In Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Jake Gyllenhal stars as Prince Dastan, a former orphan who caught the eye of the king with a heroic deed, and was adopted into the royal family. Alongside his adoptive brothers he learns to fight like a warrior, but he is a bit scrappier that the other two, and can’t resist a good street fight from time to time.
He can nimbly traverse the city’s rooftops and his fancy footwork allows him to escape many a predicament that would have felled a lesser man. Prince Dastan is definitely supposed to be a throwback swashbuckler like Indiana Jones, or Richard O’Connell from The Mummy. Jake Gyllenhal almost pulls it off, but in the end, this story felt like a wanna-be Indiana Jones movie. Unfortunately, it comes up a bit short in every way.
The story begins when the Persian King believes that a neighboring kingdom harbors weapons of mass destruction, so they must invade and occupy the city. This will be Dastan”s big chance to to lead the army and prove his worth.
And so they invade the neighboring kingdom of Alamut under false pretenses. In Alamut, they encounter a beautiful, stubborn princess named Tamina, who takes a an instant dislike to Daston, but later, when Daston is accused of a committing a horrible crime, Tamina (Gemma Arterton, of Clash of the Titans) leads him to safety.
Turns out her intentions are not in saving Prince Daston, but in acquiring a magical dagger he pulled from a body during the battle, and proudly wears around his belt. He finds out that the princess is hot to trot for the dagger, and the two play “keep away” for a bit, until he discovers the true value of the dagger: if you press the jewel on the top of the knife, you can turn back time, for a short period.
Tamina confesses that she has been placed as a protector of the magical dagger by the gods, who once took pity on mankind in return for her sacrifice as a child. Daston vows to help Tamina return the dagger to it’s rightful resting place.
There is lots of swashbuckling adventure along the way, but it always feels like the movie scenes are missing a certain something I can’t quite put my finger on. Jake Gyllenhal is better than I thought he would be, but still can’t quite carry off the snarky, smart-ass delivery that Harrison Ford did as Indiana Jones. It’s just kind of falls flat whenever he tries to be funny.
Arterton is beautiful, and the two have an okay “I hate you/ now I love you” chemistry.
Some of the action scenes are really fun, particularly when Daston is running the rooftops and scaling castle walls. I much prefer those scenes to the sped up battle scenes. I am really tired of not being able to see what is going on within a particular battle scene, and this is no exception. You just see gleaming swords, bodies flailing, and an occasional slow motion jump or freeze frame.
Tamina and Daston encounter a group of gypsies who run an Ostrich racing track. After a sandstorm erases their livelihood, they team up (reluctantly) with Tamina and Daston on their journey to return the dagger. Of course, their intentions are not altruistic, Tamina has assured them that there will be gold beyond their wildest dreams at the temple that houses the dagger.
Alfred Molina (who played Satipo in Raiders of the Lost Ark) is a hoot as the gypsy ringleader, and provides a comedic touch to his scenes. Ben Kingsley also shows up as Daston’s uncle, who may or may not be trustworthy.
The ending sequence of Prince of Persia borrows heavily from the ending sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but falls short of that film’s greatness.
I think I’ve mentioned that I prefer to go into movies cold turkey: no trailers, no reading, no press notes. I was somewhat confused by a rather ornate plot about the dagger, but after the movie my peers informed me that the movie was based on the Prince of Persia video game. Then it made a lot more sense to me.
Prince of Persia was directed by Mike Newell, who actually directed a few episodes of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, along with standouts Four Weddings and a Funeral, Donnie Brasco, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
I will say that this might be one action-adventure film that the whole family can enjoy, and I doubt there will be too many of those. If your children watch the Indiana Jones movies, or The Mummy, they should find this movie quite enjoyable, and you won’t feel guilty taking them.
The romance is chaste, there is very little cursing, and the violence is minimal (compared to other action movies.) Kids might find a few sequences with snakes frightening. but it is nothing they haven’t seen in The Mummy or Indiana Jones.
All in all, Prince of Persia is okay, but underwhelming as an action-adventure, but should play well to fans of the game and to families.