This film has sand dunes. Head gear. Swords. Peter O’Toole. Omar Sharif. And incredibly it’s not got anything to do with imperialist classic Lawrence of Arabia (1962). In fact, as far as I can tell this straight to DVD release Princess of Persia was conveniently launched at the same time as the $150 million Disney epic of an alarmingly similar title despite having nothing to do with the videogame franchise. This movie feels for all the world like a rich man’s folly; charting Xerxes’ fight against the Greeks nearly 1500 years ago by casting some Brit actors who would have been A list when your parents were still paying for stuff with shillings. This theory is compounded when you consider that the film is nowhere to be found on IMDB, and although there is a Princess of Persia listed, it was made in 1993 and would probably need to be taken home in a brown paper bag, perhaps with some papyrus Kleenex on the side.
Princess of Persia ostensibly revolves around a young peasant girl who eventually winds up as Xerxes’ Princess (of Persia) after a series of improbable events, with the aging stars taking up roles as politicians and generals. Despite being sold as an action epic, it is incredibly verbose, with long expositional scenes dragging its length out to almost two hours, and confusion assured if your attention drifts for five minutes. Which it almost certainly will, as the dialogue is delivered with the rapidity of an episode of The Gilmore Girls whilst sounding like it was written by someone attempting to make an educational documentary for kids. It is patronising, laden with unnecessary information and often poorly executed, particularly when not in the capably hammy hands of the likes of John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings trilogy, Raiders of the Lost Ark).
Although Princess of Persia sounds like a cheap cash-in, it is actually the home of some fairly impressive sets and great on-location photography. It might just be that watching a sea of extras fill a scene is something that feels more impressive to someone used to CGI nonsense barely constrained on the silver screen of Hollywood’s creation, but from time to time this film does look pretty great. It’s just a pity that the subjectively interesting cast and the appropriately domineering land and cityscapes are ruled over by uninteresting dimwit lead characters with painfully perky American accents.
Princess of Persia is an oddity that is sadly less enjoyable than its premise and cast list might imply. The dialogue isn’t bad enough to be funny, and the action isn’t good enough to make up for the chatty melodrama which it breaks up, but if you fancy having a little look at this you can pick up the DVD from this week.