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Prince of Persia: One Jump Ahead?

What’s princely about it:

  • the hoppity-hop-hop chase sequences. They’re something right out of the earliest, platform-game version I remember playing as a kid. At times, I swear I could almost hear those neat old video-game sounds that accompany a leap or a fall or Mario-gobbling-up-a-coin moment.
  • all that sand! There’s a bronzed glory to all the places and faces. In the absence of strong concept art, the distinctly dusky gold colour palette is the only thing that leaves an impression. By the end you feel like you just dismounted a camel that had been running hysterically across the dunes of Persian deserts in a sandstorm.
  • that winning smile. I don’t know if the resemblance was a deliberate move on Disney’s part, but Jake Gyllenhaal, with his big, round cartoony eyes and disarmingly boyish smile came close to being a live-action Aladdin (or, as the Genie would have said, ‘Al’). He’s absolutely likeable, and pulls off the greasy-haired look almost as well as Viggo Mortensen in Lotr (and that’s saying something!)
  • the selfless-sacrifice-syndrome. Yes, there’s one of these in almost every flick. There were more of these than were necessary in this one.  However, Seso’s heroism in the chamber where the dagger is being guarded by a Hassansin with super-cool-pointy-throwy-things is effective.

What’s not:

  • that wretched dagger! A button? A red button? Really? They could have taken the dagger one jump ahead of the LED toys being sold at sunday-bazaars by maybe going for a more dignified mechansim, like a handle that had to be twisted. And the anything-but-discreet glow that the dagger emitted…well, let’s just say the dagger-seekers wouldn’t ever have had to say ‘Is this a dagger i see before me?’ (‘Macbeth’ fans say ‘Aye!’)
  • the clumsy gaurdians-of-the-dagger lore. You really cannot give a tale epic dimensions just by introducing a vague, scrappy creation-story into it. Mythologies are not spun overnight. If the filmmakers were indeed looking for grand old roots for their story, they should have dug deeper into Persian literature and not just skimmed over it like a seagull in a hurry, fishing out only a couple of names like ‘Dastan’ or ‘Alamut’.
  • Elizabeth Swann cloned (as if one wasn’t enough!) Princess Tamina is a less skinny but equally shrill and scatterbrained version of Elizabeth Swann who, too, starts out as a dignified young lady with her head held high, and ends up as a pile of dirty rags that nags.

Tales from Persia

Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays Dastan- the adopted prince, is probably the best thing about Prince of Persia. Dastan’s character seemed reminiscent of Disney’s Aladdin. His ‘street rat’ fervor, his ability to ‘dodge’ royal guards, and his heroism in the marketplace rescue- did anyone else see the resemblance to the street fight Aladdin has in the 2D Disney animation from 1992? Dastan has a very pretty smile- the first few seconds in the movie he appears, his character totally wins you over, and you keep waiting for that smile to come again, along with one of those solo-action, slow motion sequences. Then, there were those Hasassins- although they were quite annoying at parts, they still had some pretty cool moves with the whips and the metal stakes- they made quite formidable enemies.
The technicalities, for instance, the direction, cinematography, graphics and special effects were all quality- they were good. There is a little list however, of all the stuff that was pretty bad… [SPOIIER ALERT]
1)Princess Tamina
Was she the regal princess we saw in the beginning of the movie? Or was she the spoilt, talentless, annoying, shrieky damsel-in-distress? Unfortunately, she was the latter for the better part of the movie. And what was the point of her being chosen as the guardian when she obviously did not even have standard fighting capabilities? What a way to let all women down- her sword wielding was pathetic, the only moments she managed to run away she did such a shoddy job of it, and as far as protecting the Dagger- well, she couldn’t do that anyway and ended up dying instead.
2) The secret sanctuary of Guardians
Let’s see, the point of appointing guardians is so that the thing they are protecting remains safe from getting into the wrong hands. However, this specific guardian colony was pretty bad- apart from their obvious disability to choose a guardian (they chose Tamina), they pretty much did not have any fighting skills or an army or force of some sort that could actually fight. I wonder why they thought taking the Dagger to the secret sanctuary would protect it when it wasn’t much of a secret or much of a sanctuary.
3) The storyline
You could tell that the theme was picked up from a video game- the characters were lacking on backgrounds and development- all except Dastan and most of that was because of the superb acting. Same goes for Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina who made up for the ‘blah’ character development through really excellent acting. I would have really liked to know more about those guardians of the Dagger though, that really irks me. Or maybe some history about Alamut, as that was the focal point of the movie.
4) Concept art
Lastly, I think the concept art could have been better. The Sandglass is one big, burning sandglass, funnily enough. It couldn’t have been something less literal? The Dagger too is pretty mysterious- what did the inscriptions on it mean again? Well, we don’t know. I don’t think the writers know.
So once again what we have here is a pretty great theme for a movie, botched up just like other so-called epics- Transformers, for instance, that nobody will remember it a month down the timeline, except maybe for Alfred Molina and Jake Gyllenhaal- destiny, anyone?
Images courtesy of Disney.