Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Prince of Persia

Prince Of Persia

Prince of Persia is a Disney film and Bruckheimer production, advertised as coming from the stable of “those who brought you Pirates of the Caribbean”; the film is a 12A certificated fantasy action blockbuster. It is all these things and more; it’s a game adaptation.
Video games are a media notorious for spawning stinking movie adaptations - Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Super Mario Bros, Resident Evil, Doom, Silent Hill not to mention the cluster of Uwe Boll creations. Even when commercially successful as with Tomb Raider the films tend to be dogs, with the best to hope for being an interesting failure. The Prince of Persia franchise itself has been rehashed within the gaming universe, originally a side-scrolling platformer with then-cutting edge motion capture animation (rotoscoping) allowing for some fiendish traps, the game was remade in 2003 by Ubisoft, now 3D the Prince retained his platforming abilities, enhanced with wall running and all kinds of architectural navigation now taken for granted in video games, spiced up with a bit of sword play but chiefly famous for the sands of time, a device for pushing back time in order to reverse poorly judged leaps and the like - the game’s equivalent of that generation’s fad, bullet-time (first used well in 2001’s Max Payne but influenced by the Matrix which itself drew heavily on video games).

The film takes the opportunity to use a fair amount of the Prince’s acrobatic (and now decidedly more parkour-esque) skills. The Sands of Time are also central to the plot, used in a few scenes to show a swirly, shadowy reversal of time, and also serving as the central armageddon-enabling macguffin.
We are told at the opening of the movie that the Persian Empire managed to stretch from China to the Mediterranean. What it doesn’t explain is how it came to be populated in the main by English actors slapped in fake tan. As is the tradition you cannot have an American blockbuster stuffed with British talent without an American lead, so here Jake Gylenhall bulks up as the Prince Dastan, but wait! Jake also happens to be a competent actor.
First of all he effortlessly holds a praiseworthy English accent to fit in with the other Persians, and then he proceeds to somehow inject some warmth and emotion into his character despite the film’s origins, despite predictable plotting, despite some clunky exposition and despite many corny scenes (being introduced to the shirtless adult prince in a bare knuckle brawl, to show both his brawn and that he hasn’t lost his artful dodger roots being one example).
Prince Dastan holds his title by adoption rather than birth after the king saw him commit a virtuous act (punctuated by a spot of rooftop free-running) as an orphan boy and promptly took him in. As an adult he head a rag tag but formidable group in the army, and end sup capturing a city for his brother by cunning rather than bloodshed. It’s here that he comes into possession of the sands of time and meets Gemma Arterton’s Princess Mina, leading to the central relationship in the film -  predictably the two fight like cats and dogs and then fall for each other, but rather than just echo a couple of cliches the relationship here flows more naturally. The two start off callously antagonistic with each other only for mutual respect to grow due to their actions as events unfold.
Outside of these two we have able support from Alfred Molina as the Persian Delboy and Ben Kingsley as the main baddie, at one point his insistent delivery calling into mind Logan from Sexy Beast, though the menace from the character here is kept mainly beneath the surface.
I even warmed to Richard Coyle in the role of first born Prince Tus after my initial reservations seeing as he’s best known for his role as the dizzy Welshman in the UK’s Poundstretcher answer to Friends, Coupling.
All told Prince of Persia is as fun and engaging as you could hope for from a mainstream fantasy epic, and while it doesn’t have the Captain Jack Sparrow hook it is well worth a couple of hours of your time.


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