I'm not sure what possessed me to watch this film to be honest. I'll go with the production design - I wanted to see ancient Persia come to life. Yeah, that will do. *This is no one way reflects any thoughts on the popular video game on which this is based and is no doubt superior in every way).
Lord, though this was an appalling film on many accounts. Shall I list them? For starters, it appeared Mike Newell and Bruckheimer had thrown out storytelling and basic filmmaking 101 out of the window. (Should I be surprised? Newell's version of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' was an epic fail). The story was dreadful, the pacing all over the place, the characters were characterless, the whole thing was a mess.
The script appeared to be vomited out by someone and then there we are, listening to Gemma Arterton's insanely annoying whining and 'Persians' all in English accents. Here comes another tirade - Has Hollywood moved on from the times when Cleopatra was played by Elizabeth Taylor or white actors darkened themselves to play black characters? Er no, no it hasn't because we have white people playing Asians. This alone should have caused huge outrage. No amount of ridiculous tan is going to make Jake Gyllenhaal look remotely Persian, nor does putting thick eyeliner on everyone denote Asian-ness. It's so maddening - Arterton couldn't get more European looking, so why cast her at all? Her character was pathetic, any corpse would have done for it. If they had cast an Asian actress, at least it would have smacked of some credibility. Goodness, does no one in Hollywood have any shame? Clearly not and Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina don't get out of the firing line either. I mean, seriously, these two are more than decent actors, they know their craft brilliantly and here they are without any decency, parading as baseless fools. I got the distinct impression that Kingsley knew the material to be below him so committed to one takes, all of which lacked gravitas. Situation on set: Director: 'Great Sir Ben, could you perhaps go again with a little bit more feeling?' Kingsley: 'Nope, I'm off my trailer.' (mutters something about integrity and being tricked by Newell).
I think I was meant to 'feel' things at any point in the film but there was NO context to anything. Dastan in quickly recruited into the royal family just because of some rather brave act...okay? Then we have the brothers all grown up, they attack Alamut, there's a princess, there's a dagger (badly designed) and then there's some time travelling and of course, assassins! and lots of high flung sentences that fell flat like stones, such as Prince Dastan telling Princess Tamina/Tamara Drewe that 'What you see is the walk of a man who has lost everything.' *cough* I'm sorry, where? You lost your father but you show NOTHING in your performance that indicates your sorrow apart from a sigh and a vacant look. A camel could have summoned more emotion.
Even Persia brought to life was disappointing. Alamut looked like India - watch the architecture carefully, it was like the forts in Delhi or Jaipur. Apparently the video game from which this was based has Princess Tamina as an Indian princess and her city being in India, duh. Well that makes sense. But in the film it doesn't. At one point, the princess is decked out like an Egyptian. I was utterly confused. Where were we? The production design and costume design was stupid and there was no research. I'm sure the production designer and costume designer are people who generally create work worthy of pride but this was just embarrassing.
The whole film was bordering on racist as well. What's wrong with accents? Why be English? I just don't get it...I mean Richard Coyle as the oldest prince?? I swear his accent came out Scottish at times. He doesn't have an Asian feature on him! No one appeared to even try with this one and we're supposed to care about anything on the screen? That would be an optimistic assessment from the producers. I mean there was so much telling rather than showing. Everyone had running commentary without a decent pause to take it in and feel the weight of events. When Dastan tracks Tamina in the middle of the desert after she steals back the dagger, I'm left wondering why they couldn't have given us a couple of shots showing Dastan's abilities to track someone. Instead, there he is and there she is, the middle of nowhere, dandy and not at all dehydrated or suffering from lack of being attended to by handmaids. No she's even got 'wit' to spare (and I mean int the loose sense of the word because she does females in powerful positions no favours).
Verdict: 2/10 (the only saving grace were the sequences where Dastan is leaping and vaulting around which I imagine is why the video game is so popular).