Friday, November 12, 2010

Prince of Persia (The Sands of Time) -- adoption, destiny and WMDs

Director: Mike Newell, 2010. (PG-13)

Disney's The Prince of Persia is, ironically, a live-action adventure based on a video game. Yet, despite its mongrel genealogy, this is no dog. It offers some lightweight fun, with adequate computer graphics, and a subtle nod at the recent American war.

As the movie begins, King Sharaman reigns over the Persian Empire, with his two sons Garsiv (Toby Kebbell) and Tus (Richard Coyle) and his brother Nizam (Ben Kingsley, Elegy). During one of their rides through their capital an orphan is being beaten in the streets. Another orphan, Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal, Brothers) intervenes to save him only to be caught after an exciting parkour-type chase through the market. About to be beaten or killed himself, Dastan finds salvation at the hands of the king. Tus narrates:
"Moved by what he saw, the king adopted the boy Dastan into his family. A son with no royal blood and no eye on his throne. But perhaps there was something else at work that day, something beyond simple understanding. The day a boy from the unlikeliest of places became a prince of Persia."
This early scene provides a beautiful picture of the salvation and adoption we receive from our King, Jesus. We are orphans, sinners by birth and by choice. We have turned our backs on the father who created us. Indeed, we have become his enemies (Col. 1:21). Yet, in his marvellous grace he has provided Jesus as our means of salvation. Through him we can be adopted into the family of God. We can become adopted children, experiencing the riches of his kingdom, sharing in his throne (Eph. 1:5). This is beyond simple understanding. It is a spiritual reality.

After the three brothers are grown, spies report on weapons being amassed in the sacred city of Alamut. With sage advice from advisor Nizam, the brothers set out to attack. Dastan leads a swift guerrilla attack and the battle is over before it begins. But when he presents the city's Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) and a precious robe to his father, his father dies from poison secreted on the robe. Dastan is accused of the murder, and he and Tamina take off on the lam, along with a magical dagger holding the sands of time that can reverse time for the holder.

Of course, there are no secret weapons. The screenwriter seems to be nodding back to the infamous WMDs, weapons of mass destruction, that were supposedly hidden in Iraq. Once the invasion was started with this reasoning, it could not be recalled. So too, the attack in the film.

The rest of the film depicts Dastan and Tamina on their journey to identify the person behind the murder and hence prove Dastan's innocence. Naturally, they start off at odds with one another, but are destined to become friends and more. Along the way Alfred Molina (An Education) once again steals the show as Sheik Amar, a cynical and entrepreneurial leader in a desert community. He has some of the best lines in the film: "Tch, secret government killing activity! That's why I don't pay taxes!"

Destiny proves to be the center of the film. And it proves to raise an interesting question. When Tamina loses the dagger she says, "It's gone. Protect the dagger no matter the consequences; that was my sacred calling. That was my destiny." But Dastan refutes her: "We make our own destiny, Princess." So, who's right?

Destiny is often defined as the predetermined, usually inevitable or irresistible, course of events. In this regard, it seems contradictory that we make our destiny. How can we make what is predetermined. Dastan's comment seems to focus on the free will of the human, but cannot really include destiny in this sense. On the other hand, Tamina is more on the mark. She had a predetermined role but her actual destiny, or what was to come, was something that she could not know. And the film proves this out.

There is similar theological dispute over destiny, or predeterminism vs free will. Proponents of both sides cite biblical passages to support their view. Perhaps there is a middle ground. Regardless, most biblical scholars would agree that God has in some sense control over destiny. Paul says, in Eph. 1:5, "he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will." And a similar concept of predestination appears in Romans 8:29-30. If God is sovereign, which is evident throughout the scriptures, and all-knowing then it would seem there is a destiny of sorts.

Whether you lean towards Dastan's view of destiny or Tamina's, though, you can become a member of the royal family by being adopted into God's family. Is that your destiny? Or will you make your own destiny and choose to follow Jesus? Don't let the sands of time slip through your hands. You won't find a secret dagger to reverse this.

Copyright ©2010, Martin Baggs

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