- 20 May 10
The gaming brand with plenty of eastern promise comes to the big screen
If Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney can manage to spin a blockbuster movie franchise out of one of the less thrilling Disneyland theme park rides, surely Prince of Persia, a gigantic gaming brand with a killer narrative hook, is a no-brainer. Hmmm. Perhaps. Prince of Persia may hold plenty of eastern promise but we’ve all seen gaming franchises venture through the movieverse before – Mortal Kombat with Kylie Minogue anyone? – only to lose all of their bonus lives.
Fortunately, Prince Of Persia takes no chances with the material. Indeed, the film sticks so rigidly to the Pirates Of The Caribbean template, they’ve even drafted in Alfred Molina to play a faux-Jack Sparrow; the actor, is, it transpires, more than capable of plugging up a Johnny Depp sized hole even if he lacks equivalent box office clout.
Mr. Molina’s performance is emblematic of an enterprise that imitates POTC while greatly improving the original. For one thing, POP:SOT (as we’re calling it) has a clearly defined protagonist in Jake Gyllenhaal’s titular hero; for another, it has an actual plot between its random swashbuckling set-pieces.
Mr. Gyllenhaal plays Dastan, a high octane warrior who was adopted as an orphaned child by the benevolent King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup) and raised with two princes, Tus (Richard Coyle) and Garsiv (Toby Kebbell). On the advice of the ruling monarch’s brother Nizam (Ben Kingsley), the siblings and their armies lay siege to a city called Alamut where it is believed are hidden weapons of mass destruction.
Don’t get overly concerned; this is all the political allegory you’re getting. The action soon shifts to courtly political intrigue, squabbling over a fabled magic dagger and a bickering will-they, won’t-they romantic subplot featuring our hero and Ms. Gemma Arterton; the latter walks away with the picture.
It helps that the entire cast have plumped for estuary accents, thus lending the most elaborate battle sequences the air of a genuine post-closing time brawl. It helps too that Mr. Gyllenhaal, channelling Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Errol Flynn, makes for a surprisingly robust action star.
Director Mike Newell musters a decent enough pace and, more commendably, keeps the running time under two hours. Gore Verbinski might like to make a note of that with POTC4 sails around.