By Don Simpson
Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), the hunky swashbuckling heartthrob and adopted son of King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup), was raised alongside two nobly born brothers, Garsiv (Toby Kebbell) and Tus (Richard Coyle).
One day, while wandering around the desert with their very own Persian army in tow, the three brothers are informed by their uncle Nizam (Ben Kinglsey) that the sacred city of Alamut is selling weapons of mass destruction to enemies of Persia. The three brothers, without their father’s blessing, fall for Nazim’s Dick Cheney-esque trick; and thanks to Dastan’s videogame-on-steroids acrobatics the Persian army conquers Alamut without breaking a sweat.
As a result Dastan comes away from the battle with a nifty little dagger and the beautiful Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton), but the gift that he presents to his father (a prayer cloak) instantly burns the king to death. Dastan thus becomes a wanted man and flees with Tamina.
The dagger pilfered by Dastan is actually the Dagger of Time – a device which utilizes small doses of the “sands of time” to literally turn back time for a minute or two (a not-so-clever narrative device that becomes tediously overused throughout Prince of Persia). But that’s not all that this dagger can do: if it breaches the silo of the “sands of time” hidden underneath Alamut, it will release a sandstorm of Armageddon proportions. This is the WMD that the dastardly Nizam is after!
Dastan sleeves the magic knife in his crotch and thus Tamina stares wantonly and longingly at his…uh…dagger; Tamina, on the other hand, hides a spare vile of sand in her ample bosom and thus Dastan is often caught drooling at the sight of Tamina’s own guarded treasure. Despite the magnitude of its importance, no one seems to be able to retain possession of the Dagger of Time for more than a few minutes of screen time. Tamina steals it from Dastan; Dastan steals it from Tamina; Tamina steals it back; Dastan steals it back from her; random onlookers -- including the Sheik Amar (Alfred Molina), a crooked small business owner (a.k.a. ostrich race promoter) whose anti-government and tax rhetoric reeks of Sarah Palin -- steal it from Dastan or Tamina; all the while, Dastan and Tamina alternate unbridled animosity for each other with a plethora of near smooches.
Director Mike Newell’s Prince of Persia is basically a Disneyfied videogame and it seems as though the PlayStation [or Xbox or Wii – whatever your mental poison of choice] is skipping – the same events keep happening over and over and over again. (Have I ever told you that there is nothing that I find more boring than watching someone else play a videogame?) Lady destiny finally steps in to grab the reins of the storyline, sealing the fate of the Dagger of Time…as well as Dastan and Tamina’s lips.
The special effects are even less impressive than the graphics in most videogames and the fight scenes look exactly like a videogame, but the greatest foul of them all is found in the casting and make-up. I obviously need to brush up on my world history because I never knew that Persians were really just Westerners who wore black eyeliner and spoke in [mostly faux] British accents. (Maybe Newell and/or Bruckheimer did some research on Wikipedia and discovered that Persia’s modern day moniker [Iran] is a cognate of Aryan and means "Land of the Aryans"…and they took that tidbit of information way too literally?) Anything that could possibly be found objectionable to Disney’s red state audience -- meaning authentic Persian/Iranian characteristics -- was quite literally white-washed. This truly is the Disneyfied interpretation of Persia and it is every bit as malicious as Disney’s Aladdin.
Sure the plot blatantly alludes to the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq by having the Persian army invade Alamut on all too familiar false pretenses; but this act reads more like “the Persians did the same thing, so what the U.S. has done to Iraq is not so bad after all.” Then the filmmakers’ questionable attitude toward unwarranted invasions and occupations is made all too apparent when Dashan rewinds history to the moment just after the Persian conquest of Alamut. Dashan has the opportunity to right Persia’s wrong, but he chooses to keep the Persian victory in the history books. If given the chance, I suspect that Disney would choose to leave the U.S. invasion of Iraq in the history books as well…though maybe they would grant George W. Bush a redo of his “Mission Accomplished” speech.