Review: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time


Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a movie based on a videogame, directed by a man who hates videogames. Needless to say, my expectations were low as I watched the film, but not low enough. This blockbuster might have been forgotten after a quick turn of the hourglass but Mike Newell’s open distain for the Prince of Persia games will assure he is blamed, and he will therefore be remembered for his hand in Prince of Persia rather than Donnie Brasco.

The plot, which is actually no more than a setup for a poorly executed magical dagger reverse slowmotion digital effect, surrounds a royal family led by King Sharaman (read: Saruman) that believes they must attack the holy city of Alamut during a time which predates the Muslims… so I don’t know what religion the movie is referring to.

Their war on Iraq..  I mean Alamut is justified because someone claims their peaceful neighbors are receiving mass shipments of the finest quality weapons in the land. Evidence of this crime which threatens the very core of an empire that “stretched from the steppes of China to the shores of the Mediterranean” is a single doormat rug filled with swords so unbelievably cheap looking that when dropped on a table in dramatic fashion, they barely make a sound. Actors trip over their lines in this scene. I think it’s because they’re in shock. It’s the magic carpet equivalent to a corrupt cop dropping a heavy pound of weed onto the ground and exclaiming “What do we have here?”

Centuries later, the level-headed western world will replace the “camel riding illiterates” (direct quote from the heroine) and allow us to order scimitar replicas for twenty dollars on ebay. This is the kind of anti-Eastern mentality that is woven through this film despite its power-drunk world power premise. What exactly was Jake Gyllenhaal thinking when his agent told him he should play an Iranian adopted into a middle-eastern royal family and subsequently accused of murdering his King? Was it really “How soon can I learn an English accent?”

Not that he’s alone. Every Persian in this film is British or pretending to be British, and I can’t understand why. Except…  no.  No, that’s impossible.  Mike Newell isn’t blaming Operation Iraqi Freedom on his own English people. That would be silly.

He wouldn’t cast American Gyllenhaal with an English accent and then explain that he’s a whiter street child that’s adopted by the other Brits. It wouldn’t work because nobody would think of him as American because, well for one thing the American hero wouldn’t make sense in that analogy because America invaded Iraq first, and for another his name is one of many run through the Persian name-generator: Dastan, which kind of sounds like Dustin, and can be abbreviated to Dusty.

Hey sand is dusty!

So yeah, the only thing saving Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time from being a running Hollywood joke is that it isn’t on an Uwe Boll budget (The effects are crap but the scenery is pretty). Man, what a waste of a hundred and fifty million dollars. Nothing in this wannabe-300 movie looks even remotely believable. I guffawed at the description of a boss fight being against “some sort of demon covered in spikes” that the script clearly called for, but then was junked when it wasn’t in the budget. A few lines are spliced in about this being a knife thrower that by no means fits that description.

The action is edited so crudely that I suspect it’s trying to hide sloppy choreography by stunt doubles, one of which looks nothing at all like Jake Gyllenhaal. The film supposedly hired parkour runners to teach acrobatics but the very premise of parkour (don’t stop) is ignored and nobody really looks physically impressive. They should have just hired athletes to play the parts. It worked for the Luc Besson produced District B13 and sequel B13 Ultimatum.

Lastly, I can’t finish a Prince of Persia review without dropping the name Gemma Arterton. She’s getting a bit of Hollywood heat. In this film she’s a blast, not because of any acting skill but because it’s blatantly obvious that she tricked herself into believing her green screen surroundings by dropping hits of acid. The entire performance consists of staring into space, or possibly at an off-screen raccoon that is warning her that the world is in danger of apocalyptic scale.

Overall Score: 4.10 – Terrible.  (4s are terrible in many ways. They’re bad enough that even diehard fans of its genre, director, or cast still probably won’t enjoy it at all, and everyone else will leave the theater incredibly angry. Not only are these not worth renting, you should even change the TV channel on them in the future.)

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.