What do you say about a film which includes a “dagger of time” and magic sand which powers its time traveling capabilities? Yeah…magic sand!? Let’s get this out of the way right from the start – Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is ridiculous. Yes, utterly and completely ridiculous. It is however, at times, also fun.
Trying to find a good movie adapted from a video game is akin to finding a boy band who has aged well over the years. It just doesn’t happen all that often. Director Mike Newell and screenwirters Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro, and Carlo Bernard attempt to adapt the video game franchise created by Jordan Mechner for the big screen. How successful they are is debatable.
The story centers around Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), a street uchin who as a child was adopted into the family of King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup) and now is one of three princes of the Persian Empire. Although miscast (he’s neither an action star nor Persian) Gyllenhall relies on his charm to provide the kind of scruffy likable hero the film needs to build it’s silly premises around.
Led by his eldest brother (Richard Coyle) the Persian army invades the holy city of Azad which is ruled by the beautiful Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton). Although Dastan believes the siege on the city is about weapons being sold to Persia’s enemies, in fact the real reason is a hidden secret power which could unstabalize the region – a dagger which allows he who wields it to change small moments in time.
You can guess what happens next. The scruffy prince and the beautiful princess will learn the truth and be forced to join forces. Along the way they will meet amusing sidekicks (Alfred Molina, Steve Toussaint) have misadventures, and finally learn to trust each other and protect the knife against the villain who will use it. Now I’m not going to tell you who the bad guy of the flick is, since the script makes a token effort to hide his identity, but the film’s poster should give you a pretty big clue.
Gyllenhaal never takes himself or his circumstances too seriously. Both he and Arterton understand immediately what kind of movie the are in and simply go with it. That plus the film’s quick pace, not giving you a second to question some very sketchy plot points, create the kind of fast riding summer movie that many enjoy.
That isn’t to say Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is without problems. Too much of the action is blurry handheld quick-cut sequences that comes off more muddled than exciting. Daston also jumps around with the dexterity of a video game character (who does he think he is, Speedball?), but many such scenes are more giggle-inducing than awe-inspiring.
The movie certainly isn’t for everyone. I’ll offer a slight recommendation, but I certainly wouldn’t spend much time arguing with those who come away unsatisfied. It’s not as good as the first Pirates of the Caribbean (as it is being marketed), but if you enjoyed The Scorpion King or the The Mummy Returns than it maybe for you. Just keep your expectations low and be ready to check your brain at the door.