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Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (A Movie Review)

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time


Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina, Steve Toussaint, Toby Kebbell, Richard Coyle, Ronald Pickup, Reece Ritchie and Gisli Orn Gardarsson.

Screenplay by Boaz Yakin and Doug Miro & Carlo Bernard.

Directed by Mike Newell.

Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. 115 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Movies based on video games are always a dicey proposition. Gaming and filmmaking are such different art forms – one is purely reactive and the other is provoking thought. 

At this point dozens of video games have been made as films – including Doom, Tomb Raider, Super Mario Brothers, Alone in the Dark, Silent Hill and many, many more. Honestly, not even one of them can be called a good film – though a few have reached the level of okay. 

Personally, at least, Prince of Persia has a bit more resonance to me, simply because it was one of the few games which have been made to film from back in my gaming days and which I actually played. Of course, I played the first two Prince of Persia games, and from what I hear, this film is based on the sixth adventure in the long-lived series. 

That said, the game is about twenty years old now, so you have to wonder how much the audience has been waiting around for it. 

However, Prince of Persia certainly has more muscle behind it, created by much the same filmmaking team that made the equally unlikely theme park ride source material into the wonderfully entertaining first Pirates of Caribbean movie. It also stars a hot young star – that acclaimed Persian actor Jake Gyllenhaal – and includes one of the all-too-regular slumming performances by Oscar-winning thespian Sir Ben Kingsley. It also includes a scene-stealing supporting role by Alfred Molina (Spider Man 2, Raiders of the Lost Ark), one of the most likable genre actors around.

They are obviously looking to make Persia a huge franchise. Too bad, they forgot about the storyline.

Prince of Persia, for all its flashy effects and hip performers is essentially just another old-fashioned swords-and-sand melodrama. There isn’t all that much here that you haven’t already seen in The Mummy series or Clash of the Titans – which even shares Prince of Persia female lead Gemma Arterton. 

Much like Titans it is the story of the adopted child of a leader who must fight all sorts of old-school dangers like giant monsters and angry villagers in order to save his father from a family member’s attempted coup d’état. He is sent out into the wilderness with a wisecracking gorgeous woman (the role played by Arterton in both films) who he originally hates but eventually comes to love. 

In fairness, Prince of Persia is better than Clash of the Titans. That isn’t saying all that much, though. 

Unfortunately, as usual with game-based films, the filmmakers feel the need to heap on ridiculous stunts. For example, you keep wondering why the prince keeps jumping from post to post when there is a perfectly functional floor about ten feet below. Therefore, in way too many scenes you almost feel like you are just watching someone playing a video game – and there is nothing more boring than watching someone else playing a video game. 

The one clever plot contrivance – a magical dagger which allows the user to turn back time – is pretty underused. Then again, if it were used properly, then there really would have been no story. 

Actually, come to think of it, there still isn’t.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2010 All rights reserved. Posted: September 14, 2010.


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