Directed by: Mike Newell
Premise: An adaptation of the video game. Set in ancient Persia, a brash young prince (Jake Gyllenhaal) teams with a princess (Gemma Arterton) to prevent a mystical dagger from falling into the wrong hands.
What Works: For the first two thirds of Prince of Persia, the film is a lot of fun in the manner of Pirates of Caribbean, National Treasure, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Prince of Persia mixes action with political intrigue and a healthy sense of humor that makes the silliness of the film mostly excusable. Gyllenhaal is very good in his role and he brings a lot of subtle humor to it, elevating what otherwise might have been a fairly stock action hero into an interesting character. Also impressive, in a small supporting role, is Alfred Molina as a fiscally conservative sheik. Molina brightens the scenes he is in with a lot of humor and wit.
What Doesn’t: Even though it is a fantasy film, Prince of Persia requires a significant suspension of disbelief. Audiences will have to look around the fact that it is set in the Middle East but all of its lead actors are Westerners speaking with British accents and many characters play into ethnic stereotypes right out of Aladdin. The special effects of Prince of Persia vary in quality between some very natural looking landscapes and other obviously digital snakes. And as good as the opening and middle of the film are in their storytelling, Prince of Persia has a very weak ending that threatens to derail the whole film. The rules for the mystical dagger are muddled and where the heroes are going or why remains unclear. When the film gets to its finale, it uses a narrative deus ex machina cheat that undoes all of the hero’s efforts, discards all that the audience has invested in the film, and ruins the credibility of the story.
Bottom Line: Prince of Persia is amusing in a Saturday matinee sort of way. It is fun but it is so close to being something more that its shortcoming are stand out even more.
Episode: #291 (June 6, 2010)