It’s making a killing at the box office and has all the features you could want in a blockbuster. Scoundrel princes and beautiful princesses, open expanses of desert and opulent palaces, parkour-and-stabby-fuelled action plus smooches, a time machine, Jake Gyllenhaal. Eyebrows were raised at casting indie darling Gyllenhaal as the main character in something everyone was already hesitant about, (not least because they cast a blue-eyed actor of Swedish heritage instead of someone, you know, Middle Eastern) but he soon proved to be
Gyllenhaal’s Prince Dastan starts off as a young orphaned street boy driven to a courageous act in front of the King of Persia, who adopts him into his family. The movie follows the three princes, as adults, as they are misled into taking over the holy city of Astram. There, celebrating victory, they take from the city the Dagger of Time, not knowing its true power. Astram’s Princess Tasmina does, however, and keeps her eye on Dastan, who has it stuck stylishly into his belt. At the celebratory party, Dastan gives his father a gift, one which has an unexpected outcome when it kills the man who saved him. Accused of the murder, Dastan escapes, with Tasmina leading the way. The rest of the film follows them as Dastan tries to find who killed his beloved father, learns the dagger’s power, tries to outwit Tasmina to keep it, and magic and fear and ridiculousness abounds. As they team up to stop their enemies doing something driven largely by speculation and with a lack of any real clues, will romance flourish? Of course it will. Astonishingly, very little of this involves Tasmina getting stripped of her clothes, and even Dastan keeps his shirt on most of the time, making it vaguely family-friendly as long as you’re okay with an acid-burned body, a throat being cut and an enormous amount of bloodless stabbings.
I can’t lie. It’s a flawed movie. Some characters change from reprehensible to suddenly lovely, and clearly I must have forgotten to pick up my rose-coloured glasses from the front counter because I could not ignore murderers turning sappy for the sake of a cushy ending. It borrows heavily from Pirates of the Caribbean, with Tasmina as spoiled and feisty as Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth, and Dastan as open for wacky escapades as Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrrow. Time is vague, certain escapes are only partially explained, and why, WHY does everyone speak with a British accent? I don’t mind period-set blockbusters being in English, because I’m sure it saves time and money and subtitles would distract from the fight scenes, but surely adopting the local accent is a better idea than pretending all the Persians were imports from London? It was almost as bad as 300, where the Greeks were apparently Scottish and American and English and Australian. Also, there isn’t nearly enough scaling the sides of buildings and pretending cities are a giant set of monkey bars for my liking, either; I’ve played and observed the second most recent Prince of Persia game and there’s a lot of that, and it’s fun to watch. Worst of all, the males had perfectly flawless eyeliner. There is a chance my anger there is down to jealousy, though.
While it was mildly fun in the big, brash blockbustery sense, it still hasn’t proven to me that video games can be successfully adapted into movies, and I did spend some of the film cringing with my head in my hands over the dialogue or script in general or the editing out of linking scenes—like when Tasmina and Dastan join a cavalcade of dignitaries heading to the King’s funeral, dressing up to hide, but with no real indication of how they managed to stage the disguise or how they ended up back in their old clothes. I’m still holding out for a truly great video game movie. In fact, maybe I’ll write it myself. I think Donkey Kong could be adapted into something Oscar-worthy, don’t you?