When I said I'd be back, like our good friend Ahnuldt, I wasn't lying. And what better way for me to start this year's reviewing (yeah, I know, six months in, but hey, on my rota I have nine left) with Sir Ben Kingsley looking rather sinister minus toupee with his trademark bald head and makeup. Oooh, menacing indeed. Anyway, enough of me clawing on poor Ben's back (if he has decided to stop calling himself Sir Ben, so will I. It's not fair to use his knighthood against him. A moment of rare sympathy on my part), let's get on with the review of Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time. Realistically, this film has alot going against it, especially in the eyes of sneering upturned nose film critics, being based on a videogame, never a good start, but also being a massive blockbuster, ever the bane of snooty film critics. Also, strangely enough it is directed by Mike Newell, most famous for Four Weddings In A Funeral and Donnie Brasco, but I suppose Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire levels that out a bit. Story wise, Dastan as a young slumdog orphan is adopted by the King of Persia. Fifteen years later, Dastan, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, defies his brothers Tus and Garsif, who later praise him, for leading a successful attack on the city of Alamut. Dastan then comes into possession of a sacred dagger that can control time, and after being framed of his father's murder, goes on the run with the daggers guardian, the Princess Tamina, played by Gemma Arterton. Of course, devilishly behind all this framing and shaming is Nizam, played rather deviously by of course, the one and only, BEN KINGSLEY! To start with the good about the film, certainly the most commendable section of this film is the majestic production design. Clearly unlike the tactics on many blockbusters of late, which are overly reliant on CGI, although this does have alot of it, the design of the sets by Wolf Kroeger are very elaborate and really do give you a strong sense of the world being depicted onscreen. Gone is the greenscreen that has been used in many films such as 300 of late, and here we have a nice and pleasant welcome return to sets not dissimilar to those in Gladiator and The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Also, a big hello to cinematographer John Seale, who has proven his talents before in one of my favourite films The Hitcher and the first Harry Potter film. Here, his work gives a lavish and rather crisp feel to the film, another hark back from this current obsession with digital. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against new forms like digital shooting, 3D and CGI-soundstages, but there is such a thing as too much, and to be frank, I think most exist as a poor excuse for economically mobile and "efficient" film-making at the the expense of the final piece. It must also be said that the film, while certainly no acting masterclass, does possess some enjoyable performances from its actors. Jake Gyllenhaal never fails to not be a charming maverick onscreen, and to give him his due, whilst not a complex performance, he does throw himself into every role he plays. For all the harping people are doing about Team Edward, Jacob et al in the midst of the Eclipse anticipation/intercourse/orgy going on right now, I'm willing to say I'm a member of Team Dastan, because not only do I want to be different for sake of argument, but I like Gyllenhaal and he really has worked out for this role. As they say, the proof is in the pudding. Also, his interplay with Gemma Arterton does bring a few titters and giggles, more than many mainstream "comedies" can throw at us. Finally, Alfred Molina plays a rather amusing atypical "comedy" character. You know the comic relief character that's always in these films, which brings me on to my problems with this film. Now, by no means is it a bad film, so I suppose it does stand out from the Transformers/Sex and the City pile of slop, but my gripes start with the fact that it does not stand out enough. The real issues begin with of course, that dreaded bane of film, the screenplay. Don't forget this is where films begin, so if you don't nail this, you're in trouble. Now, the screenplay is credited to Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernhard, and the "screen story", which essentially means "ideas man", is credited to the game series creator Jordan Mechner. On imdb.com, there is a reviewer by the name of Bucaneerfilms who has given the film a 9-star rating out of 10, which I think is a tad-bit far. He praises the involvement of Mechner as game creator, and how he wishes to see his brain child emerge on screen. Good intentions indeed by all means, I played the game myself, but really, this script was really dire. It is cliché, nay on the point where as soon as a character enters onscreen, before they have opened their mouth, you can tell "right, he's good, he's bad, he's going to turn bad, he's really bad, she's the guardian who has the power to do whatsit with the what-what:" if you can make sense of this, you know what I mean. Come on, don't be lazy, you possess an intuition. Also, predictability is up to eleven on this one, and even whenever the plot attempts to make a twist late in the third act, it leaves you disappointed and feeling that the entire film's plot was superfluous and irrelevant. This might sound unfair, considering there are efforts clearly being put into the creation of this film, however, I do consider this to be a piece of lazy film-making. Mechner is quoted as having said in pre-production that "Rather than doing a straight beat-for-beat adaptation of the new video game, we're taking some cool elements from the game and using them to craft a new story." Yep, the cool elements (i.e. jumping and fighting) are there, but the plot is non-existent. My prevailing image of the film's pre-production process is of Mechner, Jerry Bruckheimer and Mike Newell sitting at a round table, smoking cigars, wearing eyeglasses, playing texas-hold-'em and sharing a pen while passing a screenplay around the room. After these "production meetings", they send the script to the script doctors to edit the script in "script meetings", which consist of the same script process as the "production meetings", except replacing cigars with cigarettes and with added coffee. Lazy, lazy, lazy. That's not my final diagnosis, for there are good elements and I did enjoy it, although I can't help feeling that something was left unfulfilled here.
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.5/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - So-so.