Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Prince of Persia Sands of Time Movie PosterHere we go with another video game adaptation, this time with Disney’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Released last year, it is based on the Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube, Windows game of the same name from way back in 2003. Creator of the series, Jordan Mechner, actually wrote the film, so we at least have a bit of pedigree here.

I don’t really ever feel the need to watch movies based on video games, so I’m usually seeking them out on purpose to rip on them. The Sands of Time is no exception, and while I fully expected the movie to suck, I was surprised to find that it was actually not terrible, but still not a very good “adaptation” of a series I’m very familiar with.

The movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal in all his shirtless manliness, plus Gemma Arterton as the damsel and Ben Kingsley in yet another video game movie after Bloodrayne. I’m not a big film nerd, but even I recognize that Kingsley is a pretty good actor that takes a ton of bad roles. I question his sanity.

Here’s my thoughts on Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

The first thing that stands out about Prince of Persia is the extreme whiteness of all the main characters. I’m not much of a fan of political correctness and normally couldn’t care less about the race of particular characters, but this seems to be asking too much of the audience. Ben Kingsley has the ancestry and Jake Gyllenhaal is barely passable as a Persian, but the rest of the Prince’s family made up of Ronald Pickup, Richard Coyle, and Tony Kebbell are just distracting. Not to mention Gemma Arterton as the princess, they barely even tried with her casting. I understand that with a summer blockbuster you want bankable actors like Gyllenhaal, but don’t round out the supporting cast with Englishmen.

Many of the action scenes are full of kind of crappy looking CGI, especially the backgrounds. There are tons of sweeping shots of cities and palaces and it’s obvious they’re computer generated. I thought the actors and their version of acting would be distracting, but every action sequence was ruined by slow motion, tons of camera cuts, and excessive computer fakery. The dagger scenes were visually striking and memorable, at least.

Speaking of the time-rewinding dagger, it isn’t actually used until a half an hour into the film, where it only took a few minutes to get to it in the video game. Its rewind feature is also only used about four other times the entire film and never in situations that are relevant to the video game like accidentally jumping off a cliff.

This is one of the film’s more annoying problems: it doesn’t translate what the game does well at all. The premise of the game was simple and well-contained; the movie spans multiple kingdoms, dozens of named characters, hundreds of extras, regicide, ostrich races, and few actual things that make Prince of Persia so fun to play. The Prince spends more time sword fighting than gracefully parkouring around like he properly should, and way too many scenes are filled with political babble in a shallow world.

I was mostly just bored by the first half of the film, but the second half seemed to redeem itself a bit in my eyes. The writing got pretty crazy too, as not one, but two of the heroes actually committed suicide to illustrate the power of the dagger and spur on others to do what is right.

All in all, the dagger itself is incredibly underused and reduced to the role of a MacGuffin, and the Prince barely acts like the Prince. If you’re looking for a straight Sands of Time conversion to film, you’ll be disappointed. If you want to waste a few hours with some mindless action and middling acting, then this will probably do. Heck, it’s free on Netflix Watch Instantly.

Prince of Persia Sands of Time Jake Gyllenhaal Gemma Arterton wet



I don't think we'll ever get a decent movie adaptation of a video game as long as big movie studios are buying up all the rights. There aren't many people who understand how to translate a video game's essence (or even its narrative) into a non-interactive medium...and I certainly doubt any of them are the Hollywood execs churning out explosion flicks and the same two or three horror movies for massive profit.

Thats certainly another possibility

I think you're right. I think it's a bit of both.

A further humorous oddity about Centurion is that the main Pict (pre-scottish) villain is actually a Ukrainian actress (Olga Kurylenko of 007 fame). So naturally, in the story, her tongue was cut out and she doesn't have a single line.

So, you've got this movie about scots killing romans but in reality its russians killing irishmen. Neither of which look anything LIKE each other.

Great review Greg

I've not watched this yet, but being a big fan of the first modern PofP game, probably will.

This had me rolling. "The first thing that stands out about Prince of Persia is the extreme whiteness of all the main characters."

Great take away and so true.

This is related but is slightly different than your further comment.

" I understand want bankable actors.., but don’t round out the supporting cast with Englishmen."

This I think is not so much the whiteness issue as the incredibly pervasive Hollywood perception that foreign culture presented to Americans must be done so with british actors if not outright british accents. Somehow they believe that to Americans "foreign" = British.

I just watched Centurion (also free on Netflix and not a terrible movie) and several of the KEY roman soldiers also spoke with british accents.
I would have been able to swallow this, since the movie was taking place in ancient Britain, but for the fact that the "romans" constantly pined throughout the movie to go home to their native Rome. I'm sorry, but does this man look like a Roman?

Great insight

You are probably right on the head of the issue with the idea that British = foreign to Americans. My example of the Prince's family surprised me even more so when I found out that all three of them are British, and of course, Ben Kingsley and Gemma Arterton hail from the UK too. Even Alfred Molina who I didn't mention in the review but plays a re-occurring role was born in London. Essentially the only actor not from the UK is Gyllenhaal.

A bit more research reveals that the director was English and one of the studios behind it is a huge visual effects company based out of England. So I don't know anymore if it was just casting to pander to Americans or if they mostly hired Brits because the crew was English. Probably a bit of both, but it's definitely curious.

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