Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Prince of Persia
The man who brought us the massively successful movie franchise based on a theme park ride has decided to put his efforts into another genre that isn't renowned for its character development or engrossing storytelling; videogames. Usually left to the likes of Uwe Bolle and Paul W Anderson, this sub-genre usually relies on big action set pieces to carry any flimsy storyline that might exist. However, Bruckheimer is no stranger to the action movie having produced more than his fair share of blockbuster movies; some classics, some disasters. This latest one falls somewhere in between.

Conceptually, PRINCE OF PERSIA comes from good stock. The game has been around for a long time and has large, loyal following, but more importantly is the heritage of the story, from 1001 Nights through to its various onscreen interpretations, such as THIEF OF BAGDHAD and ALADDIN. Who can't help but be drawn into the mysteries and adventures of the East? If you are looking for a bit of exotic and romantic escapism filled with heroes and villains then this does deliver.

Prince of Persia
Street urchin Dastan performs a selfless and heroic act to save another street kid, which impresses the the passing king so much that he instantly adopts him (kidnapping clearly doesn't apply if you are king). The boy then grows up to be Jake Gyllenhaal, and despite his regal upbringing he remains something of a rogue with a flair for parkour, but a fearless warrior nonetheless and much loved by his adopted family. When the king hears of large city, on the edge of his kingdom, that is manufacturing weapons to attack him and his court, they invade the city, with Gaston being the hero of the day, only to discover that there are no weapons (sounding familiar?), but there is a beautiful princess (Gemma Arterton) who is protecting a magical knife that can turn back time. And so the adventure begins.
Prince of Persia
Like most game adaptations, the characters are two-dimensional – thankfully they didn't make them 3D – and although all the elements of the mythical hero's journey are there, along with romance and conflict between the two easy-on-the-eye leads, an abundance of impressive action scenes, and even some time travel and clever special effects, the movie doesn't really engage. It's almost too by-the-numbers, as if they have taken the game and Chris Volger's screenwriting book and said, "This needs to happen here, we need this type of character here, this plot point here" and so on, then added some good actors to play the villains (and Alfred Molina's character is by far the best, and has the best lines).

Because it is Hollywood hokum, although with a mostly British cast and crew, having the characters all speak with British accents is neither here nor there - after all, it's not one of Mel Gibson's epics – but getting Gyllenhaal to speak with a British accent was a bit incongruous. If he was a street urchin he would have already spoken differently to his adopted family, so why not keep his American accent? OK, it's nit-picking, but if you start being bugged by those things you know something is not working with the film, or is it just me?

I recently defended IRON MAN 2 against negative criticism with the reason it is a comic book movie, although a superior example. Applying the same rules to PRINCE OF PERSIA, then I have to say that for a game-adaptation it is great example, compared to most of the others, but it is not a film filled memorable performances nor a riveting story. Not being a game-player I can't even make an informed comparison, but as a film watcher it just didn't satisfy. However, it was not so dire for me to wish I had some of the magical sand to get the two hours back.

PRINCE OF PERSIA: SANDS OF TIME is in cinemas and IMAX now.

Watch the all-revealing trailer here

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