Based on the long-running video game series of the same name, this film is centered on Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), whose quest to undo the usurpation of the Persian throne involves a time-reversing dagger. It does not aim to be more than easy escapism, but its frenetic style leaves it less than comprehensible. It presents fight scenes with confusing and rapidly-edited close-ups of weapons and reactions instead of comfortable medium shots of the actors' bodies. How can you savor the fight choreography or the performers’ skill if you cannot discern which character or whose weapon is in the shot? In classic action movies like "The Adventures of Robin Hood" and "The Empire Strikes Back," one can at least focus one who is attacking and why he made that move. "Prince of Persia," however, indulges in technique over clarity to create a marginally understandable spectacle.

Just as frustrating as the action is the story that loosely strings them together. The screenplay follows the example of "Pirates of the Caribbean" (swashbuckling heroes, breathy beauties, magical MacGuffins) with haphazard results. Many and ideas are not carried out to their full potential, and the characters are depicted as incapable of making some rather obvious choices (not once does Dastan wonder if he can travel back to stop the takeover himself). Such inattentive writing may have been forgivable if performed by a more enthusiastic cast, but most of these actors (especially the overly dramatic Gemma Arterton) are just plain boring. To its credit, “Prince of Persia” is afforded some decent special effects and an amusing performance by the always welcome Alfred Molina. Nevertheless, those elements do little to elevate this forgettable, albeit digestible, movie.
First published in The Coastland Times


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