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Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010) **

May 27, 2010


written by: Jordan Mechner, Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro & Carlo Bernard
produced by: Jerry Bruckheimer, Chad Oman, Eric Mcleod & Mike Stenson
directed by: Mike Newell
rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action)
116 min.
U.S. release date: May 28, 2010
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer brought talking guinea pigs to the big screen last summer and is responsible for turning a classic theme park ride into a multi-million dollar film franchise. Now, he’s decided to take a shot at bringing a popular video game to theaters. Why? Because Bruckheimer knows summer blockbusters and here we are in the first month of the summer movie season. So, just know that each summer, you’re gonna get some Bruckheimer which means big CGI, a convoluted plot with poor dialogue in a miscast movie. If you’re cool with that then get your popcorn and kick your feet up, since that’s what you’ll find here. Sure, it’s fun and entertaining but so is watching a dog chase his tail….and that’s free!
The movie starts off with a hot sun setting in a vast desert as we see text that reads something something destiny. Destiny. A word that will be repeated again and again in this movie, just in case all the riveting action will induce memory loss (more like disinterest). Along with that word, there’s also repeated phrases throughout, like random characters proclaiming “Prince of Persia”, as if we needed to be reminded of the title and “I didn’t kill my father” (more on that soon) which is delivered in a steady droll each time. What ever happened to trusting the audience to catch on to themes and key dialogue points, or hey, subtlety?
Honestly, the beginning does indeed grab you as we see a 6th century Persian king show compassion on a young street urchin who stands up for one of his own. After a display of the boy’s killer parkour moves, Good King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup) winds up adopting him in typical rags to royalty fashion. This transpires much to the chagrin of his two sons and his brother, Nizam (Ben Kingsley), who comes across as that wise uncle you can always count on. Too bad you can’t count on Sir Kingsley here (more on that later, but here’s a hint: the last film he was in based on a video game was Uwe Boll’s “BloodRayne“, which says it all right there) to bring his A game.
Like most Bruckheimier action films, it’s all too easy to follow where this is going. Dastan, the Persian street rat, turns into Jake Gyllenhaal fifteen years later complete with long, greasy hair and rock-hard abs and ripped deltoids. Like the video game character, Dastan can outmaneuver anyone as he runs up walls, careens rooftops, backflips and spins in mid-air. It’s a pretty compelling feat for an actor who we’re used to seeing brood his way through the reels. Gyllenhaal, with his smirk and attempt at a gleam in his eye, is almost convincing in the role. His action chops are there but it was hard to stop thinking it was Jake Gyllenhaal in a video game. It didn’t help that his British accent seemed out-of-place amid the sands of Persia.
Dexterous Dastan leads his two brothers,Garsiv (Toby Kebbell) and Tus (Richard Coyle), as they invade the holy city of Alamut when rumors circulate that their kingdom are supplying weapons to Persian rivals. Once scaling walls and stuntmen are dispensed, Dastan finds zero weapons for mass destructors. He does find the ravishing Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) though and a dagger full of time-shifting sand that she has sworn to protect. We’ve seen royalty like Tamina countless times before. She’s sassy, somewhat spoiled and although she knows how to defend herself, she of course, winds up needing Dashing Dastan. It’s too bad Arterton’s voice winds up being the most overpoweringly annoying aspect of her performance. It’s literally grating but I’m likely the only one to notice it.  
Prince of Persia The Sands of Time movie image by @mycine. //  
The typical convention of two attractive main characters thrust together, bickering their way throughout the story is woefully overdone. It doesn’t help here that Gyllenhaal and Arterton are devoid of chemistry. Also, there’s really not much to these characters to hold our interest. This is disappointing since it’s one of the elements that make the film forgettable. Still, it was at least more fun and entertaining than “Clash of the Titans” (also starring Arterton) from last month yet lacked the needed light charm of “The Mummy” movies.
Soon, the four screenwriters responsible for this rote script deliver very familiar plot devices with stock characters to propel this sandy yarn. Dastan is accused of murdering his father. His brothers are up in arms. He must clear his name while on the run. Who can he turn to? How about ostrich-racing con-man, Shiek Amar (a game Alfred Molina), who lives off the grid, supporting small businesses and passionately speaks out against taxes. Molina is fun and amusing here but after a while he comes across a bit too buffoonish. His character would’ve had more impact if he had some dramatic moments that weighted down the steaks which he was fighting for. Instead, he just felt like reliable comic relief, repeatedly assisting Dastan just in time.  
The real drama involves this Dagger of Time getting into the wrong hands. It’s a weapon that showcases some confusingly cool effects. You get the feeling that actually using the weapon in the video game is much cooler. Dastan and Tamina must protect it from getting into the hands of power-hungry, Nizam. That’s right, it’s pretty clear when we see Kingsley frown in almost every shot in his eyeliner that he is “the bad guy”. It’s too bad he doesn’t employ any nuances to inject something other than a Ming the Merciless riff. We know that Kingsley is a completely capable actor often holding a film together but he also has a history of earning a paycheck too. He presumably knows what kind of movie he’s in here and seems resolved to deliver an apathetic performance.


Director Mike Newell didn’t do any better with “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”, the weakest chapter in that series. So, it comes as no surprise that this film is found wanting.  Somehow he can construct fantastic action scenes that seem  He’s not alone though, the four screenwriters involved (one of whom actually created the classic video game) seem to miss out on inserting any connective flow. As one action scene ends, it seems like a game level was accomplished which was then followed by the obligatory screen load that exist only in video games. They must have  forgotten this is not a video game and instead we’re given inconsistent tones rife with exposition dialogue and (since that dagger can alter time) meaningless heroics.
Movies and video games have a really bad relationship. It’s a rare thing to experience a movie based on a video game that rises above its genre and stands solidly on its own merit. I can’t really think of one. On the flip side of that, name a video game based on a movie that really rocks. Yeah, thought so. Apart from each other, they can successfully exist in the same universe. But as soon as you try to cross the streams, something fizzles or short circuits. Whatever is special about that movie or video game is lost in translation, it just doesn’t hold up when a medium transfer occurs.
Of course that will not stop video games from becoming movies and movie-based video games since it’s ultimately all about profit. Bruckheimer knows this as much as he knows popcorn summer blockbusters and so do the studios, especially Disney. If they build a mindless adaptation of a popular video game series in hopes it will become the next film franchise, they will come. Most assuredly, audiences will flock to this on its Memorial Day opening weekend. They will either see Mr. Big in that other big movie opening this weekend or see big Mr. Jake Gyllenhaal and his newly sculpted abs. I’m not sure which song Alannis Morrisette was warbling during the end credits but it would’ve have been perfect if it was a cover of Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time”. I wish I could have.


9 Comments leave one →
  1. windi permalink
    May 27, 2010 1:22 pm

    I’m actually impressed you gave it 2 stars! I supposed that extra half star or so was for the special effects?

    I remember seeing the preview with Matt at some movie recently, and we both looked at each other and were like– ‘errr….no thanks’. What you wrote about it, was exactly what I imagined it to be. Long on special effects and action, short on plot or decent dialogue.

    No thanks!!

    Oh, and I had no idea it was based on a video game. Shows how much I know about video games! LOL

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      May 27, 2010 2:23 pm

      It’s still a fun and breezy time at the movies, just not something you need to flock to….unless you’re a Gyllenhaalic!

  2. Lane permalink
    May 28, 2010 12:01 pm

    I can not get passed Jake’s hair. It is enough to keep me out of the theatre

  3. Francesca Carboni Perry permalink
    May 31, 2010 3:00 pm

    Eeerk, I confess to being a Gyllenhaalic! Obviously I can’t wait to see this film, rocker hair, sweaty abs and all. Sad and superficial I know, but a gal has to have some fun some times, it can’t all be Tarkovsky and tears. I do agree though that video game to movie is a snake pit. Comic book to movie has it’s own special touch and feel, but when you are five minutes into a film and start thinking you’ve played it somewhere, it takes a lot to pull it off succesfully. I’m still waiting for Farmville the Movie – has no-one pitched that yet?
    I find Ben Kingsley very hard going. I think he is so ingrained in my head as Ghandi, it’s as if I’m watching Ghandi trying to be a movie star………..

  4. Wendi permalink
    June 1, 2010 11:28 pm

    I think the closest to a good video game movie is “Resident Evil”. It holds on it’s own with plot and Milla Jovivich has far more charisma than Gylenhaal and his “duh” face.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      June 2, 2010 7:37 am

      True! I’m hoping the new “Resident Evil” film doesn’t disappoint.

  5. Eve permalink
    June 6, 2010 8:34 pm

    I am with Lane,..Jake looks odd with that hair. When I saw the trailer–I knew immediately that I would not buy his character! It might just be me–but he really does not seem like the right fit for this role at all.


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