September 13, 2010
Was Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time cloned from comic books and CGI Hollywood heroics? Could Prince Dastan swap out his gauzy garb for Superman and Spider-Man's latex leotards?
Yes, but no. The beefcake Jake Gyllenhaal channeled the buff Douglas Fairbanks in his classic Thief of Bagdad, both of whose leaps and feats were executed for real.
And the Mideast saga channeled the Bush presidency's search for weapons of mass destruction. This 500 A.D. Alamut invasion anachronistically reprises the 2003 A.D. Operation Iraq.
(Does Prince Dastan [Gyllenhaal] play General Franks? If so, who might be the Machiavellian Nizam [Sir Ben Kingsley] who manipulates public opinion?)
Continuing the art-reflects-life theme, there is even the looting of treasured objets d'art: the Dagger of Time - a bejeweled apocalyptic time-travel stiletto that any power monger would kill to acquire.
And kill they did. Wantonly and graphically and relentlessly, albeit with aerial elegance. The movie is as much Baryshnikov ballet as bloodstained battle.
But when cupid's chemistry smites the pumped Prince and his plucky nemesis, Princess Tamina, (Gemma Arterton), the Persian occupation kindles a romantic fracas. (Not a spoiler: this is predictable Disney inamorato, not profound Shakespearian imbroglio.)
So will this spin-off of a gaming franchise spawn a sequel? Indubitably.
Clearly, Prince of Persia is a swaggering swashbuckling sanguinary chase movie about love and war; but ditch any jaded ennui and savor the extravaganza.
The bona fide agile acrobatic awesome antics by Persia's Gyllenhaal destines him to join Bagdad's Fairbanks as a classic dashing daredevil.
The endorsement comes, however, with unorthodox advice: Watch the Blu-ray Bonus Features first, and the movie's incessant insinuated brutality will morph into astonishing athletic prowess.
You will gasp at Gyllenhaal's dazzling dexterity in scenes that we have come to believe can only be executed with green screens and computer animation artists. (He even pooh-poohed using stunt doubles.)
Arteton (a James Bond alum) also relished the physicality of her role. Thus Director Mike Newell relied on the actors and averted his plan to draw on motion capture and CGI.
Wonder at serpent warriors handling live reptiles, a hell of a lot scarier than the fake snakes made on a Mac.
And a whip master schools actors how to aim and connect with real rawhide; (lethal metal tips were mercifully added in post production).
Observe native artisans and costumers at work - one more reason to wallow in the creativity of the film. The crew rigs a meticulously crafted tent to heave fighters over an embankment. See it in the Extras first.
Marvel at Moroccan camel jockeys as they try out and fall off tangible ostriches, and then check out the final feathered race in the movie. Now that's cine nirvana - and another averted PC scene.
The incredible Moroccan landscape and architecture could be easy to dismiss as artificially conceived. Sure, some of it is, but Morocco is that beautiful.
The trip on foot and donkey up the Atlas mountains hauling scaffolding and equipment (not quite the effort of Aguirre: The Wrath of God, à la Klaus Kinski, but dumbfounding none the less) was necessitated by the rough terrain and in the effort to preserve the pristine landscape unscarred by trucks and free of computer cleanup.
Without the usual Bonus bravado, Director Mike Newell (from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) and Producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy) give palatable but short interviews.
The electronically rendered elegant Dagger and the clever portrayal of time reversal are covered briefly, as is the gratuitous gargantuan CGI quicksand that engulfs Dastan.
So I am not saying Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a perfect film, but with the boost of the Features, it is damn good Disney.
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Director: Mike Newell
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton,Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina, Ronald Pickup, Toby Kebbell, Steve Toussaint, Reece Ritchie, Richard Coyle
Length: 116 minutes
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
DTS-HD Master Audio
Dolby Digital 5.1
Dolby Digital 5.1
English SDH, French, Spanish