A Persian Shrug

Gemma Arterton as ‘Princess Tamina’ in “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”[Contains ranty, right on SPOILERS!!!]

I haven’t played a “Prince of Persia” game since my old Sega Master System days, so I have to say I was rather letdown by the total absence of shuffling, sword-wielding skeletons in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)… but that wasn’t the only disappointment!

For those who don’t know, this “sword-and-sorcery” action flick stars Jake Gyllenhaal as ‘Prince Dastan’, a rough-and-tumble ragamuffin who gets adopted by the head honcho of the Persian Empire, ‘King Sharaman’ (Ronald Pickup), and raised alongside his blue-blood “brothers”, ‘Tus’ (Richard Coyle) and ‘Garsiv’ (Toby Kebbell). Coaxed into attacking the holy city of Alamut by their totally creepy, blatantly evil uncle ‘Nizam’ (Ben Kingsley), the royal army scores an easy victory, and then sets about finding the secret weapon forges (or SWFs) that Nizam claimed were hidden somewhere under the palace. Meanwhile, Dastan finds himself manoeuvred into a “marriage of convenience” with Alamut’s resident ruler, ‘Princess Tamina’ (Gemma Arterton), by his father, who isn’t best pleased that his sons have disobeyed his explicit instruction not to start another war, and therefore feels that a little diplomatic “damage control” might be in order. Unbeknownst to them all (except Nizam, obviously) Tamina is the appointed guardian of a magickal dagger that can control time… the very dagger that Dastan managed to score during an earlier scuffle, and has jammed nonchalantly into his belt. Unfortunately he doesn’t figure out how to use the darn thing early enough to avoid being framed for the murder of his adopted father, who is burnt to death by a poisoned cloak (provided by Luz) that Dastan innocently presented to him as a “Yay, victory!” gift. After that, it’s just a lot of running and jumping and fighting. Meh.

Gemma Arterton as ‘Princess Tamina’ in “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”The big disappointment for me was how secondary Arterton’s character was here. The plot’s basically built on what I’d call “The Indiana Jones Frame”, where the male lead does all the heavy lifting and heroic stuff, while the female lead starts out as an untrustworthy and argumentative “load”/liability, before she eventually develops Stockholm Syndrome for the hero, at which point she gets “promoted” to love interest. Sure, she gets a couple of punches in here and there, but she is never treated as anything more than an adjunct to her knight-in-sweaty-armour. Apparently the fact that Alamut is built over a giant sandglass-of-doom which could theoretically destroy the entire planet wasn’t enough motivation for the people of that city, or the women who guard its secrets, to develop the kick-ass fighting abilities and cunning required to adequately defend it. Instead they have to rely on the kindness of ruggedly handsome and roguish strangers. Tch!

Recently I read a rather ill-conceived article on the subject of “Strong Female Characters”, written by a female script-reader who bemoaned the fact that a character like ‘Alice’ (from the Resident Evil movies) is shown to be as strong and aggressive as her male counterparts, even though in the real world the average woman is physically weaker and more timid than the average man (according to her). Apparently she’s never actually watched any Resi movies for herself, or she’s just conveniently forgotten the fact that Alice is a genetically-enhanced super-soldier, who can levitate objects with the power of her mind! That’s kinda the whole point of her character! It’s ridiculous to throw words like “ordinary” or “average” around when you’re dealing with Sci-Fi or Fantasy adventure stories, because by definition they deal with extraordinary and unique characters and events. It’s true, the average man can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound, and the average woman can’t scorpion-kick an enemy agent in the head… and that’s why we call it FICTION! Gah! Whether it’s healthy or helpful for us to fixate on these violent, power-trip fantasies is a whole other issue… my point is simply that what’s good for the genetically-enhanced goose is good for the genetically-enhanced gander.

About Dee CrowSeer

A comic book writer with an interest in feminism, philosophy, and affirmative action. He/him.
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