S.O.S. part two – THE BLANDS OF TIME
In this series, the Armchair discusses summer movies that failed to sizzle at the box office and examines why audiences chose to sit these turkeys out. We call it:
And in this installment we sift through:
To begin…No I didn’t see this movie! Of course not! And neither did you.
But why didn’t you want to see Disney/Bruckheimer’s Prince of Persia? Sure, it’s based on a video game that only hardcore gamers have ever heard of, but obscure source material can’t be the ONLY reason behind this would-be blockbuster’s underperformance, right? I did a little polling on this one and got back some wildly different answers. Some said they weren’t interested in “desert movies”, other said it looked too “samey”, while still others said Jake Gyllenhaal makes them sad. But the one common thread? NO ONE was interested in this movie.
But what we don’t know is WHY. We know swashbuckling is in, thanks to Pirates of the Caribbean. We know hot babes and buff guys never go out of style. There’s even some magic thrown in for good measure. So what’s the deal?
Well, let’s take a look at what they gave us to work with…
Okay so everything’s brown, we know that much. But what did they give us in terms of characters and story? Well, here’s what we know: Jake Gyllenhaal, sad-faced indie movie actor turned sad-faced buff action star, finds a dagger that turns back time and with the help of a stuck up princess type must take the One Dagger to Mordor before the forces of evil use it to unleash some sort of Armageddon.
Okay, that’s fine. But what this story – which must have been pitched as Aladdin meets Pirates of the Caribbean (both Disney as well) – is missing are the key components that made its predecessors (and EVERY story since the cave man days) irresistible: A hero you like, a villain you hate and a princess you love (not lust after – LOVE).
A Hero You Like?
Aladdin, with its simple, yet perfectly told story, has a protagonist that you can’t help but pull for the moment you meet him. And it’s not because he’s buff, a skilled fighter, or can jump sand dunes in a single bound. It’s because he’s a good-hearted person born on the lowest rung of the social ladder who longs to be something more – or as the movie so aptly puts it, he’s a “diamond in the rough.” Gyllenhaal? Well, we know he’s got a good build and likes to flirt. But that’s about it. Nothing really likeable there, at least, not $20 plus snacks and soda likeable. Hero you like? Not really. Strike one.
A Villain You Hate?
In this trailer, we’re given three villains to look at:
I know, I know. Not exactly the world’s series of evil. Look, trailers are all about first impressions, right? So what kind of impression do these guys make in their 2 seconds of fame? The first guy looks like he’s having toilet issues, the second guy is some kind of Mortal Kombat knock-off desert ninja and Ben “what the hell happened to my career I won an Oscar for heaven’s sake” Kingsly is the only one of them that has any lines – TWO, to be exact. “Time will erase everything” (um, what?) and “Find him!” Not exactly the stuff that gets you in the AFI’s top 100 villains list. Aside from a vague allusion to an anachronistic understanding of time travel paradoxes, these bad guys do nothing overtly despicable. Sure you see them fighting the good guy, but since we don’t really know the good guy very well and are given no context for these fights, it amounts to little more than filler. Strike two.
A Princess You Love?
This is most depressing of all. Female roles have come SO far, that to see one portrayed so flatly just makes you lose hope in humanity. I mean, she’s pretty, sure. I’ll give her a point for that. But she knows it and says as much, so I’m taking the point away. So what else does she offer? Any spark of humanity? Well, she knows the high temple is guarded by some sort of demon. Hey, that’s great, but it doesn’t make me fall in love. She will, however be the first person I call if I suspect my Mitsubishi may be under demonic siege, just so she can confirm it for me. Anyway, strike three.
And as for the magic… Listen, MAGIC should be the cinematic sign-on bonus. You like the characters, you like the story, you’re feeling pretty good about joining this crew on their journey – BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! HOW ABOUT WE THROW IN A MAGIC DAGGER! NOW HOW MUCH WOULD YOU PAY?!?
“Oh cool!” you say, “what does it do and how will it either doom or save the heroes and their world?”
“Time will erase everything” says Ben Kinglsey.
“Oh, I see. Two tickets for Toy Story 3, please.”
See what I’m saying? The magic doesn’t mean anything unless you MAKE it mean something! Think about The Force, the Flux Capacitor, Crossing the Streams, the One Ring, the proportional strength and speed of a spider, The Genesis Device. This is what you’re up against. You’ve got two and a half minutes to explain your magic to me and you gave me “Time will erase everything” – a sentence which not only tells me NOTHING about the dagger but in itself MEANS ABSOLUTLY NOTHING.
And if you think I’m being picky or demanding too much from a trailer, watch this:
In two and a half minutes, the same dream team of Disney and Bruckheimer gave me a hero to like (note his “diamond in the rough” slant), a villain to hate, a princess to love, a fantastic illustration of the movie’s magic, plus a healthy dose of laughs, action and romance. Is it any wonder this went on spawn three sequels and become to be one of the highest grossing films of all time, while the effects-laden but emotionally bare Prince of Persia went on to become blog-fodder?
When it comes to the longevity of this flick, I think Ben Kingsley’s words may prove to be more prophetic than the filmmakers suspected.
Sound off Moguls! Did you see Prince of Persia? Why or why not?
Next time: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice