Roger Ebert, or, The Rog as I like to call him, tell us:
"...Serves as an excellent illustration of my conviction that video games will never become an art form -- never, at least, until they morph into something else or more."He was talking about Hitman, which he went on to approve. 3 out 4. But this movie, is no Hitman. It's something much, much, worse: A video game shot on film... As bad or good as it sounds. That's what we get for 116 minutes.
The plot of this film is... Uh... Well, gimmie a second. See? Can't even pin it down really. Sure it's about a dagger that can turn back time. But it's also about 6th century Perisa, and kings, and heir's to the throne, and evil uncles and silly ostrich races (ugly things), and so much more. That was my first problem, it wasn't very clear to me, the dagger's involvement in the script kept switching roles. Not to mention providing a sham of an ending, turning the plot on it's face and providing me with interesting Who? What? Why? Why not this? Kinda stuff. But let me try. The city of Alamut get's invaded on the suspicion of weapons of mass destruction--that aren't there (one of many American political allusions in the script). The dagger was the real prize, but only one person knows that. Prince Dastan finds the dagger and the beautiful Princess Tamina get's taken hostage. Dastan soon get's framed for murdering his father, the king, and then everybody goes into panic mode. The Prince and Princess soon find themselves on the run.
Jake Gyllenhaal's Prince Dastan, has an amazing and unfounded ability to jump roof to roof, to window, to ground post, to horse, to street, across the city as if he were auditioning for a Batman comic book. Though his skills are never quiet explained, I believe we're supposed to except the fact that a street rat gains this through everyday life and survival. Are we to think, the distance and height of his jumps and great leaps alone are believable enough? No. Are we to think a 12 year old boy can jump two stories down onto another roof, feet first mind you, and then roll when he hits the roof like something out of a bad John Woo film? No. Are we to think that when we see Dastan, nearly suspended in mid air from wire-work and CGI backgrounds, it is really happening? No. Sell your actor doing his or her own stunts, sure, of course. But hire a Goddamn stunt man for the bigger shit, jumping and running on roof tops is the forte of any Parkour runner worth his salt. Why spend the money on the CG and have it look hokey, when you can hire a free runner to come in and bounce around your house? It's offensive in the highest, that the film makers think the audience is going to believe some of the stuff their seeing has no CG or wire-work, and think it's cool to look at on top of that too.
This is not a good example of an action film made in 2010, and in a year like this with a summer tent pole on the line... Come one dude, get it together. Swords, arrows, snakes, spears, and daggers go "Swoosh!" all too often. Less is never more in this one. And it got tiring to see the same kind of thing. Although, it was pretty cool to see some Aladdin factor coming alive in this. Or some updated version of The Thief of Bagdad, or a 40 Thieves kinda thing.
Jake G looked good as Dastan. Right amount of quiet smiling and wit, flirtatiousness and heroics. He's a good hero and a good back-and-forth romantic with Princess Tamina. His muscles pumped and toned (although not like his Jarhead self), sporting tough-guy facial stubble, long hair and English accent nailed. Which brings me to my next point. This film, has British accents for everyone in Persia, short of a few African knife throwers (world renown knife throwers who quickly become outclassed and miss plenty). This film has Tuesdays and Thursdays. This film has tax write-off's, pay-off's and anti-government rage (supplied by a bumbling buffoon of a Persian Alfred Molina). Gemma Arterton, taking the script into account, gave it her all with her character, Princess Tamina. Witty here, angry there, scared at times, beautiful always. Wise choice for Mike, bad choice for her. With two major productions under her belt this year (Clash being the other), she's gonna go smaller next time around, with Tamara Drewe just debuting at Cannes this past may. But I will say this, her character is in charge of protecting the dagger, and the huge-ass glass vile of magic mess-with-time-salt. In a quote she says: "Protect the dagger, not matter what the consequences." But this woman, endowed with the sacred dagger, has no training in weapons, hand-to-hand combat, evasive maneuvers, espionage or cant even throw a good punch. She has a very sharp tongue though, and a set of eyes that could stare a hole through a bank vault. But, don't you think, you'd bone up on your sacred guardian shit? If you have such an important task at hand, EVERYDAY. And with Ben Kingsly as Nazim as good as Ben is, I wasn't impressed one bit in this film. It could have been big bird and I wouldn't have given a shit about them (actually, woulda been a nice choice). Script's fault. He was a better middle eastern dude in Gandi. Molina at first was fuckin' terrible and comic-relief garbage. But after he re-enters the film, he grew on me and was genuinely funny, or, quirky, which is funny by accident.
No one is tanned. No one looks Persian. No one speaks a native language. British accents for old world Europe-setting movies are a default, so I'll stay away from that. The location shooting, sets, and flashy cinematography and camera work, are really something to behold. It makes it worth while to sit through the film. All in all, it's not so bad, but nothing terrific either. It was just as bad as I thought it would be. Not a hair more. not a hair less. Adequate as a summer film. If you're not a critic or an asshole, you'll find this one entertaining enough. So that's 2.5 for the Gyllenhaal's arm veins and long hair, Gemma's beauty (again) and Molina with his divine love for his last lady ostrich.