I’ve been a fan of Prince of Persia as a video game since the 2003 version on the PS2, The Sands of Time. However, given the track record of game-to-movie adaptations, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from the Disney spin-off film, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton and Ben Kingsley, and directed by Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire).
Well, I didn’t hate it, but it didn’t do a whole lot for me in the end either.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (let’s just call it PoP from now on) is first and foremost of popcorn movie, and as such, it isn’t too bad. The action and the feel of the film, for the most part, is exciting. As there is a lot of running around, being chased and fending off enemies, the film has this kind of Arabian Nights/Aladdin feel to it, which I thought was pretty cool. You know, lots of sand, people dressed in cloaks, a tightly built city, arrows and daggers, that sort of thing. I can honestly say that the film captured, to the extent it could have, the essence of the original video game on which it was based.
Before I forget, yes, PoP does have a plot. The plot revolves around a King, a few Princes, a Princess, a poorly concealed villain, and a magical weapon that can turn back time. It’s an adventure film that takes the central characters on a journey, and on their way to solving a mystery they find out a few things about the world and about each other. Not exactly groundbreaking stuff but it could have been a lot worse.
Jake Gyllenhaal, looking all buffed and tanned, makes a fine Prince Dastan, capturing the spirit of the video game character by climbing off walls, jumping from building to building, swinging off beams, poles and so forth. It was probably all stunt doubles, but nevertheless…whoever it was, it looked like fun. He’s a good, but not very memorable character because he lacks the charm of, say, a Captain Jack Sparrow.
Gemma Arterton has been in a lot of big movies lately (I last saw her in Clash of the Titans), but I don’t quite understand why she is so popular yet. She’s not a bad actress and she’s certainly not unattractive, but there’s something about her character, Princess Tamina, that got me irritated whenever she was on screen. Perhaps it was because she tried too hard to be a “feisty” heroine. Or maybe it was just the whiny voice.
Ben Kingsley doesn’t get to do a whole lot here, so it was up to Alfred Molina to save the minor characters with his Sheik Amar, who provided most of the comic relief. Steve Toussaint, who plays his knife-throwing sidekick, was probably the coolest character of the entire film, and he has a climatic battle that tops the action sequences.
My problem with PoP was that the pieces didn’t all fit together. Most aspects of the film were adequate, but nothing was particularly outstanding. In terms of excitement, action, comedy, drama and special effects, the film was above average in all departments, but the sum of the parts didn’t elevate it to another level. I want my big budget blockbusters to be great, not just good. And if there is one major gripe, it’s the ending. I absolutely hated it.
3.25 stars out of 5