Saturday, May 29, 2010

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time - Aladdin Retold

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time: Poster | A Constantly Racing Mind
"T he Prince of Persia" is the second film that I have seen this week that has to do with the subject of time travel.  Not counting the final episodes of "Lost" and "Flash Forward," time travel seems to be on the mind of Hollywood writers a lot these days.  "Shrek Forever After" is a story about what if this didn't happen, and so is "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time."  The story is intricate, and the production is elaborate, and rated PG-13.  Prince of Persia is a film that the whole family can enjoy.  Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton, "The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" is a swashbuckling revival of the Errol Flynn era of filmmaking.  Based on the "Prince of Persia" video game series created by Jordan Mechner. He also serves as an executive producer and screen story contributor on the film.  Ultimately, this is a Jerry Bruckheimer ("Pirates of the Caribbean" films) production in collaboration with Disney and will receive the box office attention and respect that the two have earned.

The film starts appropriately enough with the lines, Long ago, in a land far away... We are told the story about the mighty Persian Empire in the time of King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup), who saves the life of Dastan (Gyllenhaal), a young street boy and adopts him into the royal family.  Like the fabled Aladdin, a diamond in the rough, the king sees how the boy stood up for his friend, and Sharaman realizing that this boy whose blood is not of his own, will not attempt to seize the throne from him by force or guile, raises his as his own.  Dastan grows up, as a prince along with Sharaman's two other sons Tus and Garsiv.  On the eve of laying siege of the holy city of Alamut, the king's eldest son, Tus (Richard Coyle), counseled by his uncle Nazim (Ben Kingsley), who recommends an attack on the city against Sharaman's order.  Nazim claims that the city is selling WMDs (swords, and steel-tipped arrows), to the enemies of the Persian Empire.  Tus, ordering the attack asks his younger brother, Garsiv (Toby Kebbell), to lead the assault on horseback.  As Dastan is younger than the two princes are, Tus tells Dastan that he is not ready yet. Dastan believes that a full on attack of the fortified walls is suicide and disobeys orders and instead scales the walls with the help of his bowmen.  Dastan opens the gates, sparing his brothers and their uncle extensive bloodshed, and the victory.  

Inside the city at the top of the castle is Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton), guardian of the sacred dagger, entrusts it to a messenger, while trying to escape with it, Dastan tackles him and retrieves the dagger.  Hailed as a hero and The Lion of Persia, Dastan is celebrated by his brothers, his uncle, and his father, King Sharaman.  During the celebration, Dastan gives a prayer robe to his father as a gift.  Sharaman plans for Dastan to succeed him some day as the king and instead chooses an heir other than his own son.  However, while Sharaman wore a prayer robe given to him by Dastan, but provided by his oldest son, Tus, the robe starts burning and kills the king.  During the confusion that follows the death of the king, Dastan is blamed, so he and Princess Tamina make a hasty escape by going out through the window.

The time and setting of this story is far enough from present day to give the audience a mental escape from today’s world.  The blending of historical times, places and cultures, is a signal that there is no true historical context for this film.  The race-bending casting of Gyllenhaal, Arterton, Kingsley, and Molina in these roles gives the western audience a sense of familiarity that they can identify with.  The film is meant to entertain and not a historical or cultural documentary.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time: Gemma Arterton - Jake Gyllenhaal| A Constantly Racing Mind

The plot is similar to Disney's "Aladdin" movie; however, the comic relief is provided, not by Geni, but by Alfred Molina ("Spider-Man 2"), as Sheik Amar the anti-government, ostrich-racing, entrepreneur.  Steve Toussaint, as part of Sheik Amar's men, plays Seso a warrior tribesman reminiscent of actor Djimon Hounsou's character in Gladiator, Juba.  Like the Aladdin stories of old, the magic lamp is the deus ex machina, the god from the machine, the plot device whereby a god or a magic object solves the plot's problem.  In The Prince of Persia, the magic object is The Dagger of Time, the dagger, allows the user to travel back in time for a minute or two and change the past.  Similar to Aladdin, Princes Jasmine rejects Aladdin, and so does Princes Tamina rejects Dastan.  Eventually she realizes that Dastan is more than just a parkour junkie is, and that Dastan has the heart of a prince or a king.  Also, like Aladdin, "The Prince of Persia" is a story of greed and jealousy, Nazim, like Afar, covets the throne, will use treachery to gain it.  With production values are on par with other Bruckheimer, Disney releases like the "Pirates of the Caribbean," and the "National Treasure" series, "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" is breath taking, to say the least.  Gyllenhaal plays Dastan in a lighthearted manner, and Arterton has a better opportunity to show off some acting skills in this film, than she did in the "Clash of the Titans."  

Disney sends a subtle message, reaffirming their anti-drug stance, by showing the Hassansins (hash-smoking assassins) as pasty-faced and lesion ridden.  See kids -- don't do drugs they are bad for you.  The visual effects are stunning; however, the character development and story are thin, but there is plenty of action to keep an audience from looking at their watch and peeking at the time.  Harry Gregson-Williams's compositions are moving, while setting the tone and the mood. The melodies are somewhat memorable.  The Alanis Morissette tune "I Remain," is haunting and like a James Bond theme song, gives the film a voice that is separate from the images.  Director Mike Newell's vision for this film is correct, don't worry about the little things like character and plot development, go with the story, make it big, have fun, and make a lot of money.

Movie Data
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Romance
Year:  2010
Staring:  Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina, Steve Toussaint, Toby Kebbell,Richard Coyle, Ronald Pickup
Director: Mike Newell
Producer(s): Jerry Bruckheimer
Writer: Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 116 minutes
Release Date: 5/28/2010

Originally published on Associated Content by Robert Barbere on 5/29/2010

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