When I heard that ‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time’ was based on a video game, my first thought was bleh, those never work. In fact, a lot of them go straight to video, like ‘Dead Space: Downfall’ or ‘Alone in the Dark II.’ Even some theatrical releases like ‘Hitman’ and ‘Max Payne’ left something to be desired, although I really loved the ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’ films.
So once in a while, you get a good video-based film that’s not half bad. How does ‘Prince of Persia’ fare in that respect? Well, it’s not half bad. With Mike Newell as director (he did ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’) and Jerry Bruckheimer as producer (the ‘National Treasure’ and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ films are among his credits), I figured the production would be good.
And the production IS good. Much of the filming took place in Morocco, and the sets and locales, whether real or computer-generated, feature stunning Persian palaces, dusty streets full of people clad in robes and sandals, and gorgeous vistas of sand-swept terrain.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Prince Dastan, a former street urchin who was adopted by King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup) and raised as a brother and equal to his majesty’s two legitimate heirs, Tus (Richard Coyle) and Garsiv (Toby Kebbell).
Ben Kingsley is their uncle and the king’s chief adviser, Nizam. The story picks up after the Persian army’s siege of the city of Alamut (which fails to turn up weapons that Nizam’s spies swore were there – ripped from the headlines perhaps?). Prince Dastan is then framed for a murder he didn’t commit, so he goes on the run with Alamut’s sassy Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton).
Meanwhile, Dastan has come into possession of a mystical dagger which has the ability to turn back the sands of time. Except the only person who knows it can do this is the one with the dagger. Time is turned back, but whomever else it affects knows nothing about it. We’re not supposed to think about the ramifications of this – it’s a fantasy, after all. I like the special effects that make it happen, though; a swirling storm of sand replays what just happened and drops the person’s ethereal figure back into their body.
‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time’ reminds me of the classic afternoon matinees where parents could drop the kids off while they did their shopping or ran errands. It’s PG-13 because of the violence, but it has a PG feel to it (and actually, it’s only one of two Walt Disney Pictures franchises released in the U.S. with a PG-13 rating; the other was the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ series).
In summary, ‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time’ is a fun escape for kids 13 and older, as well as their parents. I wouldn’t call it a spectacular movie – the plot is a little muddled in parts, and Gyllenhaal and Arterton, while beautiful people, don’t have a ton of chemistry. However, the movie also includes hidden gems like scene-stealer Alfred Molina, who plays Sheik Amar, an opportunistic guy who organizes ostrich races for betting and comments on taxes and government corruption. If there’s a sequel, I hope we get to see more of him.
NOTES FOR PARENTS:
Sex/Nudity: .One scene features a harem of scantily-clad women. Some flirting, mild innuendoes, and a couple of kisses.
Violence/Gore. Lots of chase scenes and fights using swords and knives. Assassins use snakes and martial arts to track down and kill their targets. In one scene, a character is killed by burns sustained when he dons a poison cloak.
Profanity: Fairly mild, including insults like “trash” and “illiterates.”
Images: Walt Disney Pictures