30 May 2010 | MovieManPat
An enjoyable summer film, but ultimately forgettable
I've never been much of a video game player. I tend to mash buttons and swear loudly while playing Mario Bros., so anything beyond that, I tend to stay away. However, back in 2005, a good friend let me try Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. I was enamoured. It suited my button-smashing style though it slowly forced me to learn how to play the game properly. I really enjoyed it because the puzzles were challenging. the villain was great and the story was pretty decent.
So when I heard that uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer was going to make a big-budget adaptation of the movie, I was thrilled. Of course, video game adaptations have never fared very well on the big screen (I'm looking at you, Super Mario Bros and Ecks vs. Sever), so I had a little trepidation. When I saw the first trailer, I was a little underwhelmed. The movie looked good, but I didn't get a sense of what it was about.
The story is fairly convoluted. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Dastan, the adopted son of the King of Persia. After helping his brothers and uncle Nazim (Sir Ben Kingsley) attack an conquer the holy city of Alamut, he comes into possession of a dagger. Later accused of killing his father, Dastan flees with Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton), leader of the city of Alamut. She reveals the dagger has the power to turn back time, which, in the wrong hands, would be very dangerous. There are betrayals, battles with mystic assassins, and copious shots of Arterton's cleavage. However, all this doesn't amount to much.
The film is an enjoyable diversions. The action is well-choreographed and well shot, even if director Mike Newell (Donny Brasco, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) goes a little overboard with the slow motion shots. The whole film is relatively well shot, with some sequences lifted directly from the source video game. However, the story is overly complicated and there is no "money shot", no big action sequence or iconic image that lingers in the viewers mind when they're walking out of the theatre. Honestly, by the time I got home, I'd already forgotten half the movie. Kingsley seems to phone in his performance as the conniving Nizam, bring no menace to the character. He's more petulant than evil.
What little did stand out was good. Alfred Molina as a scheming sheik who runs an ostrich racing racket was one good thing. Molina steals every scene he is in, going from silly to menacing with the turn of a word. His colleague Seso, a skilled knife thrower, is also impressive. Gyllenhaal does what he can with his role, though most of it seems to just require him to run and jump entertainingly, while flashing his most impressive torso. Arterton is good as Tamina, but again, is hindered by the story and dialogue, which is heavy on exposition throughout the movie. Gyllenhaal and Arterton may have had some great chemistry on screen, but the fact that both are tasked with explaining everything kills that and slows the movie down at some points. You kinda just figure they're going to wind up together.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a decent summer movie. It provides the right amount of thrills and laughs, but is ultimately forgettable. I doubt anyone will be talking about it by August.