Friday, May 28, 2010

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Movie Review

Come with me to a place where incredible leaps are routine every 15 minutes or so. Where the Persian people stride across the desert, their orange faces artificially kissed by the sun. This is a tale as old as time with war and treachery and love and shirtless battle and turn around shots to remind you this was once a video game. And Prince of Persia.

Our tale begins with young Gyllenhaal as a street rat who shows great bravery and is taken into the king's family to be treated as if he were his flesh and blood. The boy turns into a man with distractingly large eyebrows, alongside his two royal brothers. As he came to maturity, he honed his leaping and tumbling skills and in that perfection, became the originator of Parkour, or as we call it in America, Gymkata. Now the three brothers march off to battle and in a hasty decision, attack a peaceful nation in search of weapons of mass destruction (message!) It is there that Prince Dastan comes to aquire the Dagger of Time which allows him to travel backward in time a short hop to correct a mistake or thwart an attempt on his life. With a click of the handle, a CGI sequence is activated in which Dastan becomes a floating, shimmering cartoon character, not unlike the ghosts in the Casper films, watching time reverse itself before jumping back into his body..but that comes later. As he tries not to be hypnotized by the odd features of Princess Tamina, a plot to kill his father unfolds and Dastan is left with the blame, fleeing into the sand with Tamina cracking wise behind him. See, Tamina is the protector of the Dagger and wants to return it to its rightful place before it falls into evil hands...but the baddies have already set their sights on the artifact and now that Dastan is on the run, they are looking to snatch it from his cold, dead hands.

The first 75% of Prince of Persia plays like a dim witted action feature with thrills slightly more intense than Race to Witch Mountain and the Narnia films. The chemistry between Dastan and Tamina is non-existent, so we fall back to charisma and action. In the charisma column, you'll find very little, unless you are a woman (or man so inclined) who is just in it to drool over the Gyllenhaaledness of the moment. Jake mugs for the camera and seems to do his best to slap on his action faces but only achieves a sort of homage to Brendan Fraser in the Mummy movies, as if he were a stand up comedian doing a poor imitation. Its hard to watch. We know the guy can act..he's just not bringing his A game here. His english accent, or whatever they call what he's doing with his voice, doesn't help matters much. Gyllenhaal's intonations swing wildly between cockney chimney sweep and Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As far as action goes; you are going to see a lot of swords but not one excellent sword fight. THAT is a crime. Instead we get a series of chases with Dastan showing off his video game moves, leaping in slow motion in unlikely arcs and outwitting the pursuing soldiers with very little comedic timing...or fun. At one point, I swear he does the Karate Kid Crane technique in mid-air. I wish I were joking.

At the half way mark, we finally learn why the Dagger of Time is so dangerous in the wrong hands in a bit if dialogue that flies by so fast, you'll probably miss it. Not to worry..they'll spell it out for you later. During the course of this "adventure", we get the abuse of Alfred Molina who is reduced to the portly jester role, cracking one liners and expounding about the majesty of the ostrich. Poor, poor man. We also have Ben Kingsley who doesn't seem to be allowed to show any deviation in emotion and, sadly, was also painted an odd orangey color to complete his middle eastern transformation. ACTING!! To waste these two talents is horrific, so I hope they were paid a truck load of money to take this one for the team. This will certainly do nothing for their careers.

In the final quarter of the film, we are introduced to the Hassansins, hired killers who wield amazing (though improbable) weapons with astounding skill and cut everyone in their path to ribbons. This crew of sand ninja badasses is lead by a scarred man with snakes living in his pants who becomes the REAL bad guy of the movie!! HE'S AWESOME!! So now you are staring up at the screen screaming WHERE WERE YOU AN HOUR AGO???!!! He does not answer. He's taunting you. Evil, I tell you. The Hassansins kill everyone in the movie and chase Dastan and Tamina into the finale which unfolds with ridiculous speed and is lacking in any sort of wow moment. The funny part happens next, which contains things I couldn't speak of, lest I ruin the entire film. Suffice to say, Dastans brothers are extremely likable and I WOULD HAVE LOVED TO GET TO KNOW THEM AT THE BEGINNING OF THE MOVIE!!

In case you couldn't tell, I'm agitated. Sure, video game adaptations are often horrible, but that doesn't mean Disney has to stick with Hollywood traditions. Better writing, character development and cinematography could have saved this film EASILY. Every actor on that screen was more than capable of creating memorable moments, had they been allowed to show a little depth. As it stands, the film may as well have been animated. Prince of Persia is two hours of tedious family fun that will seem like three hours of almost exciting claptrap. Ladies, if you are so rabbid about seeing Jake with his shirt off, then the picture posted here is alllll you, baby. I just saved you 10 bucks and a tension headache caused by your date trying to explode your brain for making him watch this movie. I save lives.

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