After the vaguely similar Clash of the Titans (well, both films feature Gemma Arterton and the trailers are almost identical) was so awful, I didn’t have high hopes for another special effects-laden swords and sandals film. Turns out that Prince of Persia is decent enough entertainment, however.
The orphaned boy Dastan was taken from the streets by King Sharaman, who saw that he was destined for greatness. Flash forward and he has become the titular prince and a fierce and resourceful warrior over time and, as you’d expect, is pretty nifty when it comes to leaping across pits, grabbing onto ledges and pulling himself up.
It has to be said that, in this department, Prince of Persia excels. It comes across almost a bit too parkour at times, but one can’t complain when at least we’re watching real stunts – even if everything else is fake, at the very least there’s a stuntman on a wire, jumping around. In actual fact, since the likes of Blade II and the Star Wars prequels showed us just how bad CGI stuntmen could be, Hollywood seems to have stayed clear whenever possible, which is nice. The film generally looks very pretty – the special effects, sets, costuming and makeup are all better than the Pirates movies, anyway – and at the very least, it looks great on the big screen. They’ve done a decent job in the editing department too, thank heavens.
The plot is fairly similar to the ‘Sands of Time’ console/computer game (though I’ve never played it), with a mystical dagger that has the potential to change the fate of Persia forever. Gyllenhaal is pretty good as Dastan – he certainly looks the part and manages to disguise his American accent – and Arterton succeeds, for the most part, as Princess Tamina (though she’s never topped her performance in Quantum of Solace, the first film I saw her in). They’re surrounded by a bunch of white people with fake tans, who are all equally competent in roles that aren’t very demanding. The script is fairly lame, though you’d be surprised how often lines that must have seemed awful on the page come out as almost decent in the film. Unfortunately, Alfred Molina’s Sheik Amar is regularly embarrassing, as he gets lumped with the majority of the weak comic relief, whilst Ben Kingsley is on autopilot.
The good news is that the film doesn’t outstay its welcome, nor does it stray too far into fantasy territory. Aside from the magical dagger, the screenwriters managed to avoid pumping the film full of magical beings or monsters, which helps sell the sense of danger in several of the film’s best action scenes.
Don’t let me fool you, this is by no means a great film – the characters should have been more memorable, á la Stephen Sommer’s Mummy films – but it is an admirable use of two hours and, as I said, it looks really pretty.Rating: