I’m sorry, I had to get that off my…chest. Ever since initial backstage shots of Jake Gyllenhall’s new look for his role as the titular Prince in Disney’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Kotaku.com has made Chesty Jake and his chest a pseudo internet meme.
In fact, is this movie interesting without Gyllenhall’s signature grin and…chest? Truth is, it has the chops to at least be attractive. It has the distinct advantage of being about a game that has a strong fanbase but does not have a plot that is extraordinary or latched to characters or locales (well…Persia). All you really need, is a rebellious young prince, a sword and a boatload of sand.
Think about the converse with Resident Evil, a film that has an incredible canon, a ton of established characters that gamers everywhere have celebrated and a film series is crafted using the same locales and different envisions of the characters, their attitudes, relationships and origins. The end result has been a completely different…experience (I use this word lightly) than that of the games.
Back to Chesty Jake.
The Prince of Persia as a film, is not bad at all. It has some great entertaining sequences, great vistas and a solid lead. The plot is strong enough to stand on its own, but familiar in that it is acceptable. It feels like Pirates of the Caribbean lite meets Aladdin.
Gyllenhall plays Prince Dastan, an adopted prince into the king of persia’s family. He is adopted for his bravery and fearlessness to stand up for what he believes in his heart, an element the king puts great weight on and feels compliments the traits of his other two sons.
As the three brothers grow up, the eldest acts as the sword to the king, charged with the decision of invading a holy city. Upon counsel from his brothers and his uncle, Prince Nizam (played by Sir Ben Kingsley), he ultimately decides to invade. The end result is Dastan possessing a magical dagger that controls the flow of time whilst being under the watchful eye of the holy city’s leader, Princess Tamina.
The characters of the film are good, but a tad on the predictable. Kingsley plays Nazam with the control and influence we’ve come to expect from the Oscar winning Ghandi actor. Tamina, played by the up-and-coming Gemma Arterton (Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace) is not the typical swashbuckling heroine ala Keira Knightley in Pirates of the Caribbean, but rather is headstrong in her confidence and spoiled in her expectations. At the very least, Arterton fits the role and her vibrant facial expressions are memorable. Finally, Alfred Molina (Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2) adds a great element of wit and satire in his fast-talking character of Sheik Amar.
The action sequences are fast paced and exciting to watch with choreography that mixes sword play with parkour-inspired free-running sequences. The action can be a bit hard to follow at times as shaky camera work attempts to zoom into the already frantic motion on screen. It may be a result of getting spoiled by the crisp tech of Blu-Ray and HDTVs, but it can be difficult to track.
Video game movies over the years have ranged from being sub-mediocre to awful at best (Super Mario Bros. or anything touched by Uwe Boll). Prince of Persia is good as a popcorn flick and does well enough to maintain interest throughout. It has a tendency to get convoluted and like many films based on comic-books, video games or other flashy media, attempts to make the plot stronger than the sum of its parts. But the cast has good chemistry, the story is entertaining and the action is spot on for a summer film.