This could be the best video game adaptation yet, certainly the best looking, but it still feels all too clichéd and familiar even though the action is pretty exciting at times and there is a lot of it.
The film follows Dastan, a street urchin plucked into royalty after the king sees him perform a selfless act in the local market as a child. Flash forward ten years and Dastan and his two brothers, Tus and Garsiv, through adoption are about to lay siege to a holy city in Persia. Their uncle, Nizam, advises the future king Tus to attack at the behest of Dastan and the siege results in Dastan coming into possession of a beautiful dagger that is revealed to have mysterious powers. After a series of unfortunate events Dastan ends up on the run with the holy cities high priestess, Tamina.
Now, I am a bit wonky on where I settle on this adaptation. On the one hand the story is pretty simple and sort of stretched thin at times; with Dastan’s arc being a familiar hero’s journey. The film is also full of a lot of humor that falls flat, is a tad to predictable, and makes some wild leaps at times in service of the story. Nobody’s background is all that fleshed out either and outside a flashback or two for a couple characters everyone is rather paper thin. Everyone that is bad is projected without a doubt of their allegiance and the twist in the villain isn’t all that surprising either. Also, the dialogue is geared at the lowest common denominator of a movie goer and it will spell things out for you three or four times over; give us a bit of credit in our intelligence Bruckheimer.
With that said, the film looks pretty darn good, is fun, and never really drags or dulls. The effects in the film are pretty much top notch, outside the sand slide and an odd tracking shot in the opening battle siege. The dagger effects are especially effective and look wonderful; in fact I could have done with a few more of them. The Hassansins are a cool concept and are executed well enough but I felt like they were short changed a bit. The film never drags once the half way mark hits and I quite enjoyed most of the beats and turns in the films third act. The film also remains fairly fun as well, even if it doesn’t hit the charm It shoots for, but the action keeps things moving forward and it is inspired enough, if shot a bit too close up, to hold and even thrill your interest.
The best acting in the film comes from Dastan’s brothers played by Toby Kebbell and Richard Coyle who make the most of their limited screen time. Kebbell is more one note but keeps his intentions a mystery while Coyle is charismatic and strong as the future King of Persia. Gyllenhaal does an alright job as are hero and I blame the script more than him for not charming us like they wanted to. He handles the physical stuff well though and sells all the action with ease. Gemma Arterton continues to do good enough work, looks good, but I can’t put my finger on what her career outlook is. Ben Kingsley turns in a rather average turn as the uncle, but his brother in the film is played to better effect by Ronald Pickup. Alfred Molina’s character supplies the most laughs but sadly his dialogue can’t be over matched by the quality actor he is.
In the end, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a solid enough action movie and one of the best adaptations of a video game franchise. The production values are great, the effects mighty impressive at times, and the actors do a serviceable enough job. Entertaining action beats and decent pacing keep a dumb and uninspired script from ruining the fun that can be had and I can’t really say the film fell below my expectations. Though those expectations were hoping for a fun and easy summer blockbuster, which you get, I just wish there was more substance and less pandering from this obviously giant production.
Prince of Persia is a B-