You can always tell when a movie has had a lot of faith put into it, whether it is the budget, director or producer. In the case of Prince Persia it came with all three. A Jerry Bruckheimer produced blockbuster that was supposed to be the next Pirates of the Caribbean. This didn’t go according to plan and it failed both critically and commercially, sinking without a trace and its franchise potential evaporated immediately. However, it has to be said of all game adaptations thus far, Prince of Persia is actually the one that feels most like a movie.
Jake Gyllenhaal leads a surprisingly star filled cast as Prince Dastan, an orphan adopted by the King, with Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley and a scene chewing Alfred Molina rounding out the frontline cast. It’s also worth noting that creator of the game Jordan Mechner came up with the story and was heavily involved in production, which probably explains why it’s rather faithful to The Sands of Time, the game in which it is most heavily based on.
The plot revolves around Prince Dastan being tricked into leading his army on an invasion of another city; it soon becomes apparent this was all to obtain the dagger of time. Then framed for a crime he didn’t commit, Dastan is on the run from everyone, joined by Tamina (Gemma Arterton), the princess of the city Dastan invaded, he now has to clear his name and stop the dagger from falling into evil hands.
The dagger working the same way as in the games, using it reverses time for a short period, which is quite cleverly utilised from a special effects standpoint. Dastan turning to sand as he sees the events that led up to that moment rewind before him. The one, major difference between the game and film would be the sand monsters who are noticeably absent, and rightly so to be fair. It would’ve been a bit jarring to go from a rather grounded reality to having zombie sand people attacking everyone.
I should probably take this time to mention Alfred Molina’s performance. The standout moment of the movie is when Dastan and Tamina find themselves meeting Molina’s character running a weird, ostrich racing league. Yes, ostrich racing. In certain movies there’s one actor who appears to just be loving every minute, and Molina is that person. Stealing every scene he’s in, he’s given the best lines, and even comes with a knife throwing assassin to back him up. A definite highlight of the movie, I just wish he was in it more.
But on the whole, Prince of Persia proves that having the budget and the cast means nothing when the script itself is so pedestrian. The plot is so predictable that you’ll guess how it ends as soon as you reach the halfway point, and a moment in which the audience are supposed to be shocked when it’s revealed who the real villain is, something you’ll guess right from seeing the panto quality acting. Gyllenhaal while a proven leading man doesn’t really bring the Prince to life in any meaningful way. A rather lifeless character, who aside from a few game inspired acrobatics, doesn’t really have any stand out moments. An hour after viewing the entire film pretty much disappeared from my memory.
And that’s really the main problem. It’s not good enough to be entertaining or bad enough for everyone to laugh along with. I felt nothing after watching and I suppose that’s the harshest criticism you can level at a film.