Prince of Persia is not a very good movie. It could and should have been better than it was, but due to some truly baffling plot points what could have been an entertaining summer epic is just a mess. Many viewers will write this off as the inevitable consequence of basing a movie on a video game, but contrary to that this movie is better when is stays close to its video game roots and falls flat when it deviates. The deviations from the game include obvious twists and drawing heavily on tired influences. The result is that what could have been the first truly good video game based movie is instead an uninspired and uninteresting amalgam of better movies.
The parts of Prince of Persia that could have made it good are there if the plot had let them. First, for a summer action movie the acting is actually very good. The casting was dead on as well. There were no outstanding performances but neither were there any noticeably poor ones. The acting was better than expected for a blockbuster. Also the action scenes were good. They were clear and well choreographed. The movie shines when the focus leaves the asinine plot and shows Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhal) performing acrobatic parkour feats. This is something that hews closely to the video game, which was primarily about using the Prince’s acrobatics to traverse the trap filled wreckage of a ruined palace. In the movie this translates into entertaining and unique action sequences. Prince of Persia is a joy to look at as well. The plot of the movie goes to some breathtaking and awe-inspiring places that really make the movie feel epic. It’s bad that the adventure itself is so dull.
Prince of Persia starts by showing how the titular Prince became such. Unlike the game, Dastan was not born a Prince. For some reason the script writers or somebody felt that what PoP really needed was a big dose of Disney’s Aladdin. In fact he is introduced in a near exact copy of the scene that introduces Aladdin in his movie. It then moves to the Prince, his two brothers and their uncle debating whether or not to attack a castle that they have been told not to but appears to be conspiring with their enemies. As soon as the uncle appears on screen he might as well have “villain” tattooed to his forehead. He looks very much like “Aladdin’s” Jafar. The uncle, who wants to fight, wins the argument and the battle begins. During the well done battle scene Dastan acquires a dagger that can control the sand of Time. He is quickly framed for the death of his father and escapes with the princess of the attacked castle. This leads to about an hour of the Prince trying to get in touch with his uncle to tell him he was framed, even though it is obvious to everyone in the audience that the uncle is the one who framed him. The movie plays it as though it is some big twist, but it is really just a waste of time. How could anyone doubt that Jafar is the bad guy?
The Princess is a troubled character. At the start she is capable of defending herself and even of killing the Prince when she catches him by surprise. But as the movie goes along she becomes more and more helpless and useless. Also introduced are Han Solo and Chewbacca. Actually it is the leader of a band of gambling thieves and his faithful bodyguard. Despite being somewhat pointless additions they are entertaining. Though why it was thought adding Star Wars to an already confused plot was a good idea baffles.
The plot eventually takes the Prince and friends to a place where the dagger can be kept safe, though hit is not clear how considering it has already been found and destroyed. It is revealed that Jafar wants to use the sands to go back and stop himself from saving his brothers life when they were kids. The Prince is able to stop him, but only after he has rewound time to before all the bad things in the movie happened. And he still gets the girl. In the game it starts with the Sands being unleashed and it follows the Prince’s attempts to fix things. Rewinding to before it happened is the goal and it costs the Prince his relationship with the Princess. Instead of the goal, the rewind is a happy accident that was said to cause the destruction of the world in the movie. It takes something that is convenient in the game and makes it stupidly more so.
Prince of Persia ends up as a messy combination of several better works; Aladdin, Star Wars and the game. It feels longer than its already bloated runtime, with its stellar action scenes too few and far between when compared to the lame plot. It is sad that the most glaring flaws of Prince of Persia will be written off as the remains of its video game heritage when in actuality those are the parts that stray furthest from the video game.