There’s something quite interesting going on with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time that isn’t immediately apparent from the publicity. Somehow, screenwriters Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard (there’s also a story credit for Jordan Mechner who created the original video game series) have snuck a clever little parable of George W. Bush’s presidency into a big budget action-adventure, past the Disney gatekeepers with the unlikely connivance of blockbuster producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Pirates of the Caribbean).
Now, I’m not suggesting for a moment that this political allegory makes Prince of Persia worth seeing — the rest of the film is so stilted I couldn’t possibly do that — but it does make for an interesting diversion while one is forced to sit through some of the poorest action directing in any recent big budget film.
Muscle‑y Jake Gyllenhaal plays Dastan, a noble orphan boy adopted in to the Persian royal family. On a military escapade to overthrow some neighboring territory or other, Dastan and his two (really royal) brothers are conned into invading the Holy City of Alamut next door. Their uncle Nizam (Ben Kingsley playing the Dick Cheney role) wants the magic sand hidden beneath the city and, while the brothers go searching pointlessly for weapons of mass destruction, only Dastan sees through the plot and tries to restore the rightful order of things.
It’s the execution that lets this film down. I don’t often sit in a film wishing for different shot selections — “I need a close up here! Where’s the wide shot? Hold that a beat longer! Gah!” — but I found Prince of Persia to be a frustrating experience, not helped by Alfred Molina’s comedy casbah salesman, trying (and failing) to fulfill the Jack Sparrow function. I don’t think we’ll be seeing any more in this franchise.
Only two films in this week’s review — I’ve been travelling — but I did want to briefly express my disappointment that Bob the Builder: The Legend of the Golden Hammer isn’t playing in Wellington. Its absence means the only other film I got to see this week was the new remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street in which Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach in last year’s Watchmen) takes on the iconic stripy jumper and razor-sharp gloves of Freddy Krueger, last seen (I think) in 1991’s Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. It’s a satisfactory reboot in lots of ways and I’m pleased to report that for once the physical effects work better than the digital ones.
For those that are unfamiliar with the idea: Freddy K is a nasty piece of work who currently inhabits the dreams of the kids he abused at a pre-school. The deal is that if he kills you in your dreams you die for realz, so no one wants to go to sleep. But sleep deprivation brings with it scary hallucinations and Freddy is very persistent.
Haley isn’t given much to work with once the fire-scar make-up goes on but, even then, he doesn’t seem to be having nearly as good a time as the legendary Robert Englund who originated the role. The kids are passable, with no one looking like a Johnny Depp break-out star but then even he didn’t really stand out in the first one.
Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 2 June, 2010.