The idea behind this fantasy, which takes place during the period of one of the greatest empires ever known, was conceived by one of the film’s producers, Jordan Mechner. In 1989, he created a video game called The Prince of Persia. Mechner believed that it was possible to create new mythologies about a culture that had created many of its own fantasies for thousands of years. He maintains that the Persians would have had no trouble in accepting that a dagger existed which could turn back time and allow its possessor to rule the world. Great stuff! And, you don’t have to be a video game enthusiast to go along for the ride. It is, after all, a Jerry Bruckheimer production and therefore anything is possible.
Directed by Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), with a rather fine cast which includes Jake Gyllenhaal (Dastan), Gemma Arterton (Tamina) and Sir Ben Kingsley (Uncle Nizam), the film opens with an acrobatic foot chase above the rooftops in Oukaimden in Morocco. Dastan (Will Foster), a street urchin who grows up to be a rather buffed and coiffed version played by Gyllenhaal, is being pursued by a Persian Army captain after he stole an apple. When he is captured, his feisty response singles him out as having great potential for the future and he is spared a ghastly punishment by non other than the noble King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup), who adopts him as one of his own sons.
As in all families, there are the goodies and the baddies and no exception here. Dastan is coerced into attacking the ancient city of Alamut to prove his worth to his adopted family, especially his brothers Tus (Richard Coyle) and Garsiv (Toby Kebbell). The reason for the invasion is because there was a rumour that the city was hording a mass of weapons which, dare I say it, had the potential to cause mass destruction to the Persian armies.
After the assassination of his adopted father and the fact that he is held responsible, Dastan goes on the run with the beautiful, but suspicious Princess Tamina of Alamat. They are both trying to protect an ancient dagger which holds a great secret and, because of its incredible power, it must not fall in the wrong hands.
The film takes off at this point. There are thrilling fights with acrobatic Hassansin warriors, encounters with a master African knife thrower, Seso (Steve Toussaint), a wily Sheikh Amar (Alfred Molina), snakes galore, sand storms like nothing you have seen on screen before and a number of rather weird ostriches, who make interesting extras. These characters and scenes all flesh out the inevitable love story that takes place.
The Moroccan and Pinewood Studio set designs by Wolf Kroeger, which were seen as completely alternate worlds, combining fantasy, history and imagination, are truly fabulous. The crew spent weeks in suffocating locations in Morocco to create an authentic period that looks great on screen. The deserts are wide and wonderful and the cities are dusty and exotic. As are the stage sets erected at Pinewood which were big enough to film some of the battle scenes. There are nearly 1,200 visual-effects shots including time rewinds, which were long and involved and these are apparent on screen. This is a film that is a guilty visual pleasure, with a rollicking tale, which will appeal to a youth market that gets off on stunt-filled adventure, with a bit of suspense and eye-candy thrown in.
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