The road to box office success for movies based off of video games is potholed and strewn with broken down, bombed out carcasses (remember BloodRayne and In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale?).That doesn’t, however, stop the mostly concept-bankrupt power brokers of Hollywood from churning them, and films based off of comic books, out on an assembly line (they believe the captive audience from the game and/or comic will translate to easy money). And so Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, a film based off of a Ubisoft game of the same name, is the latest to travel this road to nowhere.
Yet, while Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is still plagued with problems, it surprisingly makes it further along the path than so many of the others before it.
Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal ), the Prince of Persia, suddenly finds himself at odds with the kingdom — brothers Garsiv (Toby Kebbell) and Tus (Richard Coyle), and uncle Nizam (Ben Kingsley) — after he is blamed for the murder of King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup). To save his good name (and his ass), his only recourse is to use an ornate dagger that holds the awesome power to turn back time. Of course everyone and their mother want the dagger for their own purposes, including the pretty Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton), from whose hands it was stolen.
From a cinematography standpoint, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is very impressive. The grand desertscapes and mountainscapes travelled by Dastan and his haughty “partner” Tamina are a visual delight. Even the overly sized castled cities are finely detailed conveying the aura of power the Persian Empire surely enjoyed in its heyday. It’s clear a lot of effort went into the look of the film.
The Parkour influenced flips, contortions and jumping which encompasses most of the film’s action sequences is equally impressive to watch. After awhile, it becomes rather linear (a by-product to the side scrolling game it is based on perhaps?), and it’s easy to catch onto the perfectly placed set pieces that allow for seamless combinations, but it is easy to forgive due to the level of difficulty involved. Perhaps the real pat on the back should go to Gyllenhaal, as he claims that he did most of the stunt work himself.
What’s not so impressive is the more than obvious arc for the storyline. It’s a given that Dastan must somehow prevail and stop the world from being reversed into oblivion, but how he gets there didn’t have to be telegraphed so blatantly that a blind man could have seen it coming. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time could have also done without the introduction of ostrich racing entrepreneur Sheik Amar (Alfred Molina). He’s put squarely into the movie for comic relief and for an unnecessary “bad guys really have good hearts” transformation at the end. The romantic flames between the Prince and Princess could have been fanned better too — apparently flirting is now all about who can throw the best verbal dagger at the other. Thankfully guys, Gemma Arterton is quite the stunner, so it’s easy to tune out her “witty” remarks. Oh yeah girls, Gyllenhaal’s beefed-up muscles and good looks will help you to tune out his “clever” retorts too.
When it’s all combined, the result is a formulaic movie that moves at a fast clip (I hardly noticed the 116 minute running time) and is chock full of entertaining, harmless “gymnasticy” action. I’m not sure whether this comedy-laced, low blood loss action is what the demographic for Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is interested in, thus, I suspect, it won’t be the summer blockbuster Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films were hoping for.