Genre: Action | Adventure | Fantasy | Video Game Adaptation
Director: Mike Newell
Writer: Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard (screenplay); Jordan Mechner (video game series)
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Sir Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina, Steve Toussaint, Toby Kebbell and Richard Coyle
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action
Summary: Based on the video game, which follows an adventurous prince who teams up with a rival princess to stop an angry ruler from unleashing a sandstorm that could destroy the world.
Run Time: 116 minutes
If you were holding your breath for this film because it is an adaptation of a video game, you can breathe a sigh of relief. I am happy to say that Prince of Persia beats the odds and the horrible track record that video game-to-film adaptations have. Here’s why:
It’s a really fun ride! Much like Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a fantastically paced film with a story capable of flexing enough muscle to make you laugh, gasp, and tear up all in the same two hours. It is loosely based on the Prince of Persia video game series by Ubisoft, taking the most intriguing elements of the story and importing them into a fool-proof equation of a summer blockbuster with a balance of action, humor, a character’s personal revelation, and of course, love.
The story of the film tells how Dastan became a Prince of Persia, being adopted right off the street by the King, and how his destiny is entwined with Princess Tamina of the fictional holy city of Alamut, the Dagger of Time, and ultimately, the Sands of Time. He must save his father’s kingdom from treacherous forces seeking to take control.
Prince of Persia is strongly performed by all members of the cast. Prince Dastan, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, is charming, heroic, humble, and (if you don’t mind me saying) disarmingly hot! Gemma Arterton portrays Princess Tamina of Alamut whose character is a conglomeration of the various princesses in the games – she is beautiful, mysterious, headstrong, and slightly whiney. Arterton pulls off an admirably strong female presence in the film with a sense of destiny that helps Dastan in his own journey.
Gyllenhaal and Arterton have a believable on-screen chemistry, trading verbal barbs and secretive glances much like that of their video game counterparts. Dastan’s two brothers Tus and Garsiv are played by Brit actors Richard Coyle (original British series, Coupling) and Toby Kebbell (Control, Alexander) respectively. Coyle surprised me as I most think of him in the comedic context as Jeff in Coupling. He handles a dramatic role without batting an eye. Sir Ben Kingsley delivers a steady performance as Dastan’s uncle Nazim, and though this isn’t an award-winning role for Kingsley, it is a healthy paycheck nonetheless for the Oscar-winning actor.
The way Prince of Persia is shot and edited will trigger you to recall another game as well. The free-running sequences over rooftops and through the city are very much like watching a live-action Assassin’s Creed which is appropriate considering the recent Prince of Persia games were built upon the Assassin’s Creed Anvil engine. There is even a scene shot exactly like the view point map-unlocking achievement in Assassin’s Creed with Prince Dastan standing on a cantilevered piece of wood atop a tall defense structure. Not that I minded that scene-steal, but I just felt distinctively like I was watching a video game in action at that very moment! Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) truly captures the look and feel of the game series in this film.
The special effects of the film are masterfully done and fully take the viewer into a sandstorm of suspension of disbelief. Dastan’s look is akin to the look he takes on in the Prince of Persia: Warrior Within game. The action sequences of the game are more like Warrior Within and later games. Fun Fact: Penny Rose, the costume designer for this film, is the same designer for all of the Pirates films.
The film’s score by Harry Gregson-Williams was similar in gist to Pirates and successful in painting an appropriate auditory landscape, but it is not nearly as memorable.
The only complaints I have about the film are small: for one, it could have ended about thirty seconds before it actually did. The closing scene is a Disney-sized helping of cheese and would have been better left off. Also, you’d think that the Sands of Time would have greater obstacles preventing its access, but other than that, I was entertained.
You’ve got to hand it to Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer (Pirates of the Caribbean, National Treasure). They are producing really entertaining summer blockbuster action movies and they have another solid hit with Prince of Persia.
Overall, Prince of Persia is a really fun ride with great pacing, but like the Sands of Time, it will easily pass through your mind. It’s a great popcorn flick for the season of blockbusters and a great way to escape the summer heat.
I Give Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Three Out of Five Stars.