Saturday, 22 May 2010

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Director: Mike Newell
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton & Ben Kingsley

A disappointing action/adventure adapting the popular video game that has some fleeting moments of fun but is generally unmemorable overall.

With many videogames being adapted into big screen films, the critical success of most have rarely matched their box office success even in cases where box office success has been poor. Prince of Persia, which has spawned a series of sequels is the latest game adaptation but unlike others that have often been based on shoot em’ ups, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time comes from the studios of Jerry Bruckheimer who has seen massive success in with the Pirates of the Caribbean series of films which were originally based off of a theme park ride. No doubt hoping to take the unique time period of the story and the action/adventures trappings to spawn a new franchise of big budget adventures, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time unfortunately falls flat with only a few brief moments of enjoyment to be had from the action or the cast but nothing as stand out as Johnny Depp’s performance in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

Prince Dastan (Gyllenhaal), once a street orphan who was adopted by the Persian king into his family after witnessing an act of bravery, is now the youngest of three princes. When an attack is made on another city under the Intel that they are harbouring weapons, a plot arises that sees the king poisoned and Dastan framed for the murder. Going on the run with the Princess Tamina (Arterton) of the captured city, Dastan believe his elder brother to be the guilty party and believes also that the attack on the city and the death of the king was a plot to get a hold of a mystical dagger that Dastan now possesses that allows its wielder to travel backwards in time to correct mistakes of the presence thus giving him the foresight to change the course of battles. Dastan must somehow protect the dagger from those who would exploit it, prove his own innocence in his father’s death whilst prove the guilt of the actual murderer all while enduring the attitude of the feisty, independent Tamina.

On paper, many of the ingredients seem to be present for audiences as well as producer Jerry Bruckheimer to believe that Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time could launch another series of adventure films that could achieve the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Present are a handsome lead that came from rough beginnings, a feisty female character from a higher upbringing with romantic chemistry between them, betrayals, attacks, magical objects and terrible curses along with a period setting which allows for more exotic locales and action sequences. However, in spite of this the film also features many of the flaws of the Pirates of the Caribbean including an overly-convoluted plot but what Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time lacks is a stand out lead character or performance. Dastan and Tamina fulfil the roles of hero and heroine but neither are as engaging on their own as they are on screen together with their banter providing the most enjoyment to be found in the film but other roles are too underwritten to generally care about and the villains of the film somewhat faceless and/or unthreatening. The action sequences do occasionally show some life but the scenes of chases over rooftops seem lacking when more modern day thrillers like the Jason Bourne films achieve more impressive sequences and the special effects also feel somewhat lacking in comparison to more recent blockbusters which are adding 3D to increase appeal.

Performances in the film are a mixed bunch. Jake Gyllenhaal is generally enjoyably as the heroic lead having bulked up physically to look the part though a misguided attempt to deliver an English accent is sometimes painful and often harm the drama. Gemma Arterton is more enjoyable as Princess Tamina despite her role to generally be a constant thorn in Dastan’s side whilst maintain enough sex appeal to keep him interested. It does work when Arterton and Gyllenhaal are bantering on screen but Arterton is less able to impress when having to deliver more serious moments. Several actors such Ben Kingsley and up-and-comer Toby Kebbell feel wasted on underwritten roles as Dastan’s uncle and brother and the only other performance of note is Alfred Molina as the leader of bandits who crosses paths with Dastan and provides the film with its comic relief character. None of the performances stand out like Depp’s in Pirates of the Caribbean to maintain the enjoyment even during the more convoluted moments of the script and the villains here are generally less memorable or likeable.

Overall, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a failed attempt by Jerry Bruckheimer to launch another action/adventure series in the mould of the Pirates of the Caribbean film. There are some moments that are enjoyable during some action sequences or between the banter of the male and female leads but most of the film is average and unmemorable and not as enjoyable as the games on which the film is based. Disappointing.

Rating: 2/5