Caution: no pictures of Jake Gyllenhaal included

June 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

I went to see Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time today, and predictably it was boring and dull, with all the “action” scenes a pastiche of all the action scenes we’ve seen before, time and again. It’s quite likely that my enjoyment of the movie was ruined by the fact that I didn’t particularly feel good about seeing it today, when I had the nagging issue of Unfinished Work hanging over my head like the spectre of… a sandstorm. Thought it must be said that dumb as the movie was, Jake Gyllenhaal couldn’t give a dumb performance in his life even if he tried. Possibly I’m biased towards that cheeky smile and drowsy eyes… sigh… but more than that, I think that quality is just inherent in the type of actor he is: a steadfastly non-dumb one. Just like his sister, Maggie. Those are some good genes they be havin’.

However, that doesn’t mean Jake escapes from the sorry fact that seems to befall all thinking actors when they find themselves apparently acting in a steadfastly dumb movie. There is an unmistakeable tinge of shame, a shadow of dispirited listlessness that follows Prince Dastan as he scales palace walls, runs after a valuable something-or-other, leaps from one high place to another high place. And I don’t think that it has much to do with Prince Dastan fearing for his life, or worrying about the fate of his country and brothers. I think it has much to do with Jake Gyllenhaal thinking, “Why the fuck am I doing this? Oh yeah, the money. The money, Jake ol’ boy, stay focused, don’t let the audience SUSPECT that you did this for the money.”

Full confession is that I’ve never played the videogame, so I can’t happily go off on a bitter rant as to how the movie “ruined the game” like I would for a movie based on a book. But there was something indescribably creepy about watching white actors play Persian people, royalty or not; it’s like some sort of weird and relentless imperialism in reverse. How disturbing it is that white actors can now appropriate ancient Persian culture (granted, how much of it is realistic Persian culture is up for debate… forever) for the benefit of entertaining a global audience of non-discerning (or simply bored) movie-goers. And yes, white actors and Hollywood have been doing this for years, but for some reason I just felt indescribably irritated to hear Gemma Atterton and her proper British accent, untouched, in the role of some “Persian princess” and Jake Gyllenhaal with his white-boy (though lovely) face scamper about as the ragamuffin orphan turned “Persian prince.” And then the requisite real black people playing the fear-inspiring, knife-throwing slave (inevitably, despite all their ferocity, forever yoked to a superior, fairer master-owner and with a heart of gold ), and ostrich races, and some other bullshit. I mean, hell, even modern racial and cultural appropriation is a pastiche of all that has gone on before that one even wonders how to be suitably angry or outraged about anything anymore.

It was all just wrong, and there I was, having paid for the ticket, watching it. I mean, Jake – I share your shame.

Speaking of Gemma Atterton, she annoyed me less here than she did in Clash of the Titans, but I think her ethereal floatiness was kept in check by the decent chemistry she had with Jake. (Although I’m not too happy about the way he occasionally looked at her, pleasure and amusement mingled with desire, damnit.) In other words, just like Prince Dastan kept saving the day relentlessly while the feisty, opinionated, and independent princess yelped in fear, Jake saved Gemma. However, with her eternally pursed lips and straight and proper button nose, she is going in the way of Keira Knightley (only more irritating, though who but the Lord would have even thought that possible?).

God, this entire post has been one long rant of irritation, for which I apologise. May the dagger of untold secret powers help me out, or something.


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