Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Review


“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” is, I think, about as good as video-game adaptations can get. I hope I’m wrong on that. I would love for something to come along and knock my socks off. But the limitations put on these types of films are probably too great to make them anything more than a pleasant diversion. This film, a sword-and-sandals epic courtesy of director Mike Newell, is entertaining enough, but the absurdities of the plot start to overtake any sense of fun about halfway through the film. The poor acting doesn’t help, and the ending is a complete bust. It’s not a total waste of time, but it will likely be forgotten by most within a month or so.

Long ago, the Persian Empire reigned over all the land between China and the Mediterranean Sea. The king, Sharaman (Ronald Pickup), and his brother, Nizam (Ben Kingsley) rule under the principle of brotherly love, and Something hopes to pass this down to his own sons, Tus (Richard Coyle), Garsiv (Toby Kebbell), and Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), a former orphan who is lifted off the streets by the King and raised as a son.

When the three sons and their uncle invade and overtake a sacred city, Dastan finds a beautiful dagger. The trinket attracts the attention of Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton). And after Dastan is framed for the King’s murder, he discovers the dagger actually has the power to turn back time. At first, Dastan believes Tus has set him up in order to take control of the dagger and become the most powerful Persian ruler in history. But soon, he uncovers a much more sinister plot which could bring the apocalypse, so he and Tamina, with the help of a slick businessman (Alfred Molina) and an African knife thrower (Steve Toussaint), set off to stop the plan and save the world.

The plot itself is kind of interesting, at least for a bit. The setup was pretty exciting, and the idea of a device that can turn back time for a few minutes (but only for the one who holds it) is cool. But once the true nature of the villain’s plan is revealed, the story goes off in all kinds of ridiculous directions. And it starts using the time travel as a crutch. Anything shocking can just be undone by pushing a button.

Another major problem with the film is the acting. Jake Gyllenhaal is a good actor, but he’s just not right for this role. The accent is terrible, and any charisma he’s exhibited in previous films is absent here. I think Robert Downey Jr’s performances in “Iron Man” and “Iron Man 2” has ruined a lot of other films for me because I always think how risky, but spot-on casting can elevate an action movie from good to great, or great to excellent.

The rest of the acting isn’t too bad. Gemma Arterton, who seems to be popping up all over the place lately, makes for a feisty princess. Ben Kingsley is as dignified as always, even when the stuff he has to work with is subpar. And Alfred Molina steals nearly every scene he’s in as Sheik Amar, who runs the shady Valley of the Slaves and eventually becomes an important ally to Dastan.

This film isn’t very original—it borrows heavily from previous sword-and-sandals epics, as well as “Star Wars: Episode 1.” And it’s quite entertaining in parts (especially when those parts involve Alfred Molina), but on the whole, it’s another disappointing movie in a painfully disappointing summer. While it’s a step-up from last week’s major new release, it still doesn’t provide the jolt of excitement I love about summer movies. “Toy Story 3” and “Inception” better get here quickly. Another miss like this and it might already be time to write off the summer of 2010.

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