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David Poland

By David Poland

Review – Prince of Persia

The analogy isn’t really Pirates of the Caribbean… it’s the The Mummy series.
PoP is better directed than any of the Mummy movies. It’s less well cast. It’s terribly written. And it seems to be paying respect to the gameplay of the video game to an obnoxious extent at times. But if you enjoyed the Mummy experience, you’re not likely to be sorry that you went to the theater to see this thing.
To really enjoy it, you have to be looking for a retro experience and show some serous generosity of spirit. For instance, all the British accents on these “Persians” and arabs of other stripes… not to mention the darkening make-up. Now, I went with this. If you can’t, you won’t make it past the first 5 minutes.
My sense is that Mike Newell decided to make an old-school Brit desert epic… there are no Caucasian characters to complain about the “wogs.” But it’s so overt – Gemma Arterton’s Arab princess has such a clipped accent, she could be playing the young Judi Dench giving an elocution class – that it can’t be anything but intentional.
Literally the only major character who actually is his own ethnicity is The Black Guy… played by a guy who is actually Black, Steve Toussaint. (Of course, he too is a Brit pretending to be ethnic.) But not a brown guy in sight… nowhere within an under-5. Lead “Hassanisan?” G

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30 Responses to “Review – Prince of Persia”

  1. The reason the first two Mummy movies work so well (and the third falls flat) is the casting above all else. All of the main characters are filled with good actors having fun, but taking it just seriously enough to maintain suspense. The genuine romantic chemistry between Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz, and their genuine chemistry with John Hannah and Oded Fehr… it all creates a genuine bond that pays off in the sequel and makes The Mummy Returns into a quasi-family reunion (we could care less about the plot, it’s just fun hanging out with these people again). Hell, the sequel even bothers to build a real (and amusing) antagonistic relationship between Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Freddi Boeth, as well as a rivalry between AAA and Fehr.
    Sure, the sequel runs out of steam after the pygmy-mummy forest attack, and the Scorpion King pay-off is kind awful, but the first two Mummy movies get away with their indulgences because the characters are vivid and entertaining. I absolutely believe that Mummy: Curse of the Dragon Emperor would have been more or less watchable had simply Weisz been coaxed back and some stupid reason been found to bring Oded Fehr’s movie-stealing bad-ass back into the fold.
    And, if I may, the first Mummy film has aged remarkably well. Heck, the first hour is all plot and character, with occasional bursts of action. The Mummy doesn’t even awaken for a full hour, and the hardcore CGI only shows up in the last (and weakest) reel. For most of its running-time, it’s an old-fashioned adventure movie, even if it is a bit amoral (the antagonists for the first hour are basically trying to stop the good guys from releasing said mummy).

  2. Mr. Gittes says:

    So this movie sucks.
    Paul Greengrass should consider casting Michael Fassbender as Long John Silver in his take on Treasure Island. ‘Cause that movie’s getting the Sherlock Holmes treatment, right? But with some sprinkled in Greengrass smarts.

  3. tfresca says:

    Okay I guess I’ll be the guy who says it. I have a problem watching a white guy bathed in tanning oil trying to pass for someone from a part of the world where most people are darker skinned. I guess they can’t sell this movie to middle america with someone who actually pass for being from that part of the world. I don’t know it just feels like those old Bob Hope movies where some white guy is covered in shoe polish.

  4. LexG says:

    This movie is going to RULE THE WORLD.
    GYLLENHAAL POWER, he is your KING OF KINGS and I expect nothing less than pure sun-baked Bruckheimerian genius. I want it to be LOUD, I want to be FUCKING STUPID, and I want it ro RULE.
    If they can play some like HEAVY METAL SWAMI MUSIC riff during all the shots of the natives, that would be icing on the cake.
    1) Has Bruckheimer entirely given up on disreputable, non-family bombast? I guess the last of those, like The Rock and Con Air, were developed under Simpson/Bruckheimer, but we still got a couple for years of sheer insanity from the guy; Ever since National Treasure and POTC, he’s all about the four quandrant megamovie EVERYONE can see, but personally I miss the CON AIR/BAD BOYS type of hostile insanity.
    2) What is the deal with Michael Fassbender?
    I’m assuming HUNGER, which is unseen by me, is 100% of the reason this guy’s being talked up like the Second Coming?
    Because in Inglorious Basterds, the guy made ZERO IMPRESSION, to the point that even after three viewings, I’m not even sure who he is.
    There’s this part with Mike Myers and some ramrod-straight, mustachioed hardon asshole, and they tell me THAT’S Michael Fassbender. Then the movie cuts to the basement and the bar sequence with the quiz game– and I’ll be goddamned if I can tell which of those guys is the same guy from the Mike Myers scene. Does he shave his stache or something? Is it a different guy? Which one is Fassbender?
    The dude makes NO IMPRESSION and has ZERO CHARISMA, and I couldn’t pick him out the next scene of HIS OWN MOVIE, let alone a police lineup…
    So why’s everyone so down with this guy suddenly?

  5. David Poland says:

    See Hunger. See the Andrea Arnold movie. Meet him. You’ll see it.

