Sunday, 9 May 2010

Prince Of Persia

Disney's big hit for 2010 isn't based on a theme park ride, but instead on a popular video games series. But will it be as cursed as other game adaptations or will Bruckheimer give Disney another cash cow to milk?

Prince of Persia is a very strange choice for Disney to undertake, it definitely ticks all the right boxes for an action/adventure film along the lines of Pirates of the Caribbean, but the game series has gradually become less and less popular as they have continued. This is mainly because it's essentially the same thing again and again, and what with another game to coincide with the film's release, it will inevitably be the same again. So for something that has proven to be less popular over time, Disney's new franchise which will inevitably spawn sequel after sequel seems to be a bit of a risk. But then, this film is full of risks. Namely because it is directed by Mike Newell, who fair enough did make Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but has a very strange list of films attached to his name including Donnie Brasco, Four Weddings and a Funeral , Mona Lisa Smile and a huge UK TV background before that. He's not exactly first choice for something as delicate as this, but then Prince of Persia is, almost, a British film. It was filmed on location in Morocco but most of it was filmed at Pinewood and has, apart from Gyllenhaal, an entirely British cast.

Gyllenhaal himself is a strange choice, not necessarily known for his action roles, he is pretty much the sole bankable name and definitely a whole lot better than the other names being bantered about for this role including Orlando Bloom and Zac Efron. However, even though it's got Kingsley and Arteton in it, it's solely dependent on that Jake will be putting bums on seats and is he necessarily such a huge box office draw? I imagine we will soon find out.

If you're not familiar with the games there's no need to worry, the only thing that remains the same is the setting and the idea of the 'sands of time' - but that's it. This is actually quite a shame as the games have a lot of twists, turns and plays with the idea of time travel in innovative, unique ways. But Disney have decided against this and settled on a bog-standard tale of a man on the run trying to clear his name and looks more like a live-action adaptation of Aladdin than Prince of Persia.

The initial action sequence is exciting and epic, but I'm afraid it's downhill from there. After a confusing mishap, Gyllenhaal's Dastan is on the run with Arteton's Tamina in tow and he soon learns about a dagger that controls time. Seeing as the time travel element is the most exciting thing about the film, you'd think they'd use it a lot especially during battle, but in fact, throughout the entire film it gets used about three or four times. Not even close to the amount of times you'd like to see it, baring in mind that in the games you are time travelling pretty much constantly, this was an extremely disappointing result, but if it was sacrificed to make for a better story then I could understand but I'm sorry to say this wasn't the case.

Soon, the clear-as-day twist is discovered and Dastan runs into Alfred Molina and his 'hilarious' rogues. Meanwhile, his two brothers - the great Toby Kebbell and 'that guy from Coupling' Richard Coyle are also trying to chase him down. Then the evil hassassins are soon following Dastan to get back the dagger and you can guess the rest. By the end, the climax is actually rather insulting and you're left feeling completely unsatisfied.

For a story that at it's heart is very simple, it's unnecessarily complicated. The underground time sandcastle, the history of the dagger and other characters try and distract you from realising that this is actually quite boring. It's not engaging enough and the action was the only saving grace, but even then I'd imagine this was done by a second unit and in fact, I doubt Newell had much say over the action set-pieces at all. Unfortunately, the action isn't grandiose enough and is entirely forgettable once it is over. Even little issues such as the geography of it all drove me mad, I never knew exactly where they were going and why people seemed to catch up to them, or lag behind and in the last sequence where an entire chamber dissolves into sand, how they all managed to end up in the same place. This might not matter to the kids who this is clearly designed for, but for adults it jars horrifically and Disney has to remember that Pirates did so well because adults were able to enjoy it at the same time, something I thought they had considered seeing as Prince of Persia was a PG13, the second Disney film to do so after Curse of the Black Pearl. But instead it's more style over substance, and not much style at that either. This film has been so long in the making that it has totally missed a crucial selling point of the last year, and that is 3D. Something like this could have benefited hugely from being in 3D instead of relying on it's 2D action and unsubtle script and you'd have thought Disney wouldn't miss such a money-making trick, but in fact it has.

Gyllenhaal does make a good action hero, not only does he look buff but his English accent is near passable and he can definitely work the part; but you feel he is wasted in a character as 2D as it's image. Arteton makes the most out of her annoying Princess, but she did impress me seeing as I hadn't thought much of her before this and the two of them together works quite well, even though it sometimes feels as screwball as It Happened One Night in parts, and not in a good way. Molina doesn't exactly inspire as the comic relief but fares well as someone who seems to think they are working at a market stall in Eastenders and Kingsley (looking like Ming the Merciless) is clearly laughing all the way to the bank. Another strange and almost racist (Disney racist? Surely not!) fact I noticed was that all the Persians were white. Heavily made up with orange make-up and eyeliner, all the main parts were Caucasian while everyone else in the background, wasn't. Looking into this Rey-Phillip Santos was supposed to play Garsiv and Golshifteh Farahani was supposed to play Tamina and you would have thought putting some ethnicity into the cast would have helped, especially since Arteton seemed to be the only white woman in her kingdom.

Overall, this is a kid's film and should be treated as such. It could be shorter but has enough going on to keep the little ones interested although as an adult, I wouldn't go see it unless I had to. If you're expecting another Pirates of the Caribbean, then expect more At World's End rather than Curse of the Black Pearl or better yet, just buy the new Prince of Persia game when it comes out because I'm sure that you and your kids will enjoy it more than this.

Rating: 4/10

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