I don’t know if it’s because I’ve just watched four average-to-awful fighting game-based movies in a row or what, but I enjoyed Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. I mean, the script might not win any originality awards, but it was still an entertaining two hours of adventure that actually uses some imagery and ideas from the game it was based on (that I’ve seen a lot about, but never actually played, hence why I reviewed the original game alongside this instead…) Is it good enough to actually recommend though? Let’s find out!
In the holy city of Alamut resides the Sands of Time, which gives mortals the power to turn back time. After leading an attack on the city, Dastan, the adopted son of Persia’s king, acquires a dagger that gives the one who holds it access to the Sands. Dastan goes on the run with an Alamut princess named Tamina after being accused of killing his father. The pair must protect the ancient treasure from dark forces and unmask the king’s assassin.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
“So these are the sands… of time?” “Yep! Just like the movie title!”
I feel this movie set out to be a cross between Indiana Jones and Aladdin, and while it doesn’t reach anywhere near the heights of either, it’s still a perfectly fun adventure story. Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a perfectly fine cocky but not smug protagonist, easy to root for and some of the stunt work and parkour is really well done and exciting. His love interest Tamina (Gemma Arterton) is a really basic spoiled princess type, but it therefore works off of Dastan’s more roughish personality. Admittedly, as I’ll get to in the next section, some of the dialogue is super-cheesy and predictable, but hey, it is entertaining in a basic way.
Ben Kingsley’s Prince Nizam, the lead villain of the film (as if you couldn’t guess based on the bald head, goatee and evil sneer), having betrayed and set up Dastan for the murder of his father, Nizam’s brother, and staged a raid on a legendary holy city all so he can get his hands of the time-rewinding Sands of Time and watch his brother get killed when they were children, all so he can be King instead. He’s… fine, a good villain in the most basic sense, and the same can be said for the plot: it’s fine. It leads to Dastan to run off with a dagger that has some Sands of Time within it and needed to access the rest, and he’s soon followed by Tamina, who belongs to a sect that protects the dagger and the Sands. The two spend the middle chunk of the film bickering and betraying each other while meeting some “amusing” characters, like Sheik Amar (Alfred Molina) who is a tax dodging underworld leader who runs ostrich racing and such. Again, mildly amusing…
Bald head, black goatee, wizardy-looking robes… Was anyone surprised when he turned out to be the villain?
The final third of the film, where they’re attacked by assassins (or “Hassansins”) at the village of Tamina’s order, followed by several big set pieces of collapsing buildings and a big showdown at the large Sands of Time chamber are all exciting enough. Tamina dies and Nizam starts leaking the Sands, but Dastan stops him and rewinds time back to the start of the film and exposes Nizam’s plot before it starts, with only him remembering what truly happened. *shrugs*, again, nothing wrong with it, though the exact moment of Tamina’s death was the moment you knew full well how the film was going to end, but hey-ho…
There are times where this film felt like a slightly less magical Aladdin, 10 years before the slightly less magical live action Aladdin movie came out!
The only Bad is what I’ve already intimated: it’s only okay. The action set pieces do the trick, and Jake Gyllenhaal is a charismatic lead, it’s just the dialogue and the characters are so cliché and predictable that I sometimes found myself saying the next line in my head and it would turn out to be pretty much what was actually said. It passes two hours easily and I was never bored or angry, but it won’t win points for originality. Well, maybe the time rewinding aspect is unique for this kind of film (not that artefacts with mystical powers aren’t common in this genre or anything) but that obviously ties it into the game it’s adapting. While the plot differs from the game, Dastan looks the part and the time rewinding dagger is present, so it could be worse. They certainly use the phrase “Prince of Persia” enough during the film, on the off chance you forgot what film you were watching…
I’ll also say for a film made in the last ten years I was surprised at how many cast members were just white English guys speaking with their native accents. Obviously them putting on a fake Middle Eastern accent would be far worse, but it was … odd. Especially as Gyllenhaal looked the part, and Ben Kingsley has some Arabic blood in him, but everyone else they didn’t even try. Plus the only black character was playing the stereotypical tribesman called Seso, if you’re setting the film during the time of Persia, it’s either no Black guys or have them among the cast and don’t mention it. Trying to fit it in historically just made it seem… old fashioned in a bad way. Especially since he bravely gives his life towards the end of the film in a big fight sequence, which was a bit of a trope back in day…
Dastan kills his foe with the hidden blade! … oh, wait, hang on, that’s not for a while yet. Carry on.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is perfectly fine film, it won’t win any originality awards and some of the dialogue and characters are cheesy as hell, but it harmlessly passes two hours. I’m not surprised it didn’t spawn a franchise or anything, but after some of the recent films on this marathon, I’ll take an average adventure movie…