“Prince of Persia” an epic video game-based spectacle
By Skip Sheffield
For a video based in a video game, “The Prince of Persia” is quite an epic.
Jake Gyllenhaal channels his best Errol Flynn to portray Prince Dastan, a commoner elevated to royalty by the King of Persia at the peak of its empire in the sixth century A.D.
King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup), who has two natural sons, is so impressed with the feisty lad Dastan that he figures he will light a fire within his rather complacent court.
And so he does. Director Mike Newell moves this fantasy-adventure at breakneck speed; from the storming of the gates of the holy city of Alamit, where Dastan encounters the equally feisty Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton), to the discovery and possession of a magic crystal handled dagger capable of reversing the sands of time to the fire and brimstone finale.
Oh yeah, the ever-popular time-shifting device is central to this highly improbable tale, concocted by video game creator Jordan Mechner in league with three other WGA screenwriters.
This action-special effects stew blends elements of ancient Persian history, poetry, “One Thousand and One Nights” and such modern fantasies as “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “The Matrix.”
Jake Gyllenhaal underwent grueling physical training to look and act the part of dashing Prince Dastan, and I must say the effort paid off. Gyllenhaal is convincing in the frequent swordfights and balletic in the gravity-defying, Matrix-like leaping and scampering about roofs, walls and perilous canyons.
Sir Ben Kingsley has enjoyed a lucrative career as villain in recent films such as “Shutter Island,” and his wily Nizam is suitably sneaky and sinister snake.
Kingsley also leaps about and wields a sword with aplomb, which is required in this athletic but CG-enhanced choreography.
The adversary flirtation between Gyllenhaal and beautiful Gemma Arterton is another plus, adding the necessary ingredient of romance into this fanboy fantasy.
Yes, “Prince of Persia” is formulaic, but I don’t think that matters at all to its target audience: the same kids who spend their time playing video action games. This is way bigger, louder and in your face.