Roger Ebert launched a thousand blog posts with howls of protest by asserting that a video game could never be a work of art. I don’t say “never” when it comes to art, but by all evidence to this point, a video game does not make a movie. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who improbably turned a theme park ride into a phenomenally successful movie franchise with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, has not done as well by the Prince of Persia game, omitting the two elements that made the Pirates movies sensationally entertaining: a very good script and Johnny Depp.
Jake Gyllenhaal, newly bedecked in long hair, buff bod, and English accent, plays Dastan, a former street kid adopted by a king and raised as brother to his two sons. When he is framed for the murder of the king he must run. And since he has taken a special dagger that belongs to a princess, she has to come with him. She is the keeper of a sacred dagger, which gives everyone something to chase after, steal from each other, and almost lose many times.
The movie is about two-thirds action and one-third bickering banter. The action scenes are fairly good; the banter is below the level of chit-chat from Oscar presenters. There are winks at the game, with a lot of leaping between ledges and rooftops and the ability to rewind time. The story also has several distracting winks at current or near-current events, with complaints about taxes and a fruitless search for the ancient equivalent of weapons of mass destruction.
The settings are glorious. As swords are being wielded in a kaleidoscope of quick shots, we keep hoping for more of a chance to enjoy the scope and sweep and sumptuousness of the re-created ancient world of walled cities, palaces, and desert. Instead, it just serves to remind us of how undeserving the story that takes place there is by comparison.