2.5 stars out of 5
If you enjoy watching Jake Gyllenhaal, the Oscar-nominated dramatic actor newly remodelled as an action star, complete with a practised British accent befitting sixth century Persia, then this movie is for you.
He hogs the majority of the roughly two-hour screen time, and can be frequently seen leaping from wall to parapet, parapet to wall, evading enemies, sweeping up a ravishing beauty, avenging his father’s death, and saving the world in the bargain.
And yes, ladies, he takes off his shirt, too.
Yet another unremarkable popcorn-movie adaptation of a video game, Prince of Persia is a movie that doesn’t have much of a compelling plot, and relies heavily on the leading stars’ charisma and style in order to succeed.
On paper, it would seem that Gyllenhaal, who trained in parkour, acrobatics and sword fighting to take on this part, fits the bill of Dastan, the titular prince.
However, while adequate, he never truly excels; this is a role for an actor to be able to go over the top and enjoy it, for it to work.
And the chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton (Clash of the Titans), as an Arabian beauty who guards a vital secret, never does rival Harrison Ford-Karen Allen in Raiders of the Lost Ark or even Brendan Fraser-Rachel Weisz in The Mummy.
Compared to The Mummy, there is a real dearth of fantastical elements here.
The Dagger of Time, which Dastan discovers can catapult him back in time roughly a minute, allows the filmmakers to put together a shimmery CGI out-of-body sequence, to show the Dagger’s mystical power. In two words: cheesy cool!
The ability to rewind through time, like having a StarHub HubStation or that remote control from Click, underpins the entire plot, which does not take a rocket scientist to figure out. Bad guys want the Dagger, and they will do whatever it takes.
Take one look at the Ben Kingsley, who resembles the nefarious Jafar from Aladdin, and you’ll be able to discern where his loyalties lie.
Alfred Molina, another reliable Brit actor who can steal a scene or two, even as a supporting cast, does provide a few – just a few – moments of levity as a mercenary sheik who is the typically lovable dissolute character with a hidden heart of gold.
Movies like this, ones that are based on popular video games, don’t tend to be very good. While having an in-built audience is great, having to play by the rules of the games, to live up to those expectations, tends to skew these movies toward mediocrity.
Without the Dagger of Time, or another other time-travelling device, one would be hard-pressed to recall video-game films of note. I mean, do you even remember Super Mario Brothers (1993), starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo, or 1999’s Wing Commander?
Even though Prince of Persia isn’t a fantastic film, it should follow in the footsteps of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, the Resident Evil films, and the recent Max Payne in proving to be a solid box-office hit.
As a Gyllenhaal fan, one actually hopes this was a mere distraction, and that he would return to his more familiar ground in sensitive, dramatic roles – shirt on, preferably.
About Yong Shu Chiang
Yong Shu Chiang, otherwise known as SC, is a freelance editor and writer. He reviewed movies for Juice magazine when he was in college, and was the resident film reviewer for Today Newspaper from 2003 to 2005. He has also reviewed movies for Prime Time Morning on Channel NewsAsia.
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