Reviews

Review: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

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Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time starts off with a stolen fruit and a stolen scene from Aladdin, except that the royalty passing by is impressed with the beggar’s act of rebellion and adopts the agile orphan. Years pass and we see Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) all grown up and still somewhat resented by his brothers as they’re about to leave him behind to invade a city.

After a Persian victory thanks to his rogue actions they bring the city’s princess home, only to have celebrations short lived with Dastan and the princess on the run for the rest of the movie. From here he quickly learns that princess Tamina’s (Gemma Arterton) dagger has the ability to turn back time, and slowly discovers how exactly it’s up to the two of them to save the world from this power.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time starts off with a stolen fruit and a stolen scene from Aladdin, except that the royalty passing by is impressed with the beggar’s act of rebellion and adopts the agile orphan. Years pass and we see Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) all grown up and still somewhat resented by his brothers as they’re about to leave him behind to invade a city.

After a Persian victory thanks to his rogue actions they bring the city’s princess home, only to have celebrations short lived with Dastan and the princess on the run for the rest of the movie. From here he quickly learns that princess Tamina’s (Gemma Arterton) dagger has the ability to turn back time, and slowly discovers how exactly it’s up to the two of them to save the world from this power.{{page_break}}

 

Cities are gorgeous from afar but the first town was visually lacking when seen up close, with the rest of the movie’s immersive locations easily making up for its cheap looking sets and props early on. Then there’s another scene plucked from Aladdin and the obvious complaint that Jake Gyllenhaal doesn’t fit the part of a Persian. However, even though the time travel mechanic was obviously used often in the videogame and hardly at all in the movie, as someone who hasn’t played the game before, I walked away from this movie thinking they made the right choice in limiting its use. Beside these issues, there are only two small complaints that occasionally pop up and hold this back from being a really good adventure story. One issue is a few bad lines that should have been changed, and the other is the film’s pacing.

As is the case with most epic adventures, events can’t be rushed. It’s okay to have an excessive amount of camera cuts for action scenes – and yes, it did go way overboard with the camera work early on before relaxing – but it baffles me how nearly every movie that features gorgeous landscapes during lengthy travel scenes thinks the audience wants to move across a horizon in an instant. Take a full, uneventful minute and do nothing but let the environment speak for itself while music plays. When Planet Earth and There Will Be Blood are recent examples of how powerful this can be, it bothers me that we still have so many movies afraid to do this.

That’s it for the criticisms from me. People love to cling to the best adventure movies and unfairly claim everything else is crap, so there’s a fair share of those people and angry gamers that like to poke at this movie, but it does plenty of things right. Not only does it fully explore a few cities and many landscapes in between, but it also does a good job of portraying gameplay through film. Yes, the camera work was excessive at times, and running on rooftops and turning anything into a ledge is nothing new, but it actually plays out small logic puzzles while Dastan uses his environment during escape scenes as a player would in a game. He doesn’t always rely on simple sword strokes to finish fights, and the movie benefits from it.

Jake makes the best of things for being miscast (his face and body fit the part, but he's certainly no Persian), and uses his naturally droopy face to pull off some goofy facial expressions and keeps up decent banter with the princess for the entire movie. Gemma has moments where she showed emotions, and all the scenes that focus on the present are good, but there’s not enough to her past to sell any deep emotions. Ben Kingsley and many other recurring faces are just okay overall, but Sheik Amar (Alfred Molina) takes a good support role and makes a great character out of what he’s given. As a black market ostrich racing bookie he hates taxes and manages to turn the easily bought betrayer persona into a great comic relief character that sticks around through the end. Most of the action is okay at best, but the knife throwing battle was good and the spike whip villain scenes were great.

It’s no The Mummy, but as a fun, stylized popcorn flick, Prince of Persia does a good job at keeping you entertained and letting you walk away with a few memorable scenes.  There are rooftop chases, ostrich races, plenty of sword fights, entire wars, knife throwing duels with assassins, deadly whips and snakes, desert temples with sand tsunamis, a sandstorm, and even full blown tornadoes, so it brings a quantity of things to look forward to. Its pacing and a few finesse issues that kept popping up brought its overall success down quite a bit, but not enough to negate all of the fun things it did. It’s definitely one I look forward to rewatching on TV channels or picking up in a Blu-ray sale.

Overall Score: 7.35 – Good.(7s are good, but not great. These films often have a stereotypical plot or are great movies that have a few minor flaws. Fans of this movie’s genre might love it, but others will still enjoy seeing it in theaters.)

 

Glenn Morris:

Overall Score: 4.75 — Ya’ll better hope that the Iranian government never learns of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. If this gets out they’re gonna finish their testing and spark World War III as a direct response. You can read his full review here!