Main cast: Jake Gyllenhaal (Prince Dastan), Gemma Arterton (Princess Tamina), Alfred Molina (Sheik Amar), Steve Toussaint (Seso), Toby Kebbell (Prince Garsiv), Richard Coyle (Prince Tus), Ronald Pickup (King Sharaman), Gísli Örn Garðarsson (Hassansin Leader), and Ben Kingsley (Nizam)
Director: Mike Newell
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is set in a fantasy version of the old Kingdom of Persia, where everyone doesn’t look Persian and they all speak in accents that will make one feel as if one has stumbled upon an United Nations council meeting, heh. This movie is based on the popular game of the same name, so don’t expect much realism or historical accuracy here.
King Sharaman has three sons: Tus, Garsiv, and Dastan. Dastan isn’t actually his son by blood, but an orphan adopted by the King after the King witnessed Dastan valiantly defending another street urchin from a particularly bloodthirsty soldier. Impressed by Dastan’s show of courage, the King expects good things from this lad, and doesn’t hide that fact from his other two sons. At any rate, eventually Tus grows up to become the heir, if an indecisive and rather gullible one. Garsiv favors black and he likes to sneer, because that is the only way the spare can get any attention. Dastan likes to take off his shirt and get pinned by equally oily and shirtless men under the guise of friendly wrestling.
In the grand tradition of fantasy where the most irresponsible twat always ends up the hero, showing prowess that surpasses that of those who actually train daily to become proficient, Dastan is the wunderkind hero who can leap, somersault, tumble, and fly across chasms with a dexterity that will make a Cirque du Soleil manager wet his underpants in excitement. If you look closely, sometimes Jake Gyllenhall’s face morphs into his stunt double’s during some of the scenes that require a great degree of dexterity and flexibility, heh.
The story begins when Tus leads the brothers and the army of Persia to invade the holy city of Alamut. When Dastan encounters the ruler and high priestess of the city, Princess Tamina, he learns that there is more than meets the eye: someone wanted the army to invade Alamut, not because the city is making and selling weapons to the enemies of Persia as the King’s brother and adviser Nizam claims, but because the city hides the Dagger of Time, a powerful blade that allows the wielder to turn back time for one minute. The Dagger serves a far more potentially dangerous function than a trinket to mess with time, however, and if Dastan and Tamina do not figure out the bad guy’s identity and stop his plan ASAP, the whole world will be doomed.
This movie is in many ways faithful to the Playstation game. The games in the Prince of Persia series didn’t emphasize hacking and slashing of enemies as much as it required the player to control the character as the character executed various acrobatic maneuvers. In this movie, Dastan is more of a classic RPG rogue than a fighter: he leaps, jumps, and somersaults across rooftops, chasms, and collapsing bridges like an old pro. The camera work occasionally mirror that of the game as well. The movie however strips much of the complicated time travel elements from the original script in those games, which I feel is a good thing as it allows the movie to be a straightforward popcorn flick.
And indeed, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is an enjoyable no-nonsense popcorn flick. The special effects are impressive, the action scenes get the adrenaline pumping, and Mr Gyllenhaal manages to show more facial expressions and nuances than Sam Worthington did in three back-to-back movies. Mr Gyllenhaal doesn’t look like a noble and rugged prince, and he may never escape being forever typecast in everyone’s mind as Donnie Darko and other examples of dopey emo lads, but he handles his role with ease. Poor Gemma Arterton tries, but she is stuck in a thankless role of a heroine who is reckless and foolish most of the time. Tamina is more of a hindrance than an ally to Dastan.
But hey, she gets to wear clothes that are as skimpy as a Walt Disney movie can get away with. Mr Gyllenhaal also finds plenty of excuses to get rid of his top to show off that impressively buff body he has paid for just for this role. I don’t think people of all sexes and sexual preferences will find this movie lacking in eye candy.
The other actors in this movie are clearly not going to expect this movie to boost their credibility, and I suspect Ben Kingsley just wanted to get a nice paycheck out of his role here, but they nonetheless manage to play their roles well enough to complement the roles of Dastan and Tamina in this movie.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is exactly what it claims to be, and it manages to be pretty entertaining in the process. I get what I want from this movie – two hours or so of no-nonsense entertainment and eye candy – and therefore, I can’t say that my time and money were wasted.