Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Review
If you’re Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer, how do you go about finding your next “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise? Well, you start by keeping the whole cast in long hair and eyeliner only you relocate them to the desert. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a familiar swashbuckling adventure only transplanted to the Middle East and outfitted with turbans, swords with even bigger curves, snakes and lots and lots of sand.
Based on the popular video game series created by Jordan Mechner, fans will delight to hear that “Prince of Persia” is one of few truly enjoyable adaptations out there. But then again, when Disney is there to throw money at it, this is hardly unexpected. I can’t speak of the loyalty toward characters or story-lines based on the video game franchise, but only a few lines of expository dialogue that repeat a bit too often and one or two scenes actually feel mildly like a video game.
“Persia” lacks the charm of “Pirates,” but there’s no deficit in the area of thrills or adventure. The plot is sometimes too complex for its own good; at numerous points we turn to Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) as she explains some previously missing piece of information about the sands of time that suddenly shifts the direction of the story toward yet another adventure or action sequence, but it’s not poorly contrived — just contrived — and the thrills that await don’t disappoint both in terms of visual effects and creative fun.
Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) was an orphan plucked from the streets and raised as a prince for a heroic act he performed as a child. Fast-forward to now. After leading a crafty siege of Tamina’s holy kingdom of Alamut, who allegedly has been aiding Persia’s enemies, Dastan is framed for the king’s murder and becomes a fugitive from his own people, escaping with the help of Tamina. The reason for all of this is a dagger that controls time, which fortunately, Dastan possesses. But all it means is more trouble awaits them both.
Gyllenhaal wears the blockbuster lead hero crown just as well as everyone thought he would and Arterton (Clash of the Titans) matches his likability in giving the film’s only multi-dimensional performance. Their classic loathing-turned-love romance subplot ends up being the only attention the script gives to developing character, but they achieve the goal of winning the audience’s favor in spite of some ineffective humor. Alfred Molina’s money-grubbing side character is about as funny as “Persia” gets and funny just means he can be a pretty good quirky character actor.
“Persia” works as a fun summer holiday blockbuster with flaws that are not too difficult to overlook, kind of like last Christmas’ Sherlock Holmes only without the prowess of a Robert Downey Jr. at the helm. Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) knows how to command a fun film and get the most bite in terms of action for a PG-13 movie. There are one or two more jumping or slow-mo shots of Gyllenhaal than necessary, but never a dull moment, especially with the script’s ever-building momentum. There’s probably not enough juice here for two or any sequels for that matter, but “Persia” is far from another mediocre video game adaptation.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Directed by Mike Newell
Written by Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard, Jordan Mechner (video game)
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina
Other Player Affinity Reviews
Dinah Thought: "Prince of Persia was not as bad as it appeared in the trailers. The thought of Jake Gyllenhaal as an action star seemed laughable and movies based on video games typically don’t fair too well. However, this adventure rose slightly above poor expectations. Although the sword-fighting flare doesn’t eclipse similar films like Pirates of the Caribbean, the spunk of leading lady Gemma Arterton, chemistry between the leading characters, and comic relief provided by Alfred Molena kept it above the fray. In comparison to other video game entries such as Street Fighter or In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, this big budget motion picture just gave hope to an otherwise failing sub-genre." Rating: 6/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 6.5/10