Sands of Time Prove Jake’s Princeliness

Prince of Persia premiered this weekend nationwide, already carrying the weight of expectations that go far beyond the film itself. Word on the street is that Disney hopes Prince of Persia will blow audiences away, making it the next money-maker ala the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. And while Prince of Persia is a fun film and certainly acted much better than the Pirate films (Mr. Depp’s part excluded), it’s hard to believe that it will ever parallel the Pirates in success.

It’s not that it isn’t entertaining. It is in fact highly entertaining. Its set designs and visual effects are stunning. Yes, it’s a Disneyfied depiction of what Persia might have looked like at different times blended into one time period that is thus impossible to decipher (and god only knows what the point of the jumbled religious terms used in the movie were), but it is richly vivid in detail and the score blends seamlessly throughout, driving the action and making you feel as if you are part of it.

The plot line suffers from the typical blown out of proportion action scenes and over-used now-who-done-it plot twists. You know the kind of cheap tricks that only work in stories in which characters are seriously under-developed leaving their motives open to crafty switch-a-roos. In a movie where a unremarkable twist happens every few minutes it becomes difficult to care. Just wait ten minutes and another twist will bring you right back to where you were and (SPOILER_ALERT! The bad guy is the one who LOOKS JUST LIKE a bad guy, crafty eye-brows and all!)

Action movie audiences don’t typically care about things such as characterization or the uncomfortable and often patronizing appearance of forced dialogue. Prince of Persia delivers what the typical movie-goer wants in a summer action film with just enough twist of fantasy and adventure to make it a sure favorite with audiences this summer. It’s not a movie that will get you thinking, but it will entertain you for roughly two hours in good clean fun.

That said, there is one thing about Prince of Persia that makes it noteworthy, and that is the emergence of Jake Gyllenhaal as a bonafide fantasy/action hero. Gyllenhaal shines as the ragamuffin turned prince who is called to start out on a hero’s journey after the tragic murder of a loved one.

There is nothing awkward about Gyllenhaal’s transformation into a kohl-eyed, sword-wielding, muscled champion fighting alongside the inhumanly beautiful Gemma Arterton. If these two had kids they wouldn’t need to worry about a stupid time-altering dagger full of creepy magic sand. They could rule through good-looks alone. And the great thing about Jake’s version of the action-hero is that there is something essentially real in Price Dasten that makes you actually care what happens to him.

I guess this is what happens when men who can actually ACT take on roles as action-heros. Perhaps Prince of Persia will herald in a new era in which action films are more than mere action. One in which the characters aren’t just muscular guys with a stash of punchy, yet stupid one-liners on deck ready to hand out after each explosion.

While this probably will not be the case (and that’s a good thing since I’d rather the great actors stick to the great scripts) it’s nice to dream now and then. And it’s nice to see a guy like Gyllenhaal show enough range to break our hearts as a love-sick cowboy longing in vain after the only man he’s ever loved, and then to entertain us as a stalwart Persian prince battling forces of inhumane evil to save the girl and the kingdom.

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