Written by Boaz Yakin and Doug Miro & Carlo Bernard
Directed by Mike Newell
Running Time: 1:56
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was a film with a lot of untapped potential and I lay the blame on the director and star.
Dastan is an orphan in the vast empire of Persia when he is discovered by the King and adopted as the King's third son. He grows up with his brothers Garsiv and Tus and has become a tough warrior. Together they lay siege on the city of Alamut where Princess Tamina rules. Prince Garsiv has been told by his uncle Nizam that Alamut was giving weapons to their enemies. But it seems that there may be another reason for the attack on Alamut. Alamut is home to the fabled Dagger of Time which allows the owner to turn back time, unbeknownst to anyone around them. The person owning this dagger would have immense power. When Dastan is framed for the murder of his father, the King, he and Tamina go on the run, needing to protect the dagger from the real murderer. But when they find out who the killer is, Dastan's world is turned upside down, and now he must do everything he can to protect the world from a sandstorm of epic proportions, and possibly the end of life as we know it.
I may be in the minority, but I had high hopes for Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Disney usually does well with these big productions. You had Jerry Bruckheimer as a producer. Jake Gyllenhaal was starring. The only downside was that movies based on video games are rarely, if ever, good. But I put my faith in Disney's ability to make a franchise picture, especially once they booked the Memorial Day weekend release date. Unfortunately, the movie didn't live up to my expectations. The special effects were decent (if uninspired) and the action sequences were fun, but the movie lacked something very important. Fun. And I blame the lack of fun on director Mike Newell, and Gyllenhaal.
Let's discuss for a moment, the greatest Disney triumph, The Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy. I say triumph, because let's face it, who in their right mind could have predicted those films would have done so amazingly well? You had a movie based on a theme park ride about pirates, a genre which had died a long time before. You had Johnny Depp as the star, someone who wasn't really known for anchoring these kinds of films. But between director Gore Verbinski and Depp, they created a tremendously fun movie. And that all had to do with Depp's version of Captain Jack Sparrow. It was a completely hit or miss proposition - either fans would take to his insane take on Captain Jack, or they'd think he had lost his mind. But Captain Jack would become such an iconic character and such brilliant work by Depp, he'd get an Oscar nod.
Now we come to Prince of Persia and Jake Gyllenhaal. Here's another person who isn't known for anchoring a massive action film, but someone who is well respected as being a good actor. You've got a director in Newell who has had some hits under his belt as well. And while the movie was technically good, with some good sets and imagery, along with some well done fight/action sequences, it was all led by a character that was about as bland as you can get. Yes, Gyllenhaal did a great job of getting into serious shape for the role, but he left his emotions at home. There was simply nothing he did that made me want to root for him. Every one of his lines was done in a monotone. Besides his good looks, what did he have? There was little if no humor in the role. The funny lines ended up going to Alfred Molina's character and Gyllenhaal was always just reacting to things. So much could have been done to the character to liven him up and make him more appealing, but it appears that Newell and Gyllenhaal decided that all he needed to do was look good.
The movie started with a scene that felt like it was lifted directly from Aladdin. The film also had equal parts of The Mummy Trilogy and Indiana Jones, but of course wasn't nearly as good as any of those. The color palette of the movie was essentially sand. In a part of the world that is known for a multitude of colors, they kept the film very muted. That's not to say it didn't look good, because I was very impressed with the scenery. But it wasn't a very bright and happy film to watch. The action sequences were very well done. I don't know how many of the stunts were done by Gyllenhaal but they were entertaining. He jumped from building to building in these death defying leaps that were exciting. I've never played the video game upon which the movie is based, but the fanboys in the audience approved, and from what I've read, there were a lot of nods to the game. My guess is that a lot of the moves Dastan makes probably came from the games.
The supporting cast was equally dull, unfortunately. Gemma Arterton as the Princess was attractive, but didn't do much besides get into arguments with Dastan. If the Princess isn't the star of these kinds of movies, the character ends up being almost unnecessary. She could have been played by anyone. Ben Kingsley was Uncle Nizam and he was creepy as he usually is in these types of roles. And really no one else had a big enough role to be important. There were some others who came in and out of the film, but no one left a lasting impression. The other thing that didn't leave an impression was the special effects. There was nothing new with this film, nothing we haven't seen before. Sand played a big role in the movie, and we've seen that too often.
Oh, and then there was the plot. The basic plot involved someone wanting the Dagger of Time in order to erase an event that took place nearly 30 years earlier. In doing so however, they would unleash a sandstorm that could envelop the world. Fair enough I suppose - these movies aren't made to be plot heavy. But the problem was, they had to explain so much about what happens if the knife is buried in the sand that it got a little complicated. If the knife is just buried in the sand glass, one thing happens. But if you push the button on the dagger, something else happens. By the time we got to the end of the movie, I didn't really care, I just wanted it to end. And then the ultimate resolution felt like one big cop out. I was not happy with the way the movie resolved itself. Again, no one loved Pirates of the Caribbean because the stories were Shakespearean, so I'm not down on the film for that. But they needed to take what they had and make the movie more fun and lively.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I was disappointed with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The movie had all sorts of potential, but along the way, while making a technically proficient film, they forgot that you need to make a movie that's fun.