Except for the occasional game of Duke Nukem in my youth, I’ve never really played video games. That’s not to say I haven’t experienced many video game based movies…anyone with older brothers knows what I am talking about. Unfortunately, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time can be added to the long list of gaming movies that lack any kind of innovation. Just like Leroy’s analysis of most gamer movies, Prince of Persia isn’t approached as a film. The gaming aspect of the movie is thrown away on abrupt zoom shots and the occasional super-ninja, slow motion back flip. Ultimately, the movie lacks an interesting plot and the kind of character depth needed to make a gaming movie really successful.
The movie follows Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) on his quest to redeem his name afterhe is accused of murdering his adoptive father. Somewhere between evading capture and roaming the desert with the beautiful Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton), Prince Dastan discovers the magic powers of a dagger he possesses. It soon becomes clear that the world would be in eminent danger if the dagger were to fall into the wrong hands. It does and the journey continues… and it is a long journey, or at least it seems that way.
Perhaps the reason why the 116 minutes drags on is because the majority of the film is spent in the desert. Challenges arise in said desert, but nothing really substantial and interesting happens. The last 20 minutes are enjoyable (even if not logical) due to a nice twist. But except for a funny bit about a suicidal ostrich, the main chunk of the film drags so much that you feel like you are in the desert too…struggling to get out.
Now, I first saw the trailer for Prince of Persia at the Disney D23 Expo and I remember thinking, “Really, Jake Gyllenhaal? You are playing a Persian prince?” Nine months later I’m writing this and thinking the exact same thing. About 40 minutes in, the absurdity of Gyllenhaal playing a Persian prince wears off a bit, but then you realize Prince Dastan is just Jake Gyllenhaal with really long hair. There’s nothing special about Dastan. He isn’t really charming. He isn’t super hardcore. He’s just Jake… wandering through the desert.
The supporting cast is better. Although there is no chemistry between Dastan and Tamina, I found myself really liking the spunky princess. Of course, Sir Ben Kingsley plays the evil Uncle Nizam well. However, the only one who seemed to have any sort of fun filming this movie was Alfred Molina. As Sheik Amar, he is the character that symbolizes what the film could have been: quick, witty, adventurous, and at times very funny.
Alas, Sheik Amar cannot save Prince of Persia from the elephant in the room…did you know that the Persian Empire consisted of a bunch of white guys? And for that matter, did you know that Persians had English accents back in the day? This movie is about Persia (a.k.a. modern day Iran), yet the film is virtually void of any ethnicity. It’s not only offensive to Persians, but to all audience members. This movie insinuates that audiences will not bond to a cast (let alone a lead character) of Middle Eastern decent. It’s too bad that an industry that often prides itself on artistic expression and open-mindedness is still confined by racial discrimination.
Racial issues in Hollywood are nothing new and someday may change, but until then can we at least stop giving all ancient, foreign cultures English accents? It’s just lame.