From now on, movies that end with a none-of-this-really-happened twist, like “Click” or the classic “It’s a Wonderful Life,” should have a “plot convention” disclaimer so that people know what they’re getting themselves into when they decide to watch.

“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”

At Quality 16 and Rave
Disney

“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” finds yet another way to incorporate this kind of ending, but first, it attempts to answer the age old question: How many white actors can you cast in a movie about non-white people?

The only intelligent casting decision in the film seems to be Sir Ben Kingsley (“Shutter Island”) as a corrupted member of the Persian nobility and brother to the King (who dies, ridiculously, from putting on a poisoned cloak that causes him to spontaneously combust). All of the other actors look like they’re in this movie ironically, and speak in nonsensical English accents that make about as much sense as the casting of Jake Gyllenhaal (“Brokeback Mountain”) as an intimidating, overly masculine warlord.

As awkward as it is to see Gyllenhaal try to play any kind of elite warrior, swinging from rooftop to rooftop, it is ten times more excruciating to see his attempts at love scenes with Tamina, the gorgeous princess of Alamut, played by Gemma Arterton (“Quantum of Solace”). Ironically, Gyllenhaal seems appropriately cast for some of these scenes toward the beginning, because his character is supposed to start out completely uninterested in the attractive princess with whom he has been banished from the kingdom. Frankly, it seems harder for him to play a video-game level action stud than a man resisting the sexual advances of a captured, basically naked princess.

The dialogue and plot structure are not that bad. They just seem like they’d fit better in another medium — and they actually do, as the “Prince of Persia” video game on which the movie is based is regarded very highly by players and critics alike. But what probably look like awesome effects and epic battle scenes in the video game turn into little more than poorly-edited Parkour videos of Gyllenhaal and company prancing through the streets of a fictional Arab city.

The crux of the plot is the search for a mystical dagger that can turn back time — which Gyllenhaal has in his possession — that the evil Kingsley wants so that he can alter history to make himself king and Tamina wants because, well, it belongs to her. Thus, throughout the whole movie viewers never stop asking: “Why don’t they just go back in time and kill Kingsley so that none of this awful stuff has to happen?”

Spoiler: Be careful what you wish for, because by the end of the film, the writers must have realized that glaring hole. Gyllenhaal uses the dagger to travel back in time, kills the bad guy and undoes every bit of “plot” up to that point.

That said, it’s probably the only creative way they could have ended this movie about destiny and lives connected across “The Sands of Time.” And for what it’s worth, the point of this movie is the special effects and fight scenes, and both are awesome when they’re explained and you can actually tell what’s going on. It just seems that no matter how great or epic a video game is, the movie version of the story always feels more like sand in your shorts.

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