The Prince of Persia started life as a critically acclaimed video game in 1989 and has since become a huge franchise that has spread across two decades and several different mediums from graphic novels to next generation consoles. Now, it hits the big screen. The new film, The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, is set to be the summer blockbuster to rival Marvel’s Iron Man 2 and it certainly has all the usual trappings of an action-adventure flick. We have an attractive male protagonist, Dastan (Gyllenhaal), who with the help of an equally attractive love interest, Princess Tamina (Arterton), must defeat the less attractive antagonist, Nizam (Kingsley). Between the opening and ending credits Dastan will travel around Persia, create a mismatched group of followers and be a part of some impressive fight scenes; if this all sounds familiar to you then you are likely to have seen the producer’s other big hit The Pirates of the Caribbean. However, though Prince of Persia sounds as if it is cut from the same cloth, it sadly falls short of what Pirates of the Caribbean achieved. The characters are not as developed, the settings not as compelling and the plot not as engaging.
Although Gyllenhaal portrays a far more competent and interesting character than Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner (who ironically was rumoured to have been originally playing this part) he isn’t as entertaining or as dynamic as Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow. Arterton’s Princess Tamina also falls short of being an impressive heroine; the flirtatious bickering between Dastan and Tamina is not only typical of Hollywood blockbusters, but it’s rather poorly executed. Instead of coming across as strong, independent and free thinking Tamina simply seems annoying and whiney. Location also causes gripes. Set in Persia, but filmed in Morocco, the movie jumps quickly from one location to another without properly showing the beauty of the landscape. Sadly it seems that Morocco will look more impressive in Sarah-Jessica Parker’s up-and-coming chick-flick Sex and the City 2 than it did here. Along with jumpy scenes, the plot bounded from location to location and fight to fight with very little congruency or tension. The premise of the film is explained within the first 40 minutes and the audience is given no new surprises.
Despite these deficiencies, the film is not without merit. It provides a lot for lovers of action; the fight scenes are well choreographed with many acrobatic tricks accompanying each sword fight. There is also an element of free running introduced to the film which is a subtle homage to the game the movie is based on. And the sequence of rewinding time is a particularly impressive feature of the film; this beautifully crafted CGI sequence is the one bit of originality in the movie. All together the sequences took a year and a half to finish, but visually it was worth every second. However, these tiny moments are not enough to redeem the rest of the 116 minute running time; anyone who is being dragged to see it should go on Orange Wednesday when at least their ticket will be free.