REVIEW: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

31 05 2010

We’ve all come up with our laundry list of complaints about summer blockbusters.  They all seem to fall into the same predictable pattern of making the same mistakes.  Every once in a while, a big summer popcorn flick surprises us by redressing these grievances and win us over by avoiding the normal pratfalls.  They really don’t have to be great in their own right.

However, Jerry Bruckheimer has found success in making ones that are.  He first struck gold with “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” a smart swashbuckling action movie with the most unlikely of sources – a theme park ride.  His latest summer tentpole release, the video game adaptation “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” seemed more likely to tread the path of summer disasters.  But by addressing every problem on our laundry list, it becomes undeniable moviegoing fun and could wind up being one of the highlights of the summer movie season.

We hate having nothing but action.  Director Mike Newell seems to find the perfect balance between sprawling battle sequences and downtime for character and plot development.  And he also finds impeccable timing for the shifts; as soon as we begin to grow bored of one or thirst for the other, we get it.

We hate being insulted by terrible plots.  Much to my surprise, “Prince of Persia” actually sports an incredibly engaging storyline that grabs you from the get-go.  Unlike most video game movies, it does not concede and let the action tell the story.  To say it is intelligent may be a stretch, but it’s only a few rungs below it and certainly much smarter than your average summer popcorn flick.  It skillfully weaves fantasy into an otherwise very real world, and it ties the beginning and end together in a very gratifying way.  But perhaps most impressive, it actually seems to understand the concepts of destiny and fate.

We hate models trying to act.  It’s so dreadful watching them to try to act, and they unintentionally turn every line and movement into a farce.  Bruckheimer, Newell, and the casting directors ensured that we would take the movie seriously by casting real actors who have legitimate credits to their names, including an Oscar nominee and winner.  Jake Gyllenhaal proves to be the full package: he’s got the brawn and the acting chops to command an action movie.  Ben Kingsley, who has donned the villainous face many times before, finally finds an antagonist in a mainstream film that deserves his talents.  Gemma Arterton, who in addition to her role as a gorgeous princess in “Prince of Persia” has had parts in “Clash of the Titans” and “Quantum of Solace,” has beauty to rival Megan Fox and talent to trump her.  This movie may very well crown her as Hollywood’s choice young beauty.  And although we never really need “relief,” per se, Alfred Molina is there to provide it comedically as a sheik determined to never pay taxes as if he came straight from a Tea Party.

We hate ambiguous heroes.  We can’t stand when a hero is undefined because we lose any desire to care about their escapades.  Gyllenhaal’s Prince Dastan is a strong swordsman who rises from the gutters of Persia based on his character, in particular the trait of nobility.  He’s an all-around fun character to get behind.  With the agility of a Jason Bourne and the fighting instincts of a Batman, Dastan is a great character to build a franchise around, and Gyllenhaal is a great actor to bring him to life.

“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” isn’t a cure-all for summer movie woes or the action movie to redefine action movies.  But it’s nice to sit down for two hours and be captivated by a popcorn flick that doesn’t have you moaning.  For a brief moment, we can get the lamenting voice of Roger Ebert out of our heads and enjoy a big