Surely though with Jerry Bruckenheimer uber producer on board, Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Anterton and Ben Kingsley taking acting duties and Mike Newell directing, what could go wrong.
Put simply, everything and nothing, encapsulating everything that is right and wrong with modern blockbuster movie making.
Gyllenhaal is Dastan, the adopted street urchin bought up as a prince, standing proudly at the side of King Dharaman of Persia (Ronald Pickup), in a vaguely situated 6th Century “Middle Eastern” country.
Falsely accusing the Holy City Alamut of supplying weapons, the city is raided and the beautiful Tamina (Anterton), queue lots of veils and handmaidens, is taken into custody. The plan being for Tamina to be married to Tus, the heir apparent, which should shore up a bit more solid support for the kingdom. When the king dies in strange circumstances, quite literally cloaked in mystery, Dastan is accused and goes on the run, taking Tamina along for company.
Thrown into the mix is Dastan’s remaining foster brother Garsiv (Kebble) and Uncle Nizam (Ben Kingsley), Nizam acting as confidant to Dastan. Nizam is on hand to stoke or calm the incestuous plot machinations as and when required.
During their travels, Dastan and Tamina bump into the not so mysterious group led by Sheik Amar (Alfred Molina). Amar acts as comic relief and bolsters the travelling band’s fighting ability with the very handy knife throwing Seso (Touissant). Just as well, as those pesky drug addled Hassasin get dragged out of the cinematic cliche cupboard again, to throw more road blocks in the way of our muscled, long haired, acrobatic hero.
Of course all of this is a mere hors d’oeuvres to the main event, the Dagger of Time. A nifty McGuffin, or plot device, which allows the film to mess with events by turning back time, as the sand drains through the bejeweled dagger. This allows all sorts of time shenanigans, so loved by movies in recent times and allows Dastan to pursue his destiny and hopefully clear his name.
The locations are fantastic, Morrocco standing in for the loosely described Persia. Set designs and costumes look marvelous and the acting talent available is undeniable. So why, allowing for all of these positives, is the dialogue so uniformly terrible.
As an example, we have horses, extras, explosions, whole cities created on sound-stages but when the lead character stops, cinematically turns and says “I know it hasn’t been easy between us Garsiv, but still, we are brothers”, the moment is somewhat lessened.
Technically, the film is well put together in a slick Summer Blockbuster way but there is no soul, or characterizations other than the cardboard kind. At no point could you imagine the characters behaving or talking as they do here. Films can be preposterous, silly and downright weird but you have to feel that the actors believe it, here they are reading lines and it shows.
The film is the equivalent of a cinematic magpie, stealing shiny bits off other movies, “The Mummy”, “Indiana Jones” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” but remains less than the sum of all those parts. Sure, the heroine is feisty but in an era when even hand drawn cartoons have strong women characters capable of doing it themselves, this is not good enough.
Ironic how things have turned out. Critics used to complain that CG Animated movies had no feeling, no humanity. Now we have the reverse, Pixar’s “Up” has more emotion in the first five minutes than this film can muster overall. Some big budget movies have become so sterile, so focus grouped to death that they represent almost a live action cartoon, stripped of all spontaneity that live actors can bring.
The action is universally average, probably due to the leaden dialogue and the extensive use of CGI. The action is skewed young and there are references to the titular characters ability to dangle and acrobatically swing from place to place with consummate ease, just like the “platform” game that inspired the movie.
Everyone looks to be having fun, perhaps more than the audience. Kingsley gets perhaps one decent line and presumably consoles himself with many hundreds of thousands of reasons for taking the part, all with the Queens head on them.
The movie equivalent of a Big Mac. Tastes good for a while but you feel bloated and guilty afterward. You know deep down, that eating or watching this stuff, is not going to do you any good.
Eminently forgettable, a film that the word “average” could have been invented for.