Animadversion: Prince of Persia – The Sands of Time – Review by Kamran Jawaid & Farheen Jawaid

below is the unedited version of the review published on the 6th of June 2010 in iMAGES

princeofpersia

‘Dastaan’ of a Pauper Prince and a Time Revolving Dagger

By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid

As the once pauper and now prince Dastan in “Prince of Persia: Sands of Time”, Jake Gyllenhaal often leaps, somersaults and Parkour–style free–runs over small sand–crusted apartment complexes. Evading arrows is the least of his worries as Mr. Gyllenhaal steps into Jerry Bruckheimer’s domain. As the lead of a pricey, potentially franchise spawning, movie based on a long running video game Mr. Gyllenhaal has his prerequisites run down for him. He has to be a wise-cracking, charming, swashbuckling daredevil thrown headfirst into a clock-ticking adventure.

In short, he has to be Nicolas Cage. Mr. Cage has done his fare share of Bruckheimer’s productions, including “National Treasure”, whose fingerprint of over–easy adventuring is evident all over “Prince of Persia”. Or he can be either Sabu from Alexander Korda’s "The Thief of Bagdad" or Aladdin from Disney’s animated “Aladdin” (actually, Aladdin is pretty much copy-fitted into Sabu).

Dastan starts out like Aladdin, a penniless pauper who gets loving foster care from the King of Persia (Ronald Pickup). The King has two sons, Tus (Richard Coyle) and Garsiv (Toby Kebbell) and instantly a line kicks in about Persia being united by the bond of brotherhood or something. I can’t properly recall, because of the film’s characterless multi-camera cuts (and droning, half-realistic special effects). This distracting maneuver, which accentuates the rule-of-the-thumb guideline that action sequences should be cut faster to maintain a paced rhythm, proves that even archaic Persia isn’t safe from Michael Bay’s slapdash influence of havoc–cutting fight sequences. Mr. Bay, once a regular go-to action guy for Mr. Bruckheimer has clearly left a bad influence. However the outlandishly things that look cool on Mr. Bay reeks of featurelessness from director Mike Newell. Even stranger because the film (shot by ace veteran John Seale) is cut by three skilled editors: regular Spielberg cohort Michael Kahn, Mick Audsley (Twelve Monkey’s, Interview with a Vampire) and Martin Walsh (V for Vendetta, Bridget Jones’s Diary).

Mr. Newell, whose extensive career spins from “Four Weddings and a Funeral” to “Indiana Jones Chronicles” to “Donnie Brasco”, “Love in the Time of Cholera” and the fourth (and second best Harry Potter film) “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”, has little actual material to help him forward.

Running on a maintained pace, the screenplay by Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard (based on a story by Jordan Mechner the creator of the original video game) grasps on a semblance of a story and a multitude of minor, easily relatable, elements (another pet peeve of Mr. Bruckheimer’s movies). There is Nazim, Ben Kingsley, the friendly looking younger brother of the King of Persia, who’s actually the calculating villain because the film’s poster said so.

Then, there’s the family angle: a bond of strong kinship between brothers. The mystical dagger with a button on its hilt that releases time-travelling sands – this is the element which flings the movie through its 103 minute running time. And finally there’s the love interest: Tamina. A pouty–lipped Gemma Arterton, laced with deep–foundation makeup, whose city is wrongly deposed for creating weapons of mass destruction (seriously).

Other supporting members include the dagger-throwing Seso (Steve Toussaint) and the anti-government, tax-evading, illegal ostrich racing mogul Alfred Molina, who’s always dependable as a last minute save for a movie (only he can genuinely kiss an Ostrich on screen). Steve Toussaint lonesome standoff between a clandestine, sharp-shooting, assassin is the best action set-piece in “Prince of Persia: Sands of Time”.

Mr. Gyllenhaal, all beefy, plays it cool. Like the film’s fluctuating, superficial, score by Harry Gregson–Williams (it sometimes sounds middle-eastern and other times like a present day’s blockbuster). There are no traces of mysticism or mystery and the guy isn’t Aladdin, but I guess he’ll do for now.

Predictably bland but harmless enough for multiple viewings, “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” is rated PG-13. No blood is spilled. No ostrich is actually harmed in the making of this movie. And by the way, why was the cast speaking in diverse British accents in ancient Persia?

Second Opinion

By Farheen Jawaid

In an overflowing razzle-dazzle style of big event summer movies true of Jerry Bruckheimer Productions “Prince of Persia” is bathed in the artificial golden warmth of Persia (the primary shooting has been done in the back lots of England while Morocco played substitute to everything else). It has just the right dose of silly and swashbuckling – something Bruckheimer Productions has given rebirth to after “Pirates of the Caribbean” – and serves as an easily enjoyable helping of action/adventure, in tow with its borrowed action cues from Disney’s Animated classic “Aladdin” and Douglas Fairbanks “Thief of Baghdad”.

In the age of CGI where almost everything and anything can be put on screen, “Prince of Persia” comes up short in both special effects and imagination. The architectural landscape may look interesting at first, with our fine toned hero (Jake Gyllenhaal) jumping up and over the buildings and fighting through flowing sands, but the artificial and at times cartoonish effects seems a tad bit annoying than menacing.

Jake Gyllenhaal as Prince Dastan, the adopted son to the King of Persia, oozes limited charm (maybe it comes in small supply) and even less chemistry for his ladylove Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) whose city was over thrown under the suspicion of holding weapons of mass destruction (sounds weirdly relatable). “Prince of Persia” may not have a cohesive plot, but the fun and the adventure is kinetic, especially when Alfred Molina’s hilarious portrayal of the non-taxing paying, illegal-ostrich-racing-ring owner punches in humor and sheer goofy fun. Who in their right minds would want to use some gray matter watching a movie like this? Just switch the lights off and enjoy the show.

The published version can be found at:

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/in-paper-magazine/images/tale-of-a-pauper-prince-and-a-timerevolving-dagger-660

and

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/in-paper-magazine/images/second-opinion-660

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