The plot feels cobbled together from myriad sources: a pinch of ‘The Thief of Baghdad’, a smattering of ‘The Mummy’ and a hefty dollop of ‘The Thousand and One Nights’. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Dastan, a one-time street urchin (natch) elevated to Persian Princeling by the generosity of good King Sharaman. But when Dastan goes against his two brothers and their scheming uncle Nizam (Ben Kingsley, whose moustache is just too short to twirl malevolently), he’s framed for the king’s murder and flees into the desert with only his camel and a bad-tempered princess (Gemma Arterton) for company.
As this synopsis suggests, Newell and his screenwriters leave no historical fantasy cliché unmolested, and that’s before we get to the mystical dagger, the supernatural assassins and Alfred Molina as a jolly, morally dubious gambler. The story does feel overfamiliar and suffers from a lack of dramatic tension as a consequence. Matters aren’t helped by shoddy CGI and some seriously silly last-act developments.
But Newell keeps things moving at a lick, barely allowing his actors a pause for breath between bouts of knockabout banter before chucking them into another athletic action scene. And Gyllenhaal is good value, his natural vulnerability working to offset some slightly alarming action-hero abs. ‘Prince of Persia’ won’t linger long in the memory – but then it probably wasn’t meant to.