Artificial Continuum

Friday, May 28, 2010

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time may very well be the best video game movie ever made. However, in a genre mired in such atrocities as the Resident Evil and Mortal Combat films, Prince of Persia's achievement is slightly less impressive. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer's action epic at times is as exciting and full of energy as its title character, but often is as self destructive as the powers of the mystical dagger that plays a major role in the movies mythology.

The film follows Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), a former orphan boy whose acts of courage caught the eyes of the king of the Persian empire (Ronald Pickup). During an invasion of the holy city of Alamut, Dastan along with his adoptive brothers (Richard Koyle and Toby Kebbell) and uncle Nizam ( Ben Kingsley) come across a mystical dagger, which controls time, much to the dismay of local princess Tamina (Gemma Arteton). Through a series of events, Dastan is framed for the murder of his father and is forced to flee along with Tamina across the Persian empire. Along the way they discover that the dagger may be the key behind a royal conspiracy and a plot to unlock an Earth changing power.

Prince of Persia is an incredibly uneven film. It will win you over with moments of spectacle and well choreographed action sequences, but will lose you minutes later with a subpar script and poor directorial decisions.

The acting throughout the film is the only aspect that stays consistent. Gyllenhaal is a standout who obviously enjoyed his role as the witty and athletic Prince Dastan. In addition to the numerous stunts that Gyllenhaal performs with almost expert precision, his chemistry with costar Arteton seems surprisingly genuine, that is when the script does not devolve into cliches. While the other actors play their roles well, their performances are nothing special. Working with an uneven and flat story, Koyle, Kebell and Kingsley do their best to inject life into the plot. Their efforts are valiant and they cannot be faulted for the films numerous missteps.

In addition to slipping into numerous dialogue cliches, the script for Prince of Persia is a mediocre attempt at an action film. While certain aspects, such as the early introduction to the characters, mythology, and conspiracy are handled well and are surprisingly interesting, the story sags during its final act. Certain jumps are made in narrative and in character that feel unnatural and forced, and the cliched dialogue does not help to alleviate the situation. Worst of all are two comic relief characters who are introduced about halfway through the film. Two gamblers played by Alfred Molina and Steve Toussaint stumble their way into the picture with little narrative purpose other then to attempt to create poor attempts at laughs. When Toussaint's character undergoes a bizarre evolution, it feels unnatural and out of place seeing as the character has only had about seven minutes of screen time.

The action scenes are for the most part well shot and creatively designed. Dastan's chase scenes through ancient Persian city streets are exciting and well choreographed. Filled with clever kills and interesting stunts, these scenes are a standout. However, even these are not free of director Mike Newell's poisonous vision. Admist the chaos and excitement of these sequences, Newell constantly injects poorly handled and annoying slow motion. Not only is this gimmick ineffective, but it utterly ruins every scene it is involved in. Had this aspect been left out, Prince of Persia would have been action tour de force. Instead it is filled with several standout set pieces, mired by numerous poorly executed battles.

Although not exactly groundbreaking, the visual effects of Prince of Persia are breathtaking to behold. Recreations of ancient Iran are a visual wonder and are complemented by often beautiful cinematography. The effects also compliment some of the better action sequences in the films running time.

Another standout is Harry Gregson William's score. William's interpretation of traditional Middle Eastern themes is an aural treat, and is a welcome addition to a film desperatly in need of some levity. However, like so many scores these days, it is utterly forgettable and few themes will remain in your head the following morning.

Despite Prince of Persia's numerous flaws, it is an enjoyable filme and still the best video game adaptation made to date. Had the filmmakers spent more time perfecting the action sequences and redrafted the screenplay, Jerry Bruckheimer could have had a good summer action film. However, as it stands, Prince of Persia is a below average attempt at creating an epic.

Score: C+


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