Came back from seeing Prince of Persia. Categorize this as the first guilty pleasure movie of the year. It does little to hide what it is: a big Bruckheimer summer blockbuster, superbly shot with modest action and ambitious stunts.
Of course, the question for us gamers is, how successful is the adaptation from video game to movie? I'd say there's just enough of the original Sands of Time flavor to deem the association apt. It's as Jordan Mechner himself says: "Rather than do a straight beat-for-beat adaptation of the new videogame, we're taking some cool elements from the game and using them to craft a new story." The kingdom of Alamut stands in for Azad, and Arterton's Tamina for Princess Farah. The uneasy alliance between she and Gyllenhaal's Dastan borrows from the same page as the game's, as well as the Dagger of Time, which is very much the MacGuffin of the entire movie. (I'm happy to report that they don't go especially overboard with the use of the Dagger. Excepting its outlandish application for the finale, its power is wisely only exploited for a few pivotal scenes.) What's new for the story is the Prince's royal lineage and his family ties, which is very much the driving force of the underlying plot. There's a keen level of deception and betrayal amongst the key players, keeping the audience guessing as to who's on the side of good or bad.
The writing isn't sharp, but it's not exactly wooden either. The actors do okay with the script they've got, and Mike Newell's direction gives the film that slight British wit. (This is, of course, in light of the "cultural misrepresentation" of the movie.) The better pieces of dialogue belong to the verbal banter between Tamina and Dastan, as well as Alfonso Molina's shady character Sheik Amar. They are, however, saddled with more exposition than one might expect.... or want. Due credit should be given, though; for every drawn out speech, a huge set piece action sequence isn't far behind. And when the action does kick in, it fires on all cylinders; parkour chases, daring acrobatics, zinging arrows from bows, deadly knife hurling, close quarter sword duels..... it's a gigantic smorgasbord of adventurous, swashbuckling material.
Gregson-Williams' score is standard action fare, but a far more interesting outing, at least, than his recent work in Shrek Forever After. There's a very Lawrence of Arabia feel to one of the main themes, heard best in "So, You're Going To Help Me?" The score's other main theme, prominently featured in This Is No Ordinary Dagger, is a melodically pleasing piece that I wished were used more often. The Alanis Morissette end theme I Remain, based on the first main theme, failed to make an impression on me at first blush -- yet the more I listen to it, the more I like it. As a pop song, it doesn't feel as tacked on as Avatar's I See You.
Persia is popcorn fare of the highest order. I had a better time with it than Iron Man 2, though not nearly as much as Kick-Ass. It also works fine as a standalone film, so it's certainly accessible to the non-gamer.