V.G. Movies #38: Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time.

[Welcome back to the Evolution of Video Game Movies series. Every week, I will be moving forward through time, starting with the earliest and ending with the most recent of video game movies. I will be detailing the histories of the games and how the films came about, and both my and fan reaction to the adaptations. Practically all of my background information is either common knowledge or from Wikipedia. So without further ado, let's move on to the next film on the list.]


Finally! We're getting back in to some interesting history. The original game was created way back in 1989 for the Apple II computer. It was an incredible leap forward with video game animation for its time. The original game's story was set in (shocker) Persia when a warring sultan's vizier (and also wizard) named Jaffar takes control. His only obstacle is the sultan's daughter and locks her up giving her the option of death or marriage to him. You play as the love of her life going to rescue her. And... yeah, it's totally Aladdin. The game got 5 out of 5 ratings and "best game of all time" comments, but it was a commercial failure in America. (Though the game would also go on to inspire other classics, such as Tomb Raider.)

After a couple sequels, the game series got a total makeover for the PS2 in 2003. This is when the "Sands of Time" trilogy began. Besides greater graphics, the games introduced the sands of time and the Dagger of Time into the series. The dagger introduced the element of time travel into the gameplay, allowing players to rewind time in the case of a failure so to try again. Otherwise, the plot stays similar with an evil vizier and a kidnapped princess. The plot of the first game is otherwise too long and complicated to detail briefly here... but it doesn't matter, as the film is only loosely based. But the first game, at least, received high ratings and even won Game of the Year status, and it's still considered one of the highest rated and best games of all time.

So of course a movie was due. And because it's ancient Persia, why not case a bunch of white dudes? And give it to the same director as Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire--arguably the worst adapted book of the series (in the sense of choppiness and sheer volume of cuts and changes, as well as changes of character personalities).

NOTE: I was actually going to rewatch the film (I'd seen it in theater) and re-review it. However, my mail got screwy and the Netflix disc didn't come in on time. And my mail still has yet to come today, and I've basically run out of time to re-watch it today (I have other stuff to get done). So, that said, I'm just gonna repost the review I wrote from when I saw it in theater. If my mind changes on anything after I eventually rewatch it, I'll make note... otherwise, here you go.


I'd been mildly excited for this movie. I haven't played the video games, but I'm a fan of the concept. And anything that involves Parkour is cool. And then I started hearing the relatively positive reviews and got a bit more excited. Though despite the reviews being positive, they were only mildly so, with ratings around the 3-3.5 out of 5 range. But hey, that's at least entertaining, right? Right.

The movie follows the story of Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), who started out as an orphan but is adopted by the Persian king, thus becoming a prince of Persia. But with his street-based childhood, he has some street cred and knows how to move about (Aladdin-ish). Well, after getting some news that a major city might be selling weapons to Persia's enemies, Dastan, his brothers, and his uncle (Ben Kingsley) are forced to invade them. In the process, Dastan discovers a mystical dagger that has the ability to turn back time, which is guarded by the city's princess, Tamina (Gemma Arterton). But after Dastan is accused of murdering his father, he is forced to leave with Tamina on a quest to figure out who was really behind his father's death, as well as discovering the secrets of the dagger. The movie also features Alfred Molina as a shifty entrepreneur who dabbles with... ostrich racing.

Overall, some parts of this movie are better than others. This movie was pimped out to be the next big Pirates of the Caribbean. What I loved most about the PotC films, besides the quirky Captain Jack, were the imaginative fight sequences. And this movie had a lot of potential for imaginative fight sequences, what with the video game's basis in parkour and instant time travel. And I felt, for the most part, this potential was wasted. There's maybe one or two scenes that utilized these things well (primarily the parkour), but that's about it. But the scenes that do utilize these things are pretty cool.

The acting is decent, with the witty banter of Dastan and Tamina stealing the scenes. Dastan was a pretty fun character, and Gemma Arterton is absolutely gorgeous. Oh, and her character is decent, too, playing a strong female lead. Alfred Molina really hammed it up, and his character walked the line between funny and bizarrely annoying. There were some moments where he was funny, but the character overall was just strange, and the whole ostrich thing felt out of place. As for the other characters, the smaller roles (like the brothers) were a bit rough. They were flatly written and--sometimes--poorly acted. And Ben Kingsley was just kinda in it for the paycheck, I think.

Which leads me into the script itself. You can tell there are some very video game moments (puzzles, etc.). And those are pretty cool. But there is some pretty rough dialogue that is so forced, so stilted, so bad... I wonder how it even stayed past the rough draft of the script. Luckily, these moments are few and far between, but when they show up (especially around the beginning), they really stick out.

I know this review seems negative, but I didn't dislike the movie. It was actually pretty entertaining, and I can agree with all those other reviews that put it in that middle ground. It's not great, but it's fun, and it's a decent way to spend about 2 hours. Sure, you pretty much see everything coming a mile away, but the journey is still an entertaining one. And isn't that what summer blockbusters are all about?

Stop Saying OK! OK.

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