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Jenneth LeeD

United States

Dyslexic who wants to make a mark in the YA book market. Christian. Conservative. Licensed geek and nerd. too old to continue accessing this site. If you want to keep up with me:

Prince of Persia...and of Movies

January 16, 2016

Generally the small genre of video game adaption doesn't thrive in the blockbuster world—such as the plotless, eye-filling Tomb Raider, the disappointedly cancelled Legend of Spyro, and the unholy rendition of those two famous plumbers, Super Mario Bros. However, Jerry Bruckheimer’s 2010 adaption of the 1989 Prince of Persia greatly surpasses its pathetic competitors.
The movie follows an impulsive street brat, Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), adopted to live as the king’s own son. When Dastan and his brothers lead an attack on the holy city of Alamut on suspicion of weapons smuggling, Dastan finds himself in possession of a mysterious dagger. Only after being falsely accused of murder and forced to live life as a fugitive alongside Alamut’s barbed princess, Tamina (Gemma Arterton), does Dastan realize the dagger can turn back time. With the Persian government hot on their tails and cultish adversaries determined to use the dagger for their own means, Dastan and Tamina struggle against slave traders, snakes, sand tidal waves, and themselves if they ever expect to save creation from the Sands of Time.
The story begins with, admittedly, a somewhat cliché “storybook” introduction. A low, wise-sounding voice narrates the “long ago” spiel as a map of Persia fades onto parchment, and Disney uses the whole “Simba” clip of the king holding up a naked baby to his elated subjects. Thankfully, the cheating introduction is redeemed by the brief action scene of young Dastan as he's chased by Persian guards across rooftops.
Prince of Persia does not visually disappoint with its stunning shots of ancient Persian cities and blazing desert sun. Twilight rays reflect off of sweaty bodies and golden temple domes that give this movie a sense of awe-inspired greatness. Not to mention, sunsets and sweeping landscapes scream “money” to any movie critic—185 million, to be exact.
But to take the sun, the city, and the expansive desert and weave them into a priceless tapestry takes more than thread made of gold; it takes skill. The camera effects of the film are wide and fluid, making viewers feel a sudden rush as if in a simulation. Full camera rotations, worms- and birds-eye-views, and wide sweeps create a grandeur you would expect out of any epic film. A shot I particularly enjoyed was of Dastan standing high above Alamut. The sun peaks over the horizon of a new day and the camera spins around the character to show the kind of altitude he’s attained.
Director Mike Newell’s story equally matches the movie's visuals. The story is fast-paced and detailed with exciting plot-twists and revelations interspersed throughout. Newell mixes Aladdin with Indiana Jones and Back to the Future with The Fugitive. This movie has all the best plot threads sewed into one big masterpiece. Despite the few plot holes in the script (Why do poison robes not take effect immediately? And why does breaking time rules work for Dastan but no one else?) the movie is incredibly well-written and provides adequate foreshadowing even within the first few minutes.
My only dislike about the script is Tamina's small vocabulary. To her, everything is sacred. The dagger is sacred. The chamber is sacred. The city is sacred. The temple is sacred. The path to the temple is sacred. Protecting the dagger is sacred. The camel is sacred—not really, but you see what I’m saying.
However, you get a handful of good laughs with this script. My favorite lines are a dialogue between Dastan and the “slightly dishonorable entrepreneur” slave trader, Amar, who happens to be libertarian. The two are watching the princess from a distance when Amar laughs, “Where’d you find her?” Dastan hesitates but replies, “I was bringing her to Herat to trade her for a camel when she attacked me.” Amar later reveals he never believed Dastan and scoffs, “Trading her in for a camel? Look at her. She’s worth at least two.”
The actors, of course, make the movie. Alfred Molina (Amar), for instance, nearly steals the show with his sardonic comments and small businessman gripes about taxes, and both Gyllenhaal and Arterton let their love for their roles as stubborn royalties shine through with every heated argument. My favorite takes place in the middle of the desert when Tamina complains, “I’m desperate for a drop of water…. I wasn't born of this desert like you Persians, all shriveled and angry. My constitution is much more…delicate.” Dastan quips, “I think you mean ‘spoiled.’”
Since the video game is so popular, the filmmakers of the movie chose to incorporate action scenes based on the gameplay. Throughout the movie, Dastan flees enemies by parkouring across rooftops, running along wooden beams, and swinging from ropes—all the while battling enemies and facing “boss-like” adversaries—complete with slow motion and beautiful scores. If you want to think realistically, you probably shouldn’t, yet it is visually appealing and greatly adds to an already incredibly film.
Morally speaking, the movie follows the usual Disney theme of “follow your heart,” but is pleasently different. Often, the characters are faced with two heavy choices that play deciding roles in the film. Do what the crowd wants them to do, or do what they know is right—even if it's difficult. As the king wisely says to Dastan, “A good man would have done as you did…. A great man would have stopped what he knew to be wrong no matter who was ordering it. The boy I saw in that square was capable of being more than just good, but of being great.”
The other theme often forgotten in film is family. Although Dastan isn’t of royal blood, he's still considered an equal amongst his brothers, and they look upon their father with the utmost respect. After the king tells the oldest of the brothers, Tus, that he's not yet ready for the throne, Tus agrees his father knows best and that he deeply cherishes his father's trust. Again, the king forms the movie’s theme with his words: “ the sword that defends our empire.” This kind of respect for a parent and siblings severely lacks in many movies, yet Prince of Persia mastered the concept.
Prince of Persia contains beautiful camera work, skilled writing, and incredible acting. It’s unfortunate that the movie didn’t make enough at the box office to produce the planned trilogy of films. The fantastic rendition of the classic game truly deserves a host of thumbs up.

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