Normally you’d think it would be the guy trying to drag his spouse to the movies to see something inspired by a video game. But believe it or not, it was The Queen who decided Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time would be our weekend viewing (thankfully, she took Letters to Julia off the table). This wouldn’t have been my first choice, mind you, for a few reasons. Films based on video games are not good as a rule (though I do have an admitted love for the first Resident Evil film); I haven’t played Prince Of Persia for longer than a demo, and a buff and Persian Donnie Darko looked like it was going to be a real stretch for this guy. However, The Queen is in the family way and should get to see whatever darn movie she wants with me (once again, as long as it’s not Letters to Julia). So with coffee in hand, off we went. And wouldn’t you know, Prince Of Persia was much better than I thought it would have been.
That doesn’t mean the story of Prince Dastan, the adopted third son of the King Of Persia falsely accused of murder who seeks to prove his innocence and winds up saving the world (of course), is great or even particularly good. There were a few cringe inducing moments throughout the film that didn’t come from core or snakes or special effects, but from pretty shoddy dialogue, most of of it ridiculous exposition from the characters (i.e. something along the lines of “sadly, my father, the wise king, is not here and left me to rule”). Dialogue isn’t Prince Of Persia’s strong suit. Neither is editing for that matter. As directed by Mike Newell (Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, Four Weddings And A Funeral), some of the many fights scenes have sudden slow motion sequences that are totally uncalled for and seem ridiculously out of place.
However, I am pleased to say that Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time is far better than it has any right in being, especially for a video game film. The production values are high and on display (they should be for a $200 price tag) and the Moroccan scenery is quite beautiful at times. The action scenes, when not moving in slow-mo, are pretty decent as well, and reminded me of a few instances of Raiders Of The Lost Ark at times. It’s just got that kind of vibe.
And while the script is clichéd and predictable script, the actors do fairly well with what they’ve got to work with. Two screen stalwarts shine throughout the film – Ben Kingsley as Dastan’s uncle Nizam and Alfred Molina as the head of a slave town Dastan comes across (reminding me of John Rhys-Davies’ Raiders role). Gemma Arterton’s Princess has her moments as well, but the script really can’t decide if it wants her to be regal or aggravating. She’s no Karen Allen.
As for Jake Gyllenhaal in the lead role, he was surprisingly solid. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. In all the roles I’ve seen him in, from Donnie Darko and The Day After Tomorrow to Brokeback Mountain and Zodiac, Gyllenhaal always does great work.I think the previews were just making it hard for me to take him seriously as a mythic sort of hero, but there’s never a moment during Prince Of Persia where Gyllenhaal isn’t give it all he’s got, and clearly having a good time doing it.
At the end of the day, the Queen and I managed to enjoy a few hours together at a movie that wasn’t Letters to Julia. Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time is nobody’s definition of a classic, but as far as big summer blockbusters go you could do much, much worse.