Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is the Jerry Bruckheimer produced adaptation of Ubisoft’s famed gaming series of the same name. Distributed by Disney and directed by Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Mona Lisa Smile, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), The Sands of Time is one of this years biggest blockbusters with a worldwide box office gross of $335, 147,676. A cast including Alfred Molina (An Education), Ben Kingsley (Sexy Beast) and Gemma Arterton (Clash of the Titans) is led by Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain) who plays as the films hero, Dastan.
The story begins with a young orphan boy (Dastan) getting adopted by the King of Persia after an extraordinary act of bravery. Upon becoming the Prince of Persia, Dastan becomes a hero of the people and is shown to shirk “Prince Duties” by choosing to have bare knuckle fights instead. Upon being wrongly accused of murdering his father, Dastan escapes on hisbrothers horse with Tamina (Arterton), the princess of Alamut and matriarch of the guardians of the sands of time. In an attempt to protect himself from the angry Princess, the Prince attempts to use a dagger he found inAlamut. A series of events then unfolds and time is reversed due to the release of the Sand of Time from the blades handle. Escaping the tyranny of his people and the wrath of his power hungry brother, Dastan and Tamina go on a quest to clear his name and ensure that his brother never uses the power of the Sands of Time.
One thing this huge blockbuster has going for it is the quality of story. Yes, it does seem a little rushed and it could be argued that it takes a little too much from the video game. This is because of how (love it or hate it), Dastan comes across a number of characters which are a little tougher than the rest in the same way a Boss would be the toughest opponent on a video game level. However, the story is made to seem very simple despite a reasonably complicated plot, which makes for a successful and interesting set of circumstances throughout it’s three act structure.
Another major plus for this film is it’s use of location. Featuring shots from all over the middle east (Persia), Mike Newell brings the feeling of an “epic” movie into the cinema and thus helps portray the power of the Persians throughout the film. This is key to developing the story of the Princes fight for power in the Persian kingdom and aids the story successfully.
Where The Sands of Time seems to drop the ball however, is in it’s failings in the CGI department. Yes, there are some truly beautiful pieces of CGI scattered around, but in general this feature of the film offers unconvincing and undesirable pictures for the director to play with. The shoddy CGI is also severely hindered by the terrible editing. Yes, terrible!
The lack of understanding the editors seem to have when it comes to making a huge blockbuster film is startlingly evident. Throughout the majority of the scenes, some nice pieces of direction from Mike Newell seem to be held back in favour of fast paced cuts which seem to make the film cheesy instead of more exciting. The first example which comes to mind is during an Ostrich race in which a classy, really well focused shot of an Ostrich head is shown. It instantly grabbed my attention, before quickly spitting me back out with a not so well established shot aimlessly placed in the middle.
The editing also does nothing to favour the hand to hand combat action sequences, as cute are constantly masking the impact of the punches. This is something that leaves you crying out for more, but is something that is understandable from a production point of view as it saves money on the choreography and also reduces the risk of having the film branded with a high age rating.
The high quality of supporting cast seems to be the saving grace of thisPrince of Persia film as roles from Alfred Molina and particularly Ben Kingsley, really hold your attention and drag you into the story.
However, the lead cast led by Jake Gyllenhaal is not at all spectacular and his bad use of an English accent leaves something to be desired. As an Oscar nominated actor, it was expected that Gyllenhaal was to be more than just something for the female audience to look at. However, this isn’t the case as he spends the majority of the film with little clothing and the Prince haircut which does not at all suit him. Gemma Arterton also leaves something to be desired on the acting front which is a major drain on the film as Arterton and Gyllenhaal share most of the on-screen time as main characters.
The inevitable ending is one which could have been done differently, but almost certainly works in this context and with a sequel likely to be on the cards it seems like we’ll be getting more of the same from Disney/Bruckheimer productions. Whether this is a good thing is a completely different question. One which I’ll answer with one simple word, no!
Sloppy fight scenes, terrible editing, poor leading performances and shoddy CGI are all mixed to make a film which is more famous for it’s use of Jake Gyllenhaals pecs than it is it’s actual production. A blockbuster in every sense of the word, The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time invited the male gaming audience and the drooling females in and inevitably let everyone down.