Naturally, such a device could prove a powerful weapon in the wrong hands, and Dastan soon finds himself on the run, accompanied only by Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton), who claims to have been anointed by the gods (whose gods, we’re never told) to protect the Dagger from those who covet it -- namely the king’s brother Nazam (Ben Kingsley), whose evil machinations are rather obviously telegraphed by his sinister fu manchu.
Tamina plays dual roles, functioning also as the sacred Keeper of the Backstory, serving up portions of the film’s mythology during lengthy bits of exposition after each milestone in Dastan’s quest. In this sense, Prince of Persia nods conspicuously to its videogame roots, mimicking the structure of a traditional quest game: A period of feverish action is followed by the narrative equivalent of the “Thank you, but the Princess is in another castle” trope from the original Super Mario Bros.
As in the classic Nintendo game, the process grows tiresome, if not boring. And yet, like a lean, swarthy, greasy-haired Mario, Gyllenhaal soldiers on, laboring vainly to overcome the film’s narrative deficiencies and Mike Newell’s often jarringly mediocre effects work. He loses the battle, but in the process proves himself a worthy action star. Unfortunately for Gyllenhaal, his princess is in another castle.