Disney brought panels for three upcoming movies to WonderCon this year, and Jerry Bruckheimer is attached to two of them. (Come to think of it, so is Alfred Molina… but only one of those men was here live onstage.) Two of the films are summer tent-pole hopefuls, and the third is already part of a very successful franchise. And all three feature massive amounts of CGI animation. Surprise!
In the long tradition of video-games being adapted into fantastically entertaining films comes the latest salvo from the Bruckheimer blockbuster machine. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is based on the long in the tooth “Prince of Persia” video-game series that features a prince on quests involving damsels in distress, magical items, and Robert Fure’s second favorite physical activity, parkour. There have been several games on multiple platforms over the past few decades, but this is the first film of what Disney hopes will be a very enjoyable and lucrative franchise.
Bruckheimer came on stage first and introduced a scene from the movie called “the Siege on Alamut” that finds Jake Gyllenhaal’s Prince Dasten attempting to enter a walled city through the back door. (At this point of the presentation it should be noted that AICN’s Eric Vespe leaned towards me and made a very funny Brokeback Mountain joke similar to the one you’re thinking right now.) Dasten doesn’t start the film in very high regard apparently and is not part of his brothers’ main attack on the Alamut fortress. He takes some of his men to the rear of the walled city and scales the wall in two very creative ways. First, he and some others rush the wall with a long pole and he walks it up as the men behind him lift it higher and higher. Once the pole has reached its limit archers begin shooting sturdy bolts into the wall that Dasten then uses to climb and swing his way to the top. Dasten lowers a rope for his men and soon they’re fighting their way towards the fortress’ front door. Gyllenhaal (and his stunt double) exhibit some very impressive acrobatics and combat as the prince fights, flips, and leaps his way around the screen. He fights with a sword in each hand, and the action-packed scene ends with the prince parkour-ing a man off his horse and discovering a very special dagger in the villain’s possession.
The scene’s action was actually exciting and impressively-done, but it was missing an element of scale… not in the sense that there should have been more soldiers, but in that it all appeared to take place on a sound stage. Which it did. At Pinewood Studios.
Bruckheimer was then joined onstage by the dreamy Gyllenhaal, game creator Jordan Mechner, and the film’s director Mike Newell. They introduced a second scene that features Dasten’s first experience with the Dagger of Time. Tamina (Gemma Arterton) and Dasten are chatting by a campfire when she surprises him by taking violent hold of his shaft. He wrestles the knife away from her and presses a hidden switch on the handle. Suddenly his hand, arm, and entire body begin to sizzle and flare and the scene we’ve just witnessed rewinds before both us and the burning Dasten. He then returns to his body with the knowledge of what’s about to happen and is able to alter events accordingly. It’s an effective introduction to the dagger and its powers, and Gyllenhaal plays dumbfounded and confused extremely well.
That’s it for new footage, but the Q&A brought about some interesting tidbits. Gyllenhaal acknowledged that while most of the action was planned in advance they still found opportunities to improvise onset. He and the stunt supervisors would survey the sets and obstacles in a scene and see if they could be factored into the action somehow. One such scene apparently involves Prince Dasten jumping over donkeys. Newell gave brief introductions to some of the other characters including… Alfred Molina provides comic relief in the vein of John Rhys-Davies’ role in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Arterton is a princess who leads a cult in charge of keeping the sands of time from destroying the world. Newell mentioned Sir Ben Kingsley, but stopped short of providing any real detail for fear of spoiling too much. He did however call the character “serpentine.” So make of that what you will. The best (and most honest) answer of the entire presentation came when Bruckheimer was asked why Prince of Persia wasn’t filmed in 3D. “Because Avatar hadn’t come out yet,” he replied.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time hits theaters on May 28th.