Saturday, 30 July 2011


(Mike Newell, 2010)

There is an attempt, somewhere within this massive, often beautiful Jerry Bruckheimer production, to recreate something of the spirit of the Romantic Middle Eastern Epics which were once a Sunday matinee staple. But that attempt jostles for breathing space with the interests of too many other focus groups and corporate partners and demographic-pandering ideas, with the end result that the whole thing is loud and busy and confusing, with some fine moments and interesting elements lost within the sandstorm of cgi and gags and action and cack-handed plotting.
Based upon Jordan Melchner's seminal platformer video game - and incorporating that, sort of, with a couple of thrilling free-running sequences and with one distinctly unthrilling cgi surf-the-collapsing-landscape scene - the plot is unnecessarily fussy and complicated. A common orphan adopted as a boy by a King finds himself blamed for the King's death and must flee with a beautiful princess, pursued by his Brothers and in possession of a dagger which allows the owner to travel back in time. It gets worse after that, and that takes a half an hour to set up. That leads to an episodic string of chases, encounters and fights, some lovely design and photography, some terrible dialogue, Alfred Molina as the comic relief, assassins who practice sorcery, lots of screwball love/hate exchanges between a hero and heroine who look good together but lack chemistry, an ostrich race, the criminal waste of Toby Kebell, Ben Kingsley sleepwalking throughout a stock villain role, and lots and lots of swords before it all ends in a big vague cgi climax and an unexpectedly satisfying resolution.
There are compensations; Gyllenhall is a convincing action star, Arterton is beautiful, Newell is a pro, never over-directing anything, and it always looks expensive and lush.
It's fun, mostly, and that might have to be enough in an adaptation of a videogame. But it could be more fun, you feel. It's almost there.

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