Director: Mike Newell
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arteton, Ben Kingsley
Runtime: 116 mins
Rating: * * * *
If your taste in films tends towards the subtle, look away now. With the obvious exception of Sex and the City, Prince of Persia may be the least original film to grace our screens this year. If you have seen Aladdin and/or Pirates of the Caribbean, which we can safely assume 99.9% of the University population has, then you have seen Prince of Persia. The film opens with a dusty desertscape, and in a dated font we are informed that ‘some are born great’ (or something like that). Cut to a bustling ancient city. As my companion immediately piped: “It’s Agrabah”. There’s even a chase scene instigated by apple theft- you can picture the boardroom: “F*** it, it worked the first time.”
Though the plot is standard Disney (peasant becomes prince, prince gets framed for murder, prince teams up with beautiful princess to save the world from the apocalyptic ambitions of the actual murderer, plus some time travel), there is much fun to be had with PoP. Gyllenhaal, his appalling mockney accent notwithstanding, makes a decent hero, and Arteton a feisty and at times hilarious love interest. There are moments of joy to be had in the sheer stupidity of it, for example the moment when Prince Dastan (Gyllenhaal) discovers the magical dagger which turns back time: “You mean this dagger has the power to turn back time?” “Yes.” “So what you’re saying is that using this dagger I can actually travel backwards to a few minutes ago?” “Yes.” “So this dagger…” etc.
Taken with a pinch of salt, PoP is a swashbuckling riot of a movie. There is no pretense that it is really intended for anyone over the age of fourteen. Every time a ‘mystical’ object appears on screen it is accompanied by suitably ‘mystical’ music. The desire to stay true to the original video game is evinced by Prince Dastan’s partiality for jumping on/off things at every conceivable opportunity- roughly fifty percent of Gyllenhaal’s screen time is spent in mid-air. Yet the carefree abandon with which the (thankfully talented) cast tackle their maladroit roles is to be admired. There are some gems of actual wit in the script, and the shamelessly misogynist undertone comes off funny rather than crude “Do you really need another wife?”. For those wound tight by the stress of finals, or simply in need of a little escapism, Prince of Persia is the perfect antidote.