Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is the story of Dalstan (Jake Gyllenhaal), who, as a young orphan was taken in by the King of Persia and treated as his own son. However, when the King is murdered 15 years later and Dalstan is framed, he must go on the run to save his life. The only thing is, he has recently acquired a mysterious dagger with some magical properties. Dalstan also has to deal with Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) who seems determined to go wherever the dagger goes.
Disney seem to be reverse engineering their blockbusters lately – first there was the Pirates of the Carribbean, based on an amusement park ride, and now there is Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – based on a computer game. Don’t movies and merchandise usually work the other way around?
It is actually very easy to see that this movie is based on a game – there are elements within the movie that you can see being parts of the game that would seriously challenge the player. The problem here is that, at times, the movie seriously challenges the viewers.
There is no doubt that Jake and Gemma are easy on the eye, but while Gyllenhaal seems to be seriously enjoying himself while jumping from pillar to post (literally), Arterton’s performance feels too similar to her recent turn in Clash of the Titans. The characters are different from one another in many ways, but maybe the films were just released too close together to allow the audience to forget about Io? There is very little about Princess Tamina that redeems her; she is spoiled and too used to getting her own way – whether because she is a princess or because she uses her sexual wiles – but after a while it gets annoying. She seems only to have one note and she plays it throughout the film.
Thank god for Jake Gyllenhaal. He said recently that he wants to be taken less seriously as an actor, and this is the perfect film for that to happen. Gyllenhaal literally spends the movie jumping, vaulting and running across many different things, and from the smile that is plastered across his face the entire time, he had the time of his life doing this movie. Gyllenhaal’s warmness shines through the character of Dalstan, which allows the audience to relate to him in way that might not have been possible with another actor.
Sadly, Jake Gyllenhaal’s smile cannot make up for the overly complex and convoluted plot that was dreamed up for the movie. There is a whole subsection of characters – and thus an entire section of the movie – that could have been cut for the sake of pace and keeping the plot tidy. There are also some strange allusions to the most recent invasion of Iraq; it seems that these were put in with the idea of being comedically critical of US policies, but they just don’t fit the tone of the movie.
Another issue, and a major one at that, is the lack of time travel in the movie. Fair enough, the sands of time that operate the knife have to come with some sort of a system that limits their use – otherwise the film would not have any boundaries and would turn into the Butterfly Effect (ugh) – but there are only three instances of time travel throughout the movie. This is sorely disappointing for a film that sells so much of itself on the idea of time travel.
Honourable mention has to go to Alfred Molina as Sheik Amar. He provides a lot of comic relief through the film, and though his character is largely superfluous, he is welcomed for the daft comments that he keeps making about taxes. Sadly, the same cannot be said for Ben Kingsley, who is sorely and tragically underused in the movie.
Overall, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time is silly and fun; it is a definite improvement on the first major movie of the summer, The Clash of the Titans, but there are too many issues for it to hold up against scrutiny. It is worth seeing, if only to see how much fun Jake Gyllenhaal had while making the movie, but there are a lot of issues that could have been resolved through some ruthless story editing.
Don’t say you weren’t warned.