Calling Prince of Persia a movie is probably the highest compliment it will ever receive. A failure on every level, from cinematography to casting to performance to writing, this travesty is almost likable for containing a Mystery Science Theater 3000 level of hap-hazard behavior that allows it to stumble from set-piece to set-piece as if any of them actually mattered. Based on the totally badass video game of the same name, PoP:SoT is the story of a wise-cracking Parkour enthusiast with a magic time-traveling dagger that allows him to reset the last few things that just happened, thereby eradicating the need for “extra lives.” As a movie, this device is notably moronic, and if you’ve read any other reviews you’ll find many of the writers complaining that the time-travel robs the movie of tension by providing an easy quick-fix for any problems that the Prince might encounter. In reality, the dagger is used so infrequently that it might as well relinquish its credit as the movie’s McGuffin. Once the dagger is activated, you’ll see the only passable special effects in the entire film, but for some reason the screenwriters seemed more concerned with the Prince’s intense familial drama than the magic fucking dagger that supposedly everybody in the movie wants. If even your characters don’t care about the McGuffin, why should we?
Horribly miscast from moment one, Jake Gyllenhaal’s tenuous acting abilities fare no better here than anywhere else. You can hear his vocal chords cracking under the weight of his faulty British accent. Love interest Gemma Arterton is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and charismatic young actresses we have available these days, but for some reason she made the hideous choice to speak like Newt from Castle Anthrax for the entire movie. So distractingly bad are the vocal affectations in this film that you almost forgive Ben Kingsley for chewing the scenery, in the same way you forgive a lab rat for gnawing the sides of his cage. Bad decisions are made in succession in Prince of Persia, so the fault must lay with the director, Mike Newell. Previously responsible for the massively more watchable action-fest Harry Potter and the Goblet of Spooky Dragons, there is really no excuse for this movie’s failure. It almost seems like Newell wanted to undermine his own credibility by producing a mindless Michael Bay-style action flick. It’s endearing that a kindly old Brit would want to expand his horizons from emotional drama to utter crap, and to a certain extent he achieved the unthinkable. He actually produced a movie somehow dumber and more incompetent than Clash of the Titans. I had a shocking amount of fun in Titans compared to this piece of crap. And yes, there is ostrich racing in Prince of Persia, but beyond that, I cannot honestly tell you a damn thing that happened. Mostly Jake and Gemma spit petty meaningless banter as they wander around boring, endless deserts.
There’s probably a story in here somewhere, but after playing the original video game in which there were maybe three important characters, it seemed like a waste of time to start memorizing the Prince’s long family tree, especially when most of them end up dead, albeit not soon enough. Toby Kebbell, playing one of the prince’s brothers, might be the worst actor in a big-budget feature ever. He is the human equivalent of that terrible CGI in The Mummy where Billy Zane’s jaw stretches and locusts fly out. Again, calling him human is a huge compliment. I didn’t even recognize that the annoying ostrich racing organizer (yes, this is an integral character; no, the game contained no ostrich racing) was played by notorious hammy sell-out Alfred Molina. I can’t wait until Sorcerer’s Apprentice so I can watch him belch out more self-absorbed villain dialog like he’s masturbating all the way to the bank. Way to go, Alfred. You’ve effectively developed duel-personality disorder. One personality is a talented theatrical actor who cares deeply about his characters, and the other is the one we’ve been seeing on the big screen since Spider-Man 2. You know, the one that hates audiences? Stop hamming it up, and give your film characters the same attention that you give to your theatrical ones. I’m sick of paying eleven dollars to see you take a shit on screen, Molina. Kingsley is forgettable, but you’re so bad you’re memorable.
What else is there to say? You’re not going to watch this movie. I’m never going to watch it again. I might actually play the video game again, because it was the one thing related to this movie that didn’t suck. I hope the guys at Rifftrax take this down (if they haven’t already…I can’t imagine it’ll be a long wait until the DVD comes out) because there are so many opportunities for humor and foul comments amongst this dreck. The thing I regret most about seeing this movie were the other members of the audience. Two old ladies were sitting in the front row with their caretaker, whom they needed to walk them back and forth in front of the theater before the movie started, assumedly so their legs would not atrophy and die during the proceedings. It struck me that these women were potentially not far off from death, and the shocking realization crept into my brain that this, Prince of Persia, this incredible piece of crap, could be the last movie these women ever see in theaters. After a lifetime that’s spanned The Maltese Falcon to The Dark Knight, these women get to experience their death rattle along with the lousiest piece of garbage released by a studio yet this summer. Then again, maybe I’m being a little too speculative and hyperbolic. They might stick around for a while more, see The Last Airbender and finally croak.