Movie Review: Prince of Persia: Sands of Time

Like sands through an hourglass, so are the days of our lives. Well, that seems to be the case with Persian lives anyhow.

The new potential blockbuster from super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a titular hero Dastan, an Arabian peasant boy rescued and raised by a king. Flashforward years later, Dastan is leading an invasion into a holy city which is rumored to be holding WMDs. (Remember this is set around the same time as Sinbad or Aladdin so they are a WMD equivilent of the time).

The city being invaded by Dastan also holds many secrets and is ruled by the most beautiful princess in the land (Gemma Arterton). (Of course it is??!!) Along for the ride are Dastan’s two squabbling brothers (who are actual princes) (Toby Kebbell and Richard Coyle) and his uncle (Ben Kingsley). It is an easy victory and Dastan wins.

He is honored by the king for his bravery but during the ceremony Dastan is betrayed and forced into exile. For the rest of the film, Dastan is on the run with the stuck-up princess and a dagger that can freeze time for only a couple minutes. He has to clear his name and find out who betrayed him.

Okay first of all with this cast, this director and this script turning the classic video game into a movie was a blatant waste of time. I have been playing the game since it first came out in 1989. It was a beautiful game that harnessed all that was good about the Arabian Knights from Ali Baba to Sinbad to Aladdin.

It was one of my favorite games of the time and the plot was very simple. You are a hero in love with a Persian princess you must save her before an evil ruler kills her.

The ruler has given the princess an ultimatum, marry him or die in one hour. So you race to her rescue. In this version, the hero is nameless, isn’t Persian or even a prince. The title refers to what you will become if you save the Princess. Three sequels to this version of the game followed.

Finally in 2003, the series was overhauled by Canadian super game company UbiSoft with “Prince of Persia: Sands of Time”. The mega-popular relaunch also featured a nameless Prince. This time the hero is an actual Prince and is tricked by an evil Vizier to release the sands of time destroying his country and turning the people into monsters. The Prince and the Lady Farrah unchanged by the Vizier’s plan have to liberate the country and free its people by turning back the hands of time. There are no multiple princes, an Aladdin enhanced back story or a prince named Dastan.

The 2010 movie does harnass the allure of the video game with lavish sets, costumes and an impressive production design. The stunts are some of the most impressive in recent memory and even scenario is ripped right from the game itself. You could say this homage reminded me a lot of what they “tried” to do in the first Tomb Raider film.

My favorite performance in the movie was by the scene-stealing Alfred Molina who plays a morally-challenged trader that Dastan runs into.

There is no chemistry between leads Jake and Gemma. The feisty dialogue would be fun if these two actors actually liked each other. The thought of these two actually locking lips seems to have been an after thought since their kiss is tossed in during a giant battle sequence. It is almost like, “Oops we forgot to kiss! Better get that over with.”

I am not even going to get into how over-rated Gemma is as an actress. For an actress who has stolen some pretty impressive roles in recent years (RocknRolla, Quantum of Solace and last month’s Clash of the Titans), she is really very weak for an actress.

There is one scene in Prince of Persia where she is huddled in a tent telling Jake’s character about the “Gods” and how they are angry with man. I couldn’t help but burst out laughing it was like she almost got scripts mixed up between this and Clash.

There has been a lot of political backlash regarding the film and it’s casting. If it worked I wouldn’t complain but this doesn’t.

The new plot devices added to the Prince’s story make this film out to be more about a Western kingdom than an Arabian one.

If Jake had been surrounded by actual Arabian actors with exception for maybe Kingsley or Alfred Molina then I would have bought the film.

But what we get instead is a bunch of Shakespeareans spray-painted with Coppertone tans talking with British accents. Why does every kingdom or empire have to sound British and be populated by theatre actors?

Prince of Persia deserved a better adaptation than this attempt. I was so hoping for the fun of the old Arabian Knights movies, with some Pirates of the Caribbean and The Mummy thrown in for good measure. Sadly it wasn’t meant to be.

1.5 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer

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