31 May 2010

Movie review: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)
Directed by Mike Newell. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton, Alfred Molina.

I appear to be transforming into Black Gate’s “movie reviewer.” A natural development, considering that I’m a voracious film-goer who sees most new movies during their opening weekends (a benefit of living a block away from one of best multiplexes in Los Angeles), and that the studios have tossed quite a few fantasy spectacles our way so far this year that appeal to the magazine’s demographic.

I am indeed thankful that the Great Movie Gods are providing us with more epic fantasy. I just wish they were providing us better epic fantasy. What do I need to sacrifice to get something more worthwhile from Middle Eastern fantasy than Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time? Goats just aren’t doing it, apparently, and my apartment manager has informed me that this is in violation of health codes. So I’m stuck, for the moment, with a sand-and-sorcery epic based on a video game franchise.

I had some slight hopes for Prince of Persia, despite the usual and wise caution viewers have about any movie adapted from a console video game. My hope was in the form of English director Mike Newell, who has helmed some witty comedies like Four Weddings and a Funeral, scored critically with the excellent gangster drama Donnie Brasco, directed one of the best of the Harry Potter movies, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and most crucially directed one of the finest forgotten films of the 1990s, Into the West, a contemporary fantasy that I keep waiting to turn into a cult classic.

However, whatever magic Mike Newell has in his director’s bag of tricks, he didn’t pull out any of it for this movie. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is not an extraordinarily awful film. It’s not even bad. It’s simply mediocre, and for a Memorial Day release it’s shamefully slight, like a spring movie designed to bolster up the action crowd until summer, but which got hastily moved into a prime slot when the studio noticed that it didn’t have a Memorial Day anchor. A lot of dinars went into the movie, but what came out is standard blockbuster fare that passes the time and then vanishes as if the sands of Arabia had covered it up.

Read the rest of the review at Black Gate. . . .