  6. Nick Rogers says:

    This movie was so bad that I longed for Brendan Fraser to show up and put Jake Gyllenhaal out of his misery. Mendelson is right: The first two “Mummy” movies hold up extremely well, and they’re a far sight more skillful, and fun, than “Prince of Persia.” Only by virtue of Alfred Molina is this not as bad as “Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,” and even Molina is clearly Jack Sparrow in a turban. By the time Jake Gyllenhaal (who’s great in heavy drama, but looks like he’d rather be serving time) and Ben Kingsley were grunting and groaning (literally) at each other in the climactic battle, it was mentally impossible for me to give a shit.
    Oh, and the cop-out ending is like watching an eight-year-old get pissed off at how poorly he’s playing his video game and hitting the reset button.

  7. Nick Rogers says:

    Oh, and I think the analogy is “Pirates of the Caribbean” in a way – in that this is what “PotC” would have been like were Orlando Bloom asked to carry the movie and not Johnny Depp.

  8. Nick Rogers says:

    Lastly, to Lex: “Persia” sure is fucking stupid and loud, but it doesn’t rule. And I’m with you on the belief that Bruckheimer is better when he’s going batshit. Give me the bad-motherfucker R-rated bliss of “Con Air” and “Bad Boys” anyday over “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”
    Speaking of “Apprentice,” does Bruckheimer have pictures of Alfred Molina and Toby Kebbell buggering each other? They’re in both “Persia” and “Apprentice”?

  9. LexG says:

    I am also declaring this movie to be the final litmus test as to whether Gemma Arterton is boner-worthy or not. I sort of just don’t “get” her…
    Absolutely lame in Quantum of Solace being all campy, especially next to Olga. Pirate Radio, yes, hot, but not as hot as two other chicks in that movie– January Jones and the other one who the main douche likes, who was WAY hotter than Gemma.
    And in Clash of the Titans I wasn’t entirely down… Relieved it looks like it’s Rosie Whiteley and not Gemma as THE FOX’s replacement, but I could be wrong and maybe Gemma just wasn’t lit right in any of those movies. If she isn’t hot under a Bruckheimer sheen, she’s out.

  10. Mr. Gittes says:

    Second Dave’s comment. And Fassbender gives the second best performance in Inglorious Basterds behind Waltz. In fact, Fassbender was set to audition for the Hans Landa role, but when he showed up to the reading QT told him to read for the Archie Cox part. Interesting.
    Fassbender(channeling Malcolm McDowell) might be the best part of Jonah Hex, which is a LexG kind of movie, no?

  11. Mr. Gittes says:

    Lex makes an interesting note.What happened to Bruckheimer investing in Crimson Tide/Enemy of the State type pictures? I can only imagine what Bruckheimer was thinking when he saw that — what? – ten, fifteen minute conversation between James Caan and Tuesday Weld in Michael Mann’s Thief….

  12. LexG says:

    Thief is the greatest thing ever made, especially Robert Prosky, Caan’s wardrobe, the BEACH SCENE MUSIC with JIM MOTHERFUCKING BELUSHI, and of course the final shootout, which, yeah, I guess would seem cheesy if you saw it for the first time in 2010, but growing up seemed like the height of intensity and one of the great fuck-it-ALL moments of catharsis this side of Taxi Driver.
    That said, even as Bruckheimer Fan #1, I don’t know that he was as hands-on then as now, as it’s Mann’s movie through and through; But, yes, even though the BRAND is mostly thought of now for either ’90s action excess or ’00s family adventures, I liked the Pakula-ish, icy adult conspiracy thrillers he was doing with Sir Tony for a bit there…
    Also, in the Bruckheimer pantheon, THIEF OF HEARTS is probably the most forgotten, but kinda hard to reconcile that AWESOME, half-THIEF, half-soft porn ‘8ps sleazefest– STEVEN BAUER and DAVID CARUSO, FALTERMEYER SCORE– with SORCERER’S APPRENTICE.
    Wasn’t at that fete for Bruckheimer last week, but I’m pretty confident in guessing Thief of Hearts didn’t make the retrospective.

  13. Michael J Bassett says:

    Fassbender auditioned for me a few years ago. He’s the real deal in my opinion.

  14. LexG says:

    Hey can I audition for you?
    I’ve been in L.A. for fifteen years taking acting classes and doing comedy, but I’ve never once gone on an audition, and I don’t have a headshot or a reel because I’ve never done anything and my hair’s so fucking bald I don’t take good pictures.
    Got any parts for a guy like that?

  15. Stella's Boy says:

    My father-in-law went apeshit when he heard that Hollywood made a movie with Persia in the title.

  16. Joe Leydon says:

    Thief has one of the great badass lines of all time: “I am the last guy in the world that you wanna fuck with.”

  17. Stella's Boy says:

    Thief is a masterpiece. I always forget that Bruckheimer produced it. Caan owns. He also has some awesome lines in Way of the Gun. Such an understated badass.

  18. Re – Jerry Bruckheimer. I think he just looked at the profits for Pirates 1, 2, 3 and National Treasure vs. the profits for Bad Boys II, Con Air, and Enemy of the State. He could spend $100 million on R-rated action films and hopefully make $250 million worldwide. Or he could spend $150-200 million on PG and PG-13 adventure pictures and rake in $350-600 million, if not far more on something like Pirates 2 and 3.
    And, regarding Pirates of the Caribbean, I’d argue (as I have before) that Orlando Bloom DID carry the first film. His overly-earnest, old-fashionedly romantic swashbuckler was the straight man that allowed Jack Sparrow to be as whacked-out as he was. Will Turner is the Luke Skywalker and Jack Sparrow is the Han Solo in that series. Heck, the structure for Dead Man’s Chest is somewhat similar to Empire, with Will separated from the group after the first act and sent into dark and moody locales to learn family secrets and what not. We’d no more want a Pirates movie that completely starred Jack Sparrow as we would want a Shrek film completely about Donkey.
    Sight unseen, I’d imagine the problem with Prince of Persia is that either it lacks a rebellious foil or it tries to cram the straight hero (Luke Skywalker, Will Turner, Jack Shepherd) and the sardonic sidekick (Han Solo, Jack Sparrow, James ‘Sawyer’ Ford) into one character (the title character).

  19. Chucky in Jersey says:

    The real problem comes in the promotion. Five or 10 years ago you would have found “A Jerry Bruckheimer Production” above the title. Any time you saw that you knew what you were going to get. Today it’s promoted with “From the producer of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’.” One more example of routine product.
    Sorry jeffmcm, name-checking other movies does not work and it’s especially shameful when it involves the biggest producer in Hollywood.

  20. David Poland says:

    A very smart observation, Scott… but isn’t Indiana Jones kinda that combo? PoP ain’t Indy (though the movie is less painfully unsure of itself than Indy 4 was).

  21. Sam says:

    Chucky: If name-checking doesn’t work, how come Bruckheimer movies are making, as Scott says above, more money now than they ever have?

  22. Nick Rogers says:

    I certainly recognize the increased global profit margin of an innocuous thrill machine over, say, Jordi Molla’s bloody torso wetly flopping in the sand after a landmine explosion. And I’m not asking for one every single year – just an occasional taste. Hell, even “Deja Vu” – PG-13, but the last thing even close to movies Lex and I have mentioned – made nearly $200 million worldwide.
    That’s an interesting counterpoint about PotC, too, Scott, even if I don’t necessarily agree with it. And I think you’re probably going to get such a Pirates movie next summer, savvy?
    I’m sure Alfred Molina was basically asked to be Jack Sparrow in a turban, and that’s what he does. It’s not horrible, but it’s beneath Alfred Molina. And yes, Gyllenhaal tries to be the wisenheimer and the tortured hero all at once, sucking at both IMO.

  23. Yup, we’ll see how a Sparrow-centric Pirates movie turns out. I’m not hopeful, but at least Marshall is cramming the cast with interesting actors.
    Frankly, Deja Vu may have been PG-13, but it sure felt like an R-rated thriller (I thought it was R going in and than realized that no one was swearing), to an extent that I think it hurt the all-ages appeal.

  24. Krazy Eyes says:

    Fassbender auditioned for me a few years ago. He’s the real deal in my opinion.
    So why didn’t you hire him?

  25. CaptainZahn says:

    “Meet him.”
    You’ve met Fassy!? I’m totes jello!
    Fassy’s got the skillz to pay the billz, Lex.
    He’s a mad pussy magnet, man!

  26. Michael J Bassett says:

    Krazy Eyes – At that point no one had heard of him so despite my own enthusiasm, response from sales and financiers was pretty muted. On top of that schedules didn’t work because he was passionate about doing a little film called ‘Hunger’.

  27. Krazy Eyes says:

    I guess hindsight is 20/20. There are probably thousands of casting stories where a future (or potential) star got passed over for an earlier role.
    Which film was it for? I had assumed Deathwatch but if he was involved with Hunger it was maybe for Solomon Kane? I can’t imagine him in Wilderness (too old for the kids, too old for Pertwee’s role).

  28. Michael J Bassett says:

    You’re right, it’s the story of the business. Generally talent does rise in the fullness of time. I met with Gemma Arterton too and she was so definately going to go places. Smart, feisty, funny and sexy. Totally wrong for what I needed but so clearly going to be succesful.
    I was re-watching Band of Brothers recently and noticed Fassbender was one of the smaller roles in Easy Company. Hell, even Simon Pegg is in a few crowd scenes there.

  29. Nick Rogers says:

    Scott: Agreed on the supporting cast for “Pirates 4,” although it saddens me to think we’ll neither hear Ian McShane’s most glorious 10-letter word nor get the cold-shower-required coverage of Penelope Cruz that Rob Marshall blessed us with in “Nine.”

  30. Wrecktum says:

    Bruckheimer has a first-look deal with Disney, which is no longer interested in R-rated fare anymore. That more than anything has shaped his theatrical output over the past decade.
    But also, I think his focus is more on TV. I’m sure he saw some of those syndication checks come in and he said, “fuck movies…procedural cha-ching.”

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