Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is billed as a Disney action-adventure franchise starter. And this is what one can exactly get, a wholesome treat for adventure junkies delivering what it promises to be. It plays around the grand tradition of a visual pomp. Its 116 minutes of spectacle delivers nothing deep, but it suitably fits the rollicking swashbuckler video game adaptation that it is.
Spinning an effects-heavy flick born out of a popular video game, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is every bit a summer popcorn movie. It has all the Disney elements in place: mindless, high-octane, and epic. It involves a brotherhood theme, moral lessons, prince and princess adventure, happily ever after bearing, and a lot of action. This movie is genetically engineered as a summer cinema money-maker in the tradition of Disney’s past swashbuckling franchise Pirates of the Caribbean.
As a video-game fantasy flick tamed with a fairytale-ish treatment, the movie’s action and mayhem is designed to let the viewers overlook its flaws. The movie suffers from a silly plot and one-dimensional characters. It has a really shallow and preposterous story and it has nothing more than adolescent fluff. Yet, even though it’s ultimately forgettable after leaving the theater, the good thing about it is that it doesn’t pretend to be anything else than what it is. Its testosterone-fueled charm works for its level as an action-filled pastime and a fun ride with orchestrated set pieces, fine digital tricks, and energetic period setting.
The commercial treatment for Prince of Persia involves a lot of roof jumping, wall climbing, and desert chasing. It achieves its intention to look like a video game playing on the big screen with its suitable video game-ish stunts, parkour-style. Renowned parkour expert David Belle contributes to the fight choreography as he employs his signature skills; and this becomes one of the best aspects of the production. From the movements to the stunts, this swashbuckling romp reflects what can typically be seen in a video game. The main character’s movements resemble a video game hero. However, the movie falls short in rendering a completed game level. The viewers don’t really get challenged to reach a higher game scene as the story progresses. The movie only provides a plateau of fun fighting and chasing shots for most of its screen time.
Prince of Persia’s technical part delivers well. As a video game adaptation, director Mike Newell weaves such recycled fibers of action-filled scenes into an epic-adventure ride. He confidently mounts the live elements with entertaining computer effects.
Aside from the enjoyable stunts, cinematographer John Seale and production designer Wolf Kroeger, along with their respective teams, make the movie the dauntless epic movie that it is ought to be. Harry Gregson-Williams’ music lives up to its Disney brand and it functions well for this audio-visual treat’s mood and atmosphere. The movie’s pacing doesn’t impress, but overall, the editing by Mick Audsley, Michael Kahn, and Martin Walsh keeps up with the demands of adventure lovers. The screenplay from Boaz Yakin and Doug Miro is considerably mediocre and the dialogues of most characters mention the main character’s name, Dastan, just too many times.
There also moments that the fight scenes, while fun to watch, seem too much. The movie lacks worthwhile breathing spaces to the point that the viewer might just wish to own a magical dagger to turn back time.
The stellar cast contributes to the movie’s strengths. Jake Gyllenhaal as Prince Dastan keeps his boyish charm while effectively playing a period warrior prince. It’s a new image for him (after his typical boy-next-door or geeky or Brokeback Mountain personas on the screen). He nicely puts his newly buffed-up physique while buoyantly doing parkour stunts throughout the movie. He makes a pretty decent, viable action hero in this Jerry Bruckheimer produced flick. His chemistry with Gemma Arterton as Princess Tamina works. At some point though (even if it’s a trifle thing for this kind of movie), it just feels a little weird that Dastan is the only character who shows off his muscular arms and well-chiseled body in the movie (obviously, it’s from the agreed-upon costume design). From his brothers to the rest of the Persians around, he is the only muscular type showing off… At some point, it’s just too much since the subtlety of focusing on him as a main character looks too rubbing in (Steve Toussaint’s character as Seso shows off his arms as well, but his costume design is, of course, very much toned down compared to the lead).
The rest of the major cast members including Richard Coyle as Tus, Ben Kingsley as Nizam, Alfred Molina as Sheik Amar, Toby Kebbel as Garsiv, among others work well and contribute to this film’s commercial savvy appeal. The real stunts shown throughout the movie (mostly done by the actors themselves) also work to the film’s advantage.
As the swashbuckling popcorn movie that it is, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is also the type of movie that can probably sell good in Blu-ray and DVD.