Movie Review for Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

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Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Action, Adventure, Fantasy | G | 2 hrs 02 min
Walt Disney Pictures
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time reminds me of the Sommers-directed Mummy films. It’s a mostly fun PG-13 (the MTRCB says GP, but it really ought to be PG-13) action movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. In an era where everything seems to be based off teen angst or larger darkness, it’s a refreshing to have a big adventure movie that knows how to have fun. A shaky grasp of action filmmaking does get in the way at times, but the movie, as slippery and agile as its titular prince, gets by anyway.

Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) was a young orphan adopted by the king of the great Persian Empire for his apparent nobility of spirit. Raised as a prince, Dastan is now helping his brothers in matters of empire. But after becoming the hero of a great battle, he quickly finds himself exiled as he gets framed for the murder of his father. Dastan must now travel the desert in order to figure out what’s actually going on and restore his good name. Aiding him in his quest: a feisty princess who often proves to be more trouble than she’s worth, and a magical dagger that has the power to turn back time.

The dour, often convoluted plots of the more recent videogames are traded in for a much simpler one. The movie plays fast and loose with the details, not overly concerned with abiding by any real sort of logic. The movie is pretty aware of its own silliness, concentrating instead on delivering the swashbuckling thrills of the adventure films of yore. There is a clunky political allegory deep in the heart of this story, but thankfully the film doesn’t dwell on it too much. It barrels through with simple themes, confidence of purpose, and more than enough banter to keep things interesting.

The film employs a harsh artificiality that immediately recalls the look of a videogame. Its appeal will largely depend on tastes, but it does provide a couple of captivating scenes. Director Mike Newell’s grasp of action filmmaking still seems limited at best. The action choreography, composed mostly of graceful swordfights and breathtaking parkour, calls for much wider frames and more coherent editing. The large swinging movements of the fight scenes are lost to tightness of the frame, and the effect of parkour is lost when frantic cutting takes away the spatial logic of a scene. Outside of these scenes, Newell grants the film a really zippy, adventurous feel.

If we put aside the fact that Jake Gyllenhaal is clearly not Persian, he serves the movie well as its hero. There ought to be a much longer discussion on how Hollywood tends to completely homogenize ethnicity in its blockbusters, but this probably isn’t the place for it. Gyllenhaal proves to be quite the charmer yet again, and there’s a real sense that he worked hard to convincingly attack the role’s more physical aspects. I have yet to be convinced of the merit of Gemma Arterton. She is quite lovely, but her performances lapse into woodenness. This is a far performance than in Clash of the Titans, but that’s not saying much. Ben Kingsley (with eyeliner) simply does what he does best: ham it up in a really posh accent. You can’t ask for more than that.

I don’t imagine that many people will work themselves into much of a lather over Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, either in a negative or positive way. It feels like one of those movies that will get eternal airtime on HBO, its general ease and affability making it a prime candidate for endless viewing on a premium cable movie channel. At the risk of damning it with faint praise, the film seems to do just enough to make its nearly two hour runtime fly by, barreling to its ending with a wink and a nudge, never getting bogged down by the pretensions of this new breed of blockbuster films.



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