This movie takes place in the standard fantasy Arabian environment template, where every scene takes place in one of three types of locations: sweeping deserts packed with sandstorms, gaudy palaces that all try to mimic the Taj Mahal, and bustling adobe marketplaces with about three inches of elbow room in any direction. The story is also your standard Arabian Nights tale of a rags-to-riches prince who chases around a mystical artifact and bags a snarky princess in the process of tripping right over the bad guy, who once again happens to be the obsequious advisor with the bad facial hair. It isn't a direct cut-and-paste of Aladdin, but it's pretty close. The part that differs is the part that instead takes its cues from modern politics, where the Prince and His Society invade a neighboring city in the search for WMDs. Instead they find the McGuffin.
"Sorry, but your depleted uranium is in another castle."
In this story, the McGuffin happens to be a sand-powered dagger that allows you to travel back in time...a whole minute. Riveting. But wait! You can refuel it at a wellspring of magic sand buried
Jake Gyllenhaal does a good job as Prince Dastan, the resident Acrobatic Good Guy, and gets along great with Gemma Arterton/Princess Tamina (although the soccer dad sitting behind me going "Ooooooooh" in an effort to make his kids squirm whenever Dastan and Tamina so much as made eye contact was incredibly irritating and had me this close to simply turning around and hitting him in the face with my box of Whoppers. But I digress). Ben Kingsley gives a good show as the slimy advisor/conspirator Nizam. The people who spent all that time crying about how the Prince of Persia doesn't actually feature an all-Persian cast (the same way Alien vs. Predator didn't actually feature aliens or Chris Hansen cameos) should, in all honesty, sit down and shut up.
PoP isn't necessarily boring by any means; every scene is action-packed and has flying projectiles of every kind. The dialogue is passable and lighthearted in all the right places, and the fight scenes are pretty. Why, then, am I disappointed? I was promised parkour out the wazoo. It was the big selling point of the movie, probably in order to compensate for the fact that most people hadn't even played or heard of Prince of Persia beyond the '89 side-scroller with the guy in the blue turban. But there is no parkour here. There are maybe a handful of arguably acrobatic scenes, and they're all edited, interrupted, and digitized to the point where the fight scenes in The Matrix looked more realistic than this. The sequence in the opening of Casino Royale is parkour. This is just Photoshopped attention-whoring.
This is pretty much the extent of the parkour in the movie.
Oh, and the story itself is just incredibly bland. The whole story moves along in accordance with the villain's ambition, as I've said before, so in this movie that really just means the Prince bounces around wave after wave of soldiers, and eventually against Nizam himself. Except the concept of a power-hungry advisor is inherently disappointing - Nizam doesn't want revenge, he doesn't want justice, he doesn't even want to see anything blown up for the sake of blowing stuff up. He was looking for the ability to rewrite the course of human history, solely so he could make himself king of a city in a single corner of the world. That's pathetic. And I hated the ending almost as much as I hated the epilogue of the final Harry Potter book.
I don't know whether it's a bigger indictment of the game writers or the movie writers that the stories are such garbage, but let's just hope that 1) there are no sequels to this; 2) the World of Warcraft movie is better.
My Rating: 2 out of 5 grains of sand