If you absolutely insist on visiting a desert at the movies this weekend, better choose horseback riding with a Persian prince over getting sunstroke while wearing stilettos Ã la Carrie Bradshaw. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time has all the ingredients for a perfect popcorn movie.
Imagine Disney’s Aladdin sword-fighting and wrestling like it is his birthright. Then add more charisma, a British accent and you’ve got Dastan, “Persia’s lion.”
The story revolves around Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal in great form), an Aladdin-like hero adopted into the family of the Persian king Sharaman. This child from the slums grows up to become a skilled fighter and a trusted confidant to his brothers, Garsiv and Tus. The epitome of “a diamond in the rough,” Dastan joins forces with princess Tamina (newcomer and Bond girl Gemma Arterton), an enemy who eventually becomes a partner in crime.
The two have to protect an ancient glass-handled dagger, a mystical device with the power to turn back time. If it falls in the wrong hands it could lead to the destruction of humankind. On their adventure, the two heroes join forces against humanity’s greed and treachery, and try to turn destiny on its head.
Yes, the movie is based on a video game, and it looks like one, too. This will appeal to a younger audience but it also has all the elements of a fairy tale, presenting itself as a cautionary tale of the oldest kind: humans are not gods, and never will be.
Gyllenhaal has already proven himself as an actor with a wide range, winning an Academy Award nomination for his turn in Brokeback Mountain. Prince of Persia is his chance to show audiences that he has the chops to be an action movie star.
Dastan is no action figure hero like Batman or Iron Man. The role is that of a people’s man, a prince picked out of the slums who taught himself how to fight to survive. Gyllenhaal gives flesh to the role of Dastan even though he is not given great writing to work with.
Perhaps amidst the dunes the writing got blown off by the desert winds. While it is stunning to look at, Prince of Persia does not offer much memorable dialogue or well-developed characters, other than Gyllenhaal’s and later Alfred Molina’s. And it’s okay because that’s not what the movie is about. It’s about action scenes.
The star of the film is undoubtedly Gyllenhaal who did most of the stunts for the film himself. While many other actors have failed when they’ve tried to do an action hero movie (Edward Norton, we’re still getting over The Hulk), he looks and acts the part as if wrestling and jumping over rooftops were child’s play.
The two other memorable performances are by Ben Kingsley as Dastan’s treacherous uncle Nizam, and Alfred Molina as chief of slaves Sheik Amar. Both are a pleasure to watch – especially Molina whose character could be imagined as an older, chubbier, slightly crazier version of Captain Jack Sparrow.
Directed by Mike Newell and based on the video game series by Jordan Mechner, Prince of Persia falls in the tradition of epic fantasy-adventure movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter.
It’s action-packed, has some very good performances, and of course, a love story. It’s no Oscar-winner, but it sure is great fun.