Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Playing the game ‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time’ on the XBOX a few years back was undoubtedly a fantastic game experience with the prince running and jumping and scaling walls, using that trusty blade to turn back time and picking up the princess along the way who proved a worthy accomplice in getting out of a few difficult situations. Ah, but old school gamers who happened to have owned an Amiga (which I still have) or an Apple II back in the day knew designer Jordan Mechner’s prince as a simple side scrolling sprite battling that evil bastard Jaffar in a game that is still one of the best ever made. Twenty plus years after the release of that original game Disney has released a huge summertime Prince of Persia movie which seems to have more computer generated imagery than even the latest computer generated video game with it all shaking it out to be something that was… you know… okay. I guess.

After a quick intro to the young street urchin Dastan who will be taken in by the Persian King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup) and adopted into his family as his third son, we pick up the action where the kings oldest son Prince Tus (Richard Coyle) is debating with his uncle Nizam (Ben Kinglsey) to invade a neighboring kingdom that intel clearly tells them are hiding weapons of mass destruction. Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaall) thinks they should wait until the king gets back from prayer to make this move but when Prince Tus gives the okay to invade, Prince Dastan and his merry band of parkour acrobats storm the castle, secure the position and the battle is quickly won.

During the invasion Dastan acquired a rather nifty blade which the conquered princess of this land, Tamina (Gemma Arterton), was trying to secure for reasons which will become clearer later on, but alas she is now the ward of the Persians and slated to become the next wife of Prince Tus.

Chicanery is the order of the day however for it is not long after the Prince and his team return to Persia that kind King Sharaman is murdered and suspicion is cast upon the noble Dastan who is forced to flee with Princess Tamina by his side. Adventure is now afoot and in a big way as Dastan learns the power of the blade an its ability to turn back time, the beautiful princess who started out as his adversary eventually becomes the love of his life and he learns the true identity of the once trusted person who has set him up to take the fall. A good rule of thumb is the guy wearing the most eye shadow is the one to be trusted the least. I live by that and it has served me well. Worst still is that this same guy who sanctioned the unwarranted WMD invasion has also dispatched his mystical Blackwater Operative equivalents to kill the prince and retrieve the dagger so he can use this time shifting dagger to do some really bad things. With the balance of the world at stake can our acrobatic prince and the stone faced princess… seriously, I don’t think she cracked a smile throughout the whole movie… stop the evil eye shadow wearing dude before he kills us all? Of course they can silly.

Sitting through ‘The Sands of Time’ it felt like something was missing, and it really shouldn’t have been that way considering that this movie had just everything I think anyone would want in a summertime action adventure. It’s light and uncomplicated, the movie is basically wall to wall action with enough running and jumping and sword fighting and computer generated adventure elements to fill three movies, but what seemed to be missing was a sense of ‘wonder’. In a film as grand as this one attempted to be, with the wide vistas and soaring music and swashbuckling adventure, all being viewed on the largest screen with the best sound that this Cineplex had to offer, it felt strange that there was no Awe in the middle of any of this. We can amend this somewhat because I don’t know if a twelve year old would feel the same way, and this is key because this is largely who this movie is made for despite the fact it was kind of violent for a Disney branded movie, but for an older guy who likes to believe that a movie can still take him away to another place and time, this one didn’t do that for me.

In a word the movie is functional. Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton aren’t bad as the leads and they are plenty good looking but they don’t transcend beyond the roles they are playing but they don’t bring them down either. Ben Kingsley can play these kinds of heavies in his sleep, which he basically does here, with maybe only Alfred Molina as the funny tax avoiding ‘businessman’ doing a little something extra to raise this exercise above average.

Now I did have some issues with the story, while recognizing the story mainly served the purpose of giving kids some reason to watch Jake Gyllenhaal’s computerized doppelganger swing from poles, but if the evil uncle just wanted to get the dagger from Prince Dastan, all he really had to do was ask for it. That’s it. Or wait until he went to sleep and the steal it. It did appear to be a little overkill to go through all that trouble just to get the knife from somebody who was just holding the knife simply because it was pretty. I’m just saying is all.

‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time’ is what it is and that’s functional summertime entertainment. To put it in its proper perspective ‘Clash of the Titans’ was less than functional summertime entertainment and ‘Iron Man 2’ was slightly more than functional summertime entertainment. This one falls squarely in the middle.

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