Sunday, 4 July 2010

Prince of Persia and Shrek Forever After

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (dir. Mike Newell 2010) and Shrek Forever After (dir. Mike Mitchell 2010).

I’m in the city for the week so we had a big cinema outing today to see both these films. Strangely enough though, Brother did not want to see The Twilight Saga: Eclipse – odd, that...

Prince of Persia was better than we expected, which was a nice surprise. I did not agree with Brother that it was as good as The Mummy, but it was good fun, sufficiently intricately plotted that I tried to avoid leaving to use the bathroom and very, very pretty (oh, the costume porn!).

As far as I know, King Sharaman is not a real Persian king, and none of his family is real, so there’s absolutely no way of knowing at which point in the history of the Persian empire this is supposed to be set, apart from a brief glimpse at a map at the very beginning that confirms we’re in the Achaemenid, or Persian, Empire, between 550 and 330 BC. It’s not something to get worked up about, though, as this is not a film that’s too interested in placing itself firmly, historically or geographically. Aesthetically, it embraces all the sorts of things usually associated with Persia – rich fabrics, camels (yay!), those helmets with turbans and pointy bits that I’m not sure where they come from and women wearing bras and baggy trousers and belly dancing (no cats though. I think I did spot a carpet at one point). The king does have a rather beautiful and, from what I could see, vaguely Persian-looking gold death mask at one point. For the most part, though, this is almost as much in fantasy-land as Xena: Warrior Princess.

I’m hoping to do a post on 300 some time in the near future, and while I was watching Prince of Persia, I was reminded of an argument Brother and I had on the way back from seeing 300 a few years ago. I’ll go into more detail when I’ve re-watched the film and can post on it properly, but basically the argument centred around the depiction of the Persians in the film and, well, whether it was OK or not.

In Prince of Persia, we were told a story about a powerful nation who attacked a smaller one because spies had told them the smaller nation were hiding powerful weapons. However, they couldn’t find any weapons, and in fact, there were none, because the spies were under the control of an important politician who wanted a valuable substance that was buried underneath the smaller country. This story will sound familiar.

Then put the bigger country in the geographical area covered mainly by modern Iran. (Goodness knows where the smaller country is, somewhere near the border with India possibly).

I don’t think Prince of Persia is aiming at desperately incisive, biting political satire. But it makes a point, in a similar way to the bit in The Day After Tomorrow where the Mexicans refuse to allow anyone to cross the border. And in both cases, no matter how heavy-handed and possibly a wee bit inappropriate these bits are, I rather like that the scriptwriters put enough thought into their blockbuster script to include a bit of political irony.

We also saw Shrek Forever After. The Shrek series doesn’t include much in the way of classical references, as its fairy tale world tends to be derived from European folk tales and nineteenth century literature. However, there was one bit where we think we spotted a classical reference, though we couldn’t quite decide whether the costume was supposed to look vaguely Roman or Scottish. Whichever it was, as Shrek explored the ruined town, he passed by a small area where the Gingerbread Man was being forced to fight Wild Animal Biscuits (or possibly Wild Animal Crackers). This looked distinctly like a gladiatorial arena to me! (Couldn’t find a proper You Tube clip but there’s a game version clip here). I loved crazy fighter Gingerbread Man and thought the Animal Biscuits thing was especially fun and quite clever.

Also, Fiona’s army of ogres are mostly a cross between Braveheart and Robin Hood’s Merry Men, but I thought there was a touch of Boudicca to Fiona herself as well, as she lead her army with red hair blowing dramatically in the wind. The image of the red-haired warrior woman still has a certain power, or it does if you’re British anyway – it’s possible the American filmmakers didn’t intend it to look that way and it only seems that way to me because I’m British. (A blonde warrior woman, by the way, would look like a Viking, while a dark-haired warrior woman would look, um, possibly like Xena).

Both films were pretty good, I laughed during both (especially during Shrek) and both were well made and held the attention (especially Prince of Persia). And the costumes in Prince of Persia, historical accuracy or lack thereof notwithstanding, really were very pretty!


  1. Poison robe, poison robe, please miss, like Deianira and Medea.

  2. Yes, very true! Though it reminded me first of the Cate Blanchett film Elizabeth, which is even more horrible in the poison robe department

  3. I totally think the gingerbread man looks like a scowling Maximus!

  4. I haven't seen Prince of Persia yet but I'm glad that I now have a new phrase that makes me laugh: "Costume porn!"

  5. OK, now all I can see is scowling Maxmius! :) Costume porn is a perfect description of some of these things - both Sex and the City movies for example, I think it was a review of Sex and the City 1 I picked it up from, as 'fashion porn'!


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