PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma
Arterton, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina, Steve Toussaint, Toby Kebbell, Richard
Coyle, Ronald Pickup
Director: Mike Newell
Audio: DTS HD
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Walt Disney
Features: See Review
Length: 116 Minutes
Release Date: September 14, 2010
“We make our own destiny.”
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is nothing new, and perhaps another stale reminder of why movies based on video games aren't exactly high art. It boasts the expected action set pieces, a daring hero, a beautiful girl, a treacherous villain, and some cool special effects sequences, but nothing engaging, merely diverting.
I've never played the game series the film springs from, but I don't think that matters. Here, we have an ancient desert tale about an expansive empire and the young man charged with saving both it and the day for the audience. His name is Dastan (Gyllenhaal), a man with no noble blood, but picked by the king of Persia from the streets to become prince after witnessing a heroic deed from the boy. He won't ever have the throne, but apart from that, he is the equal of the king's two real sons.
Upon the council of the king's brother Nizam (Kingsley), Persia launches an invasion on a neighboring kingdom thought to be harboring dangerous weapons (and considering that Persia is actually modern-day Iran, the irony wasn't lost on me), but the secret the princess Tamina (Arterton) is hiding is actually much more powerful and mysterious.
They are guardians of the Sands of Time, a terrible plague once meant to eradicate mankind but staved off by a noble sacrifice once upon a time. The sands are now kept in a giant hourglass, but one minute's worth can be extracted with a special dagger. If the sands are released from the dagger, time moves backward...with the right timing, much can be changed in a single minute.
But Nizam has designs on the dagger for something more sinister...and after framing Dastan for a crime he didn't commit, our hero will have a long battle ahead of him, winning the trust of both the beautiful princess and the brothers who have now turned their back on him to prevent his evil uncle from turning back the dial on all of history.
It's nothing particularly memorable, but a few action scenes are well-crafted, and the finale delivers some remarkable special effects. This is no Indiana Jones by any stretch, however...I couldn't even call it a Mummy movie. The story has very little life, and the characters are flat and uninteresting. One has to wonder what we've come to when two of our most respected character actors Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina agree to play in a video game-based movie.
Jake Gyllenhaal is convincing enough in the very physical role of Dastan, but I'm not looking to him to be the next big action star. In fact, I'm not sure if there's anybody we CAN charge with picking up that mantle, which might explain why a movie with all the OLD stars brought together ended up as one of the summer's biggest hits.
The bottom line is, you've seen it done before, and done better. There is no magical power to these Sands of Time other than to make a couple hours of your day disappear without a trace.
This high definition transfer is mostly good, but problematic in dark scenes that get a little murky and grainy. It also suffers from severe monochromism because of the desert settings...not a lot of chance for your Blu-ray player to show off what it can do with colors. Images under the sun fare much better, with sharpness and clear detail, and of course the 1080p keeps all the action vivid and perfectly rendered.
The DTS HD track fares much better, especially in the final stretch. There are fights and action sequences scattered throughout that liven up the audio and give the rear channels something to do, but the finale is really where everything comes to life for some powerful dynamic range and lots of menacing bass. A very good listening experience.
This combo pack includes a DVD of the movie and a digital copy disc for your portable player. On the Blu-ray, you get a unique interactive experience called “Sands of Time”...when the dagger appears on your screen, you can select it, and you'll see everything zip backwards until you reach a vignette about the making of the movie. Pretty cool. There is also one deleted scene and some sneak peeks. If you want to see a making-of featurette, you'll have to switch to the DVD.
Why do I have Cher stuck in my head now? If I could turn back time, I might find a movie endeavor a little more worthwhile than Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. It isn't a terrible film, but certainly a very average one that seems a little too comfortable in its own mediocrity, which is sometimes even worse.