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Prince of Persia Adds to the Video Game Movie Junk Heap

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Directed by Mike Newell
Written by Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro, and Carlo Bernard from a story by Jordan Mechner
Disney, 2010

Even though Prince of Persia: Sands of Time is getting predictably bad reviews, we’re seeing some admissions declaring this better than most video game adaptations.  Well, when most video game adaptations have been presented to us via Uwe Boll, I guess that’s not a big mountain to climb.  It’s not a tough genre to improve when Tomb Raider is considered its Citizen Kane.

Closing out a rough May, Prince of Persia is one of those movies that begin to make me fret that no one cares about making good movies anymore.  When we have so many people who shrug at a movie like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and say, “Well, it’s just a movie…we’re supposed to just take our brain out and not think about it too much,” we’re going to be fed this over and over.  Because Hollywood is more than happy not to think about it too much, either.  The film industry loves the perception of Average Joes out there that critics are “always looking for an Oscar-winning film when they watch everything,” which has created a divide between critics and most moviegoers so wide that critics have to shove their rebuttal into a small bottle and hope the sea carries it to one person who gives a damn.

In Prince of Persia, the future Iran attacks the city of Alamut because they apparently sell weapons to enemies of the state.  Our hero is Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), who along with his brothers Garsiv (Tony Kebbell) and Tus (Richard Coyle) wage an attack on the holy city and win, but don’t find any weapons, because if there’s anything a video game adaptation needs, it’s an allusion to the Iraq War.  What they do find is the super fine princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton, in a role indistinguishable from the one she just had in Clash of the Titans), and a dagger that can turn back time for one minute.  And yes, every time someone says, “If I could turn back time” in this movie, I thought of the Cher song, and halfway expected it to come blaring through the auditorium speakers.

Well, just because they don’t find any weapons, doesn’t mean they’re not there, according to intelligence from the King’s brother Nazim (Ben Kingsley), who practices evil deeds in order to get his hands on the dagger.  He frames Dastan for the murder of the King, and off Dastan goes, eventually taking Tamina with him, hoping to bury the dagger in some safe place.  Because if used too often, the dagger could end up making us go back in time so far that we would all start over again.  Along the way, Dastan runs into ostrich race mogul Sheik Amar (Alfred Molina), who ends up helping him after a few misunderstandings.

The action in this flick is all confusing.  It suffers from filler syndrome, which is a twofold issue where action springs up for no good reason, and when action occurs, it is edited in a manner by which it is impossible to follow.  I’ve always wanted to know what kind of discussion is taking place in the editing bay when action scenes like this are made.  I get this sense that you literally could put anything in the middle of one of these scenes, and as long as it’s cut fast enough, it will give the illusion of something that belongs.  “Hey, Barney the Dinosaur!  What’s he doing there?”  Cut away, never to be seen again.  Everything looks random.  You see a faceless bad guy fighting in close up, and then the hero does something you can’t see, and then you see the bad guy fall off his horse or something.  I’ve always thought these kind of scenes get a pass because “Well, that’s the way battle is…it’s confusing.”  I’m exhausted of being confused.  Better movies have been able to find a way to give us the sense of confusion while also giving us a clear look at what’s actually happening.

Plus, when there’s a dagger that allows you to go back one minute to fix a mistake, well, then there’s not much to worry about I guess.  Sigh.

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