Film Review: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Adaptations of video games to film have historically been less than good. There are a variety of reasons for their failures but the biggest one in my eyes is the fact that the films have tried too hard to stay true to the source material. The problem with this is that video games are designed at their core to be interactive experiences whereas films are passive. Too many video game adaptations have tried to cater to the core fanbase of the games instead of focusing on making an entertaining movie, ultimately not pleasing anyone.

In an effort to make a good video game adaptation, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton) received the blockbuster treatment from super producer, Jerry Bruckheimer. Bruckheimer has made a career out of producing big budget extravaganzas and Prince of Persia is no different. The film has big names, big action sequences, and big effects but did whipping out the big guns make a difference? It sure did as Prince of Persia is without a doubt the best film adaptation of a video game that I have seen to date.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (directed by Mike Newell) begins with a brief explanation on the expanse of the Persian Empire and we learn of how a brave young street urchin, with a knack for parkour impressed the King into adopting him as his own. Its a little far fetched to be sure but ultimately it works to portray Jake Gyllenhaal’s character Prince Dastan as the scrappy hero he turns out to be. Dastan, along with his older brothers, is convinced that a holy city is smuggling weapons to enemies of the kingdom and a thrilling assault is planned. During the assault, Dastan takes possession of a mystical dagger that is the key to the premise of the story.

After the assault things go bad for Dastan and he ends up on the run with Princess Tamina (Arterton) and the film takes on a traditional adventure movie formula. This traditional movie formula will be seen by some as a weakness but truthfully I feel it is one of its strongest points, even if as a result the ending never quite seems to be in doubt. A film like Prince of Persia does not need to be anything other than what it is, people are not going to watch Prince of Persia for thought provoking cinema, they just want to be entertained and the formula allows for the film to tell an entertaining story in this world.

A lot has been made of Jake Gyllenhaal portraying a Persian prince and while he may not look the part in skin tone, he exudes a confidence that I have rarely seen in his other performances and as such is believable in the role. The same can be said of Gemma Arterton, who exudes not only a confidence but a beauty that is breathtaking. The rest of the cast, which features Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina, is entertaining, if not always believable but then again this is a movie where a time can be turned back by literally pressing a button so a suspension of belief is to be expected.

Overall Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is the best adaptation of a video game property to date but more importantly it is an entertaining popcorn flick. If you enjoy action-adventure movies with witty dialog, big set pieces, thrilling effects and sword fighting then Prince of Persia is exactly what the doctor ordered.

4 out of 5

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