Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
I have to confess that I had little to no interest in PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME. Although I consider the video game the film is based on to be one of the greatest video games of all time, I couldn’t get excited about the movie adaptation. But as I was watching the film, I realized that this is probably the closest I’ve seen a movie replicate the “spirit” of a video game. Complete with camera shots of our hero’s path and action scenes that felt like “levels”, the film proved to be a fun ride and worthy of the Prince of Persia name.
Jake Gyllenhaal is Dastan, one of three princes of Persia, but his story is different from his brothers because he is not of royal blood. He was hand picked by the king to live a life of royalty after the king witnessed Dastan’s bravery during a skirmish in the marketplace when Dastan was a young boy. As an adult, we catch up with Dastan and his brothers as they attack a holy city, which we later learn is because of an evil plot from an inside conspirator. But the treachery doesn’t stop there because Dastan is framed for the murder of the king and that forces him to embark on a name-clearing mission with the help of Princess Tamina (Gemmar Arterton, mimicking her role from CLASH OF THE TITANS) and a mystical dagger that can turn back time.
The plot may sound a little confusing, but director Mike Newell actually keeps it pretty simple. He does a great job of intertwining the story and the action scenes without getting bogged down in either. I thoroughly enjoyed the ending as Dastan and Nizam (Ben Kinglsey) battled to try and save the “sands of time”. Aside from an ostrich race that went on too long, the ride that we rode with our heroes was fun and entertaining. As for the mystical elements, they were clearly explained (maybe too much so), but not dwelled on.
The Prince of Persia video games are famous for two things; running on walls and solving puzzles. I wasn’t sure how either was going to translate on film and Newell’s answer for the wall running was to replace it with more acrobatic chase scenes (think CASINO ROYALE or DISTRICT 13). It worked for the film, but I would have liked to see more of the wall running. As for the puzzles, Newell attempted to insert them into the film, but the results were mixed, with most of the efforts falling flat or not being fully realized. It didn’t take away from the film and in fact, the film was better for not trying to add drama where it wasn’t necessary.
Special attention should be given to Jake Gyllenhall, who before this film hadn’t convinced me he could carry his own movie. He did very well as Dastan, conveying a sense of confidence and sincerity that is usually lost in these types of films. I was less impressed with his costars, specifically Ben Kingsley who sleepwalked through the villain role with disinterest. I was never fearful of Nizam or the demons he sent after Dastan. The only intensity from the film came from Dastan’s family, who wanted to kill him for the murder of their father/king.
At the end of the day, I was pleasantly surprised by PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME. Mike Newell managed to translate one of my favorite video games into an enjoyable movie. Even though there’s virtually no competition, I feel comfortable saying this is one of the all time best video game to movie adaptations we’ve seen. Who would have thought Jake Gyllenhaal had it in him?