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Dodging death with deadly daggers
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (DVD)
Member Name: calypte
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (DVD)
Date: 29/05/10, updated on 29/05/10 (58 review reads)
Advantages: Fun family adventure
Disadvantages: Nothing particularly outstanding
A long, long time ago, far away in the great Persian Empire, a wise king adopted a boy from the streets who displayed amazing loyalty and courage. And so it was that street rat Dastan grew up to be Jake Gyllenhaal with a Brit accent, and became a Prince of Persia! Why? Well, the Persian royalty sees brothers as strength, it seems, and after years of relying on his own brother, Nizam, King Sharaman thinks a third sibling with no claim to the throne is just the thing to join his two sons.
The movie quickly fast forwards to a time when all three sons are in their prime, and sent on a mission to protect the kingdom. However when some new information comes to light, followed by a treacherous bit of plotting, it's not long before Dastan is on the run with a rival kingdom's princess, a price on his head, and a dagger with a few strange properties as far as time is concerned. Can the pair overcome their mutual dislike to stop the whole world from being destroyed?
The history of films based on video games is hardly full of success stories. Indeed, a film based on a theme park ride probably beats them all, which is perhaps why the team behind Pirates of the Caribbean movie decided to try their luck with Prince of Persia. Despite the Pirates link, however, it was more The Mummy series that came to mind when watching this - perhaps it was the sand, but I think it's more the mix of action and adventure and special effects, a main character who takes himself more seriously than Captain Jack, and a few laughs thrown in later in the proceedings to keep the whole thing light and breezy.
Jake Gyllenhaal is going for a bit of a change of pace here, leaving quirky roles in independent movies behind and buffing up big time (and rather well, if I might add! ;)) to play the action lead. The (mainly) English-ish accent isn't too bad, staying non-descript enough not to irk, although it only adds to a slight lack of surety in his performance, I thought. He does well enough, but... hmm. There's just something slightly vague about the character, almost. The action seems to be far more important than the characters for driving the story forward - but hey, you weren't expecting otherwise, were you?!
Our other main character is played by the increasingly omnipresent Gemma Arterton. There's very little difference between her characters here and in Clash of the Titans, really, despite the change in setting. She's just a little bit too posh and proper for me to warm to her as a slightly stroppy princess, and to say her character arc is predictable would be an understatement and a half!
More fun is to be had with the supporting roles. Much like Pirates, there are a few actor choices that can't help but seem a bit strange to a British audience more familiar with certain faces from other places. The eldest prince and heir to the throne, for instance, is actually Coupling's mad Jeff under all that beard! The other prince, Toby Kebbell, was last seen (by me, at least) playing a druggie rock star in RocknRolla. Probably American audiences (or those here who haven't seen Coupling) wouldn't blink, but it just seemed a bit comical to me.
Playing it intentionally for laughs we have Alfred Molina, who shows up about halfway through the movie as comic relief. It's at once patently obvious, and yet quite a nice touch to a movie that very definitely needs not to take itself too seriously. And the ostriches - well, I leave those for your viewing pleasure! ;)
Of course, the real focus here is the action and the hectic sense of adventure. There's nothing particularly novel or gripping here, nothing that hasn't appeared in pretty much every movie of the genre. Some of it is handled very well: I particularly liked the game-influenced running around and bouncing of the scenery stuff (I'm informed this is called 'parkour', or free running). The more generic fight scenes seemed to happen at a most frantic speed, making it very difficult for me to follow much of what was going on. I think this was the movie's biggest flaw for me, as it instantly made me think that these scenes probably weren't being done very well, and thus speeded over to avoid too much scrutiny - bit of a mistake, as far as I'm concerned!
To balance that, the special effects - particularly the main, time-rewinding - are well-done and interestingly so. That might be the one (almost?!) original feature in an otherwise comfortably familiar movie.
That said, there's a lot of Saturday afternoon, family-type enjoyment here. The story isn't exactly new, but the scenery is great and the method of telling works well. I must confess that I've never played any of the Prince of Persia games, which may in fact be a plus for going to see the movie version!
Overall: better than most if not all video-game translations to the big screen, in that I don't think you'd necessarily realise there was a game behind it. I could see the similarities with the creators' previous work on Pirates of the Caribbean, but largely I'd say that if you enjoyed The Mummy movie then this should be right up your street. I won't be rushing out to buy the DVD, but it was a fun trip to the cinema, and I'll almost certainly sit through it again when it hits the TV screen.
*Running time: 116 minutes
*Theatrical release: 21st May 2010
*DVD release: tba
Full cast and crew details can be found on imdb.co.uk - including the fact that Sir Ben Kingsley is in it, which I really should have found somewhere to mention above ;)
Summary: Inoffensive game adaptation with a sense of fun