Thank God my girl crush on Gemma Arterton and Jake Gyllenhaal’s big dreamy eyes won over my initial hesitation to watch this video game turned big budget Hollywood movie.
Based on the Prince of Persia best selling video games, this movie tells the story of Prince Dastan (Gyllenhaal), a street urchin adopted by King Sharaman, and his quest to clear his name of the latter’s murder orchestrated by the evil Nizam (Oscar winner Ben Kingsley), and protect the dagger and the Sands of Time which are under the care of Princess Tamina (Farrah in the video games and played by Arterton) of Alamut. The movie doesn’t really expound much on the plot and instead dives head-first into a dizzying array of special effects.
The filmmakers could have chosen to make a meatier plot since it is actually loosely based on historical facts: King Malik Shah of the last Persian Empire was betrayed by his Grand Vizier, also named Nizam, with the help of the Hashshashin, a group of men who engage in dark magic. Incidentally, Malik Shah was succeeded on the throne by his brother Tutush. But I am not sure if the historical Tutush was the basis for the fictional Tus (in the movie, Tus was a son).And Alamut is a true fortress which was destroyed by the Hashshashins.
However, one must must keep in mind that this movie is about the video game, so come into the cinemas without a truckload of expectations. The filmmakers, though, managed to squeeze in some touching scenes showing the brotherly love between Dastan and the king’s own sons Garsiv and Tus, Dastan’s gratitude and love for the king for adopting him and treating him as his own. But, given its video game origins, the special effects and action sequence are really the focal point. In this, the movie does extremely well, this facet almost single-handedly making this film worthwhile. I have actually been a fan of the 2003 game on which this movie is based, even having it installed in my phone so I already knew a bit of what to expect: swash buckling, chest-baring action.
I particularly enjoyed the scenes where Dastan jumps from one rooftop to the other, first as a kid trying to evade the police (or whatever they were called 1,000 years ago), and then as an adult, trying to escape the soldiers from arresting him for the murder of his father. One other noteworthy scene was when he succeeded in infiltrating the fortress city of Alamut by using arrows shot into its walls by his men as stepping stones. All that $200M budget seems put to good use by all the dazzling display of effects.
Of course, the lead stars’ pretty mugs also work to get your mind off the plot. Arterton looks equally good as a tanned middle-eastern women as she did as fair Io in Clash of the Titans (or even as the strawberry blond Bond girl in Quantum of Solace last year) so I would expect to see her in more movies in the future.And of course, while Gyllenhaal isn’t exactly your typical handsome guy, his big puppy eyes and disarming charm make him perfect for the role.
I read that this movie is just the first of a planned seven movie film series; but given that is has only earned three fourths of its budget (as of today at least), even the second one might seem far-fetched. But I would still recommend seeing this movie for the visual feast, effects or otherwise.
* photo from Google images