Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)
Director: Mike Newell
Screenwriters: Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina, Steve Toussaint, Toby Kebbell, Richard Coyle
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 year’s 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) being 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 Princely Duties by choosing to have bare knuckle fights instead. Upon being wrongly accused of murdering his father, Dastan escapes on his brother’s horse with Tamina (Arterton), the princess of Alamut and matriarch of the guardians of the sands of time. 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 that 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 its three act structure.
Another major plus for this film is it’s use of location. Featuring shots from all over the middle east, Mike Newell brings the feeling of an “epic” movie into the cinema and thus helps to portray the power of the Persian Empire throughout the film. This is key to developing the story of the Prince’s 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. 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 some terrible editing.
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 film, nice pieces of direction from Mike Newell seem to be held back in favour of quick cuts which seem to make the film cheesy instead of exciting. The first example that comes to mind is during an Ostrich race in which a classy, well-focused shot of an Ostrich head is shown. It instantly grabs your attention before quickly spitting you 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 cuts 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 this Prince of Persia film as roles from Alfred Molina and particularly Ben Kingsley really hold your attention and drag you into the story.
However, 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, but this isn’t the case as he spends the majority of the film with little clothing. 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 screen time.
The inevitable ending is one which could have been done differently, but almost certainly works in this context. 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.
Sloppy fight scenes, terrible editing, poor lead performances and shoddy CGI are all mixed to make a film which is more famous for it’s use of Jake Gyllenhaal’s pecs than anything else. A blockbuster in every sense of the word, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time invited the male gaming audience in and inevitably let everyone down.