Sunday, 30 May 2010

71: Review - Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

Okay, let's get the first thing out of the way.
In a cinema, if you laugh out loud at the Orange promo before the film, you're a dick. There are clauses, of course. When they started out with a celebrity pitching an idea to the studio-board, they were hit and miss. But with a good one, a wry grin is acceptable. I even managed a low chuckle at the Dennis Hopper "Driver... no-one gets off this bus" one.
But a hearty guffaw? At the current A-Team one? You can fuck right off, mate.

It wasn't even just one bloke, there were three or four who found the whole promo deeply amusing. They also bellowed throughout the oft-weak humour of the following film:

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
2010, 120 mins, Dir. Mike Newell

Quick plot synopsis: Magic knife lets you turn back time. Evil man wants this so he can be king. It's up the the righteous-innocent to stop this happening. Beards, swords, snakes, fire and jumping over rooftops are involved... that's about it.

What I'm not a fan of: rather than a studio take a chance with a movie by giving it a title and seeing how it does at the box-office and domestic markets before chruning out more, a studio also giving said movie a sub-title, as if it's already part of the huge multi-movie franchise they want it to be. Case in point: Pirates of the Carribean: Curse of the Black Pearl. I know that these days, everyone signs on for three movies. I know that more movies will be made irrespective of box-office figures, as it's all down to marketing. Just fucking have the decency to pretend, will you Disney?

I think what's happened, at some point, at some Disney/Bruckheimer board-meeting, is that someone took Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings, and Back to the Future and put them into a blender. They made a really good movie from that. Then, they put that movie to one side and used whatever was left in the blender to make Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. As is so often the case these days, it's not actually that bad, it's just two hours of "nothing much".

You see, there's a line between classic mythology and hackneyed cliché. It's not even a thin line. And since this movie is essentially based on a computer game from 1989, I think you can guess which side of the chasm it's riding on.

There are a lot of accomplished actors in this. Even the ones who aren't great have still been good elsewhere. And to be honest, they're good in this, they're just not given much to work with. It's the script. Too flabby. Oh, and premise of an army invading a middle-eastern city on the falsly-engineered assumption that they're manufacturing weapons? It wasn't very subtle the first time it was spelled out on screen. But by the fifth time it was trotted out I was seriously considering writing to Disney and reminding them that their target demographic for this film doesn't give a fuck about their take on the Iraq War.

"Listen you two, you can turn back time as many times as you want, but if you could improve the script while you're on..?"

Oh, and another (albeit light-hearted) distraction was having Richard Coyle as Prince/King Tus. While he played the part well enough, I kept wanting him to reprise his role in Coupling by gazing off into the middle-distance and saying "...gusset". Alas, 'twas not to be.

I also spent a large part of the film thinking that the producer's tribute to Han Solo was the squabbling between Jake Gyllenhaal's Dastan and Gemma Arterton's Tamina. But then we're introduced to Alfred Molina's Amar, a loveable rogue who's sidekick is a towering warrior, Seso (played with much needed understatement by Steve Toussaint) who's life he saved therefore is owed a life-debt. They originally accompany Dastan on his quest on the promise of riches at the end, but when they're about to bail-out, Seso convinces him to do the right thing. It's not so much ringing bells as smashing a wrecking ball into the bell-tower.

As I said, all in all, it's not that bad. But it's too damned long. All the hood-wearing and rooftop leaping seems more reminiscent of Assassin's Creed than the game it's meant to be based on. And the final act is essentially Donnie Darko / Next, which is a good thing. But I mentioned at the start that it borrows heavily from whatever the writing team seemed to have been watching the weekend-previous.

The one thing I'm truly thankful for is that it wasn't in 3D. Word's going round that a bolt-on upgrade was offered to the studio, adding in the 3D afterwards. Apparently director Mike Newell said 'no', regarding that as a tacky afterthought, as with Clash of the Titans. While I applaud his sentiment, I can't help but think that making the movie 3D would have made it not only similar to CotT, but also to Avatar. Which is to say that the best 3D in the world won't change a formulaic movie with a dull (or in this case over-wordy) script.

I reckon: 5/10 ~ you may as well wait for the DVD to be honest. Go see Iron Man 2 again, instead.

And no, the irony isn't lost on me that for a movie about time-travel, it's a bit too long.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organizations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like one to give wide berth. What is it about computer-game-to-film crossovers? Surely there have been enough examples now that suffer the same faults.

    The subtitle "Sands of Time" does come from the computer game too by the way. "Prince of Persia: Sands of Time" was a 2003 sequel to the original 1989 release.