Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Action,Adventure Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Let me get this out of the way. I don’t like the fact that nobody in this movie were of Persian decent, or had an inkling of Persian in them. For a film title “Prince of Persia”, it’s certainly lacking the culture. This is typical Hollywood whitewashing, casting big names in a movie without considering the ethnic background. It’s worse here considering the ethnicity is in the title.

I would have been able to forgive them if Prince of Persia was an entertaining, popcorn flick. It is not. It’s a hasty picture with good actors in the wrong roles, accompanied by a predictable story and lackluster action sequences. The only particle livening the action scenes up is the parkour. It’s a physical discipline to train your body to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, mainly pertaining to huge leaps and acts of balance and speed. The direction of Mike Newell shrouds most of it with quick pans, making it, and most of the action pieces, hard to see and follow.

The script written by Boaz Yakin and Doug Miro leaves a lot to be desired. It starts with a young boy being adopted by King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup), becoming a child of his and brother of his two sons, Tus (Richard Koyle) and Garsiv (Toby Kebbell). Fifteen years later, the young boy, named Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), is now a grown man. Along with his two brothers, he partakes on a siege of Princess Tamina’s (Gemma Arterton) land, in search of weapons. He discovers a dagger and keeps it as his own. When they return home, their father and King dies due to poison covered on his robe. Since Dastan handed him the robe, the townspeople believe he murdered him. With Tamina at his side, he flees the land.

He discovers the dagger he stole is the Dagger of Time, a mystical sword that, with the click of a button and magical sand, can take it’s possessor back in time. Believing his brother, Tus, was the one who poisoned the robe (since he was the one that handed it to him) in order to obtain the power, he hikes to his father’s funeral to talk to his Uncle, Nizam (Ben Kingsley). When he informs him of his theory, Nizam naturally doesn’t believe him. He shortly discovers that it isn’t Tus who wants the power of the land and dagger, but Nizam himself. Along with Tamina (who tags along for survival and retrieval of the dagger), Dastan must save his land and brother.

Does this have anything to do with the video games it is based off of? I wouldn’t know, I’ve never played one. What I do know is that, even when I suspend my disbelief, the story is hokey. The plot devices are laughable, as is the ineptitude of the characters. It’s easy to predict what’s going to happen, that it boggles the mind how no one in this movie can figure it out. This wouldn’t have been much of a problem if Ben Kingsley, normally a tremendous actor, didn’t do such a dreadful job in playing a convincing villain. He came off as if he didn’t want to do the project, silently and uncharismatically reading his lines.

The rest of the cast doesn’t fare much better, but they do seem to try. Jake Gyllenhaal isn’t particularly bad as he is just miscast. He felt uncomfortable in the role and wasn’t able to convince me he was this great, daring prince. He brought his charm along with him, which works in his scenes with Gemma Arterton. She does a fine job here, fitting into her role significantly better than Jake. She too brings charm, but thinly veils it under the mask of empowerment and confidence. She did play the role a bit too whiny and argumentative for my taste however.

The show stealer is Alfred Molina as Sheik Amar, an entrepreneur blinded by greed who starts out as an enemy of Dastan, but slowly develops into an ally. He brings zest and humor to the movie, making it hard to not smile when he’s on screen. Even in a bad movie, he can make something worthwhile, which is why he is one of my favorite actors. His partner-in-crime, Seso, is played by Steve Toussaint, who just grunts and stares for the whole film. Also mumbling their way through the film are Richard Coyle and Toby Kebbell as Dastan’s brothers. In fairness, they don’t have much to work with. They don’t help their causes though, by staring into space and blankly reading their lines.

This may sound typical for a popcorn flick. Acting and character development taking a backseat to the action. Which you’d be right. However, the action here doesn’t make up for it. Most of the scenes are typical hack-and-slash sorcery battles, with a little parkour thrown in to spruce it up. It may light the match, but the direction of the scenes blow it out like the sandstorms in the movie. As mentioned earlier, Newell has a tendency to rush through the action sequences, quickly panning away from the fights right as they pick up.

The only scenes that work in this movie are the ones that are handled with care. One is when Dastan and Tamina go to the funeral of King Sharaman to speak with Nizam. Once discovered, they fight their way through hordes of soldiers, looking to claim the head of the outcast. The scenes are easily to follow since the camera stays on the action and far away that it’s all visible. The inclusion of parkour being the main substance for survival plays a key role as well. Two fun spots are when Dastan leaps from two far-away buildings, and the soldiers try to follow suit, coming up short and clonking their heads on the corner. Newell quickly follow this up with a stunt where Dastan is hanging by a wooden shaft and is surrounded atop by soldiers. When they ask him “How do you plan on escaping this?”, he responds by yanking down a stand behind them, crushing them all.

The other act is near the end. After retrieving the dagger (which was stolen from them by Nazim), they slowly try to creep their way to its original home. If they step out of the boundaries created, they’ll set off the quicksand, engulfing them both. Dastan stops an enormous falling rock from hitting the quicksand, but isn’t quick or keen enough to stop a little one from doing so. This sets him on a wild ride where he meticulously saves himself from the falling debris and pitfalls of death. This is immediately followed by another arid hack-and-slash sorcery battle.

Mike Newell is too concerned with catering to the Mountan Dew-infueled teenagers than in making an entertaining movie. The action scenes are rushed and hard to tell what’s going on, the actors are miscast, the story is laughable and, worst of all, it falls prey to the Hollywood whitewash. There are a few interesting tidbits in Prince of Persia (such as the parkour), but they’re whisked away in favor of shoddy sorcery fights. I wish Hollywood would give more credit to the teenage audience. They’re viewed as addle-minded drones with a short attention span. This is quite sad considering they helped boost movies such as Iron Man and The Dark Knight, which perfectly blended action sequences with storytelling. I guess as long as the teens flock to these movies, Hollywood will continue to look down upon them.

1 thought on “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”

  1. nice review again! mods take ages to accept comments so add me to e-mail if u want [edited] as i wish to talk to u about something.. cheers :)

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