Ubisoft’s popular video-game series of the same name gets adapted for the big screen – rejoice! Sixth century Persia. A nefarious nobleman covets a very powerful artifact with the Sands of Time, a legendary gift from the gods. It allows you to turn back time just by pushing one little button – very convenient in any tight spot, offering a lot of interesting possibilities.
Whoever owns the Sands of Time has the power to rule the world and, as you can guess, soon enough a complete psychopath manages to acquire it. The only person capable of defeating this tyrant and saving the world is Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), a youthful prince of less than royal blood. Now, with plucky princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) by his side, Dastan will attempt to prevent the Sands of Time from falling into the wrong hands. Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) directs a script penned by Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro, Jordan Mechner, and Boaz Yakin.
Once upon a time I played a computer game called simply ‘Prince’. It was the low-resolution predecessor of contemporary video games entitled ‘Prince of Persia’. I decided to watch this movie out of sentimental reasons – you see, ‘Prince’ prevented me from learning anything about computers on more than one occasion so I harbour rather fond memories of it. ;p
Was watching its movie version a good decision? Not really. Maybe one day a fantastic vid-game screen adaptation will be released but don’t hold your breath. “Prince of Persia” certainly suffers the common vid-game curse: maybe it has some entertainment value, but it is lacking in the story department because it continually tries to fill the film with too much action. Or, alternatively, infodumps spouted by a conceited Princess.
The film is set in ancient Persia (currently Iran), a vast empire with truly astonishing landscapes. Fair enough, since in the 6th century it reached “from the steppes of China to the shores of the Mediterranean,” but it’s even more impressive since, according to this movie, it’s all within a day’s journey from the capital city.
That city is ruled by the noble King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup). One day in the marketplace, he sees a brave young urchin defending his friend and escape pursuit by running across rooftops. This is Dastan, who will grow up to be played by Jake Gyllenhaal (a double cheer!). He’s an orphan so the King decides to adopt him because clearly his own two sons, Garsiv (Toby Kebbell) and Tus (Richard Coyle), are a bit lacking in the urchin-defending and rooftops-running department. By the way the names of the movie’s characters seem to have been created by an especially dumb exotic word generator.
The king has a brother named Nizam (Ben Kingsley), first seen in a sinister closeup that could be subtitled, “yes, if you are looking for a villain masquerading as a white hat look no further”. He has a van Dyke beard and eyes that glower smolderingly, an effect accentuated by a clever use of eyeliner – well-done, characterization wizards! You know immediately Nizam is up to no good – equipped with that knowledge you might progress safely to the next level…er…the next scene.
The evil Nizam (not a big spoiler, really) insists that the Persian army should invade the peaceful city of Alamut. King Sharaman has ordered the city not be sacked, but Nizam has secret information that Alamut is manufacturing weapons of mass destruction for Persia’s enemies so invaded it must be. The day is saved by Prince Dastan who climbs the city walls, pours flaming oil on its guards, and opens the gates. Then he encounters the beautiful Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton), the guardian of the Dagger of Time which is an honest-to-God WMD, since if it’s switched on too long, all the sands of time will run out, and it’s back to the Big Bang (or other such disaster of epic proportions).
The dagger lands in Dastan’s hands and soon enough he is framed for patricide cum regicide cum high treason by person or persons unknown (but look out for that wolf in sheep’s clothing, mentioned above) and finally he finds out something is rotten in the kingdom of Persia. Now he will have to turn into a real fighting machine in order to save his father, brothers, beloved one and, of course, world peace (not necessarily in that order but you get the drift). There will be blood. And ostriches. And sand. Still is it worth your time?
The movie feels mediocre even if it could’ve been much more. It seems the video game curse is still alive and well. Still it never prevented the Disney to produce its second part which I so won’t be watching any time soon.