Thursday, May 20, 2010

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)



IMDb link

Directed by: Mike Newell
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton, Alfred Molina, others.
Release date: May 20, 2010 (UAE)

There is a reason why summer blockbusters are considered fodder for Hollywood. People adopt a more lenient disposition during this period, allowing the holiday season to become an excuse for them to revel in what is now popularly referred to as “popcorn cinema”. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, (yes, that is the complete official title, more than hinting at the establishment of a future franchise), sits snugly in this category. The movie leaves little for audiences to figure out, instead relying on a deluge of entertaining sequences to engulf them.

The premise is trite. An orphan is adopted into royalty after showing bravado on the streets. Now grown up, Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) accompanies his two elder brothers to conquer a mystical land that holds more than a purported stockpile of weapons. When his father, the king, is murdered, Dastan, wrongly accused of this crime, escapes with Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) and a magical dagger that has the power to turn back time, a minute at a time. Dastan must prove his innocence and save the known world from his nefarious uncle (Ben Kingsley) before a God-sent sandstorm is unleashed.

As the premise clearly establishes, Prince of Persia requires a suspension of belief in the same way that the Pirates of the Caribbean movies did. Unlike Pirates though, which was inspired by an amusement park ride, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is based on a series of video games that dates as far back as the late 80’s, with this film being specifically adapted from the 2003 version. This lends itself to many elements in the film and not just the title, especially the magical world that the characters inhabit as well as the Prince’s heroic abilities. Gyllenhaal instills an everyman charm to the character, earning an enduring likeability. The film also benefits from a wickedly funny Alfred Molina, channeling contemporary gripes, and a disgruntled, villainous Ben Kingsley, the only actor who seems vaguely Persian.

Prince of Persia is directed by Mike Newell whose only previous fantasy experience was working, with mixed results, on the fourth film of the Harry Potter franchise. Benefitting from a better producer this time (Jerry Bruckheimer), Newell manages to put together a concoction of action, humor and effects that succeeds primarily in engaging the casual viewer over its hasty 116 minute runtime. The movie is indeed shallow and simplistic, enough to deter those looking for meaningful entertainment. There is also enough in this movie for the nitpickers to complain about, from the preposterous use of English accents to the ubiquitous lack of originality throughout. Borrowing heavily from the Mummy & Pirates of the Caribbean series, it sets itself up with intentions of sequels and tie-in’s to follow, no doubt exploiting every available title from the successful games.

Prince of Persia is not likely to stand the test of time, nor can it be compared to the best films that summer has offered in the past (Independence Day or Transformers for example). It is at best a modest movie that fills the gap between the releases of better films. It does not aim very high, and therefore succeeds with little effort, satisfying audiences looking for escapism.

My rating --> 3.5 of 5

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