very outspoken.

Anyway, later on the King decides Dastan should marry her, then the King gets poisoned by a cursed robe, then Dastan gets blamed, and then he and Tamina take off, then he stupidly insists they go back to his father’s funeral and a whole lot more jumping, leaping, wall running and near kisses happen. Yeah, and there’s an ostrich race. The Prince and Princess have some amusing quipping dislike for each other, where she is pampered and perpetually frustrated, and he is sarcastic and sells her briefly into slavery.

Oh, and there’s this dagger that can turn time back one minute. Which is pretty sweet. But it’s filled with sand that has the potential (through a variety of complex processes)  to bring about apocalypse, and Tamina is the guardian of the cool dagger and the sand. Lucky girl.

Anyway, I won’t ruin it for you, except to say that by the end you’re back at the beginning and you’re pretty worried you might be made to watch the whole movie again.

However, this all aside, I didn’t dislike the movie at all. Partially, because it was a good cast, beautifully produced, rollicking and fun. Yeah, it’s about “Persia” and there’s not a Persian in sight, in fact most of the cast is pretty white. I know, I should have been more worried about this, but frankly, it’s not surprising that these people barely resemble Persians, because this place is pretend and barely resembles Persia.  Consider my belief willingly suspended.

What I was more concerned about was the scene where Dastan sells Tamina into sort of slavery to a morally corrupt entrepeneur to save his own skin. She wears feathers and has to serve drinks at the hilarious ostrich race.

However, there were two key things which really made this film for me:

1.  The relationship between video game and film. There were lots of shots were Dastan is leaping up walls, jumping from roof to roof and maneuvering through the spaces in the same way the player would control the character in the context of the same. “Prince of Persia” was perpetually aware that it was part video game. I wasn’t against this, I wanted to see the shots and parts of the game realized into a film, and it visually achieved that. The only place it failed was in rendering a more comprehensive and interesting narrative.

2. Jake Gyllenhaal. I know, I’m biased. However, I was impressed at how well Gyllenhaal, who is considered a “serious” actor was able to get into the playfulness of the character and the physicality of the role. I’ve read in various interviews ect. that he endeavoured to perform a lot of his own stunts, that physical ability shows and is impressive. I’ve always been interesting in performers who can adopt different elements of performance.

Also, it didn’t hurt to watch Prince of Puppy dog eyes in historical gear for two hours.