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Theatrical Review: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

ByDarren Goodhart

May 30, 2010

A young orphaned boy, Dastan, living in the streets, displays an amazing bit of courage that impresses King Sharaman of Persia. The King, so impressed, adopts the boy and over the years, Dastan grows up to be a fine warrior and leader, though somewhat rougher around the edges than his brothers, Garsiv and Tus. Tus, the older brother is looking to expand the rule of the king and seeks to take the holy city of Alamut, though later we find out that this is against the wishes of the king, but still it’s happened and now it’s time to make the better of it. Along the way, we meet the beautiful Princess Tamina of Alamut, who’s also a guardian of something sacred within the city. Tus plans to make the Princess one of his wives, but the King has different plans and chooses to make her the wife of Dastan instead. At the presentation of the Princess to the King, the king dies under some mysterious circumstances and immediately everyone thinks Dastan is the one to have planned the murder. Now, Dastan and Tamina are on the run and Dastan seeks to bring the real murderer to justice. On their run, Dastan discovers what the princess was the guardian of, and there finds the real reason for the invasion of Alamut…

That’s the premise to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time the latest video game-to-movie adaptation to hit the big screen. It’s a pretty enjoyable romp, though there’s nothing of any real big surprise through the film. We know that Dastan will save the day. We know that he and the princess will eventually come together. And we know who will be uncovered as the real mastermind behind the plot to kill the king. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but the ride is fun getting there.

This is a big production from producer Jerry Bruckheimer, though it seems somewhat restrained in comparison to some of Bruckheimer’s other big action movies, and here that’s a pretty good thing, nothing ever really gets too overbearing.

That’s thanks to veteran director, Mike Newell, who’s basically making the type of movie that you’d see in the 40s, 50s and 60s but with today’s technology at his disposal. The production values are high, the effects are very good, and everything moves at a pretty even clip, all making for an entertaining adventure.

Now I’ve played a few Prince of Persia games in the past, though I’m certainly no expert on their history. I do know that through these games, with the exception of a couple, there’s little continuity between them. This movie does feature the involvement of the game series creator, Jordan Mechner, which for fans of the game will be welcome. They’ve basically (from what I understand) have created their own new story that borrows elements from past versions of the game and puts them together for something new here.

One of those elements, has always been that each Prince is a very nimble and athletic character, and it’s certainly put to good use here, using lots of factors from the sport of parkour. Now I’m sure some of these moments are helped out by visual effects, but others feel like they’re all done in-camera. The combination comes off well on the big-screen.

What also comes off well is the chemistry between our two leads, Dastan played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Tamina played by Gemma Arterton. I have to say, both actors look fantastic here, like they literally stepped out of the games into real life. Arterton, who we saw earlier in the year in Clash of the Titans is just stunningly beautiful, and she’s credible on screen (and as an aside, I personally think she’s someone who Warner Brothers and DC Comics should be eyeing to play Wonder Woman). Jake Gyllenhaal looks like he’s having a great time making this. He’s certainly had more meaningful work on the big screen, but I think he commits himself just as well to this pure popcorn material.

Ben Kingsley plays the Prince’s uncle, Nizam. We pretty much know the moment we see him, what sort of part he’ll play in the movie. He always brings a level of credibility to just about any part he plays. I almost wish he wasn’t cast here though, and someone less known would’ve been thrown into this part, just to maybe add a little more surprise to the film. It’s still solid work, just not as surprising as I would like. Alfred Molina is cast as Sheik Amar, a rogue “businessman” who Dastan and Tamina meet on the run. He really steals the show in just about every scene he’s in, bringing in just the right touch of humor without being obnoxious.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is solid B-movie fun. It doesn’t do anything new, but it doesn’t do anything wrong either and that’s a good combination for a summer popcorn film.

Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

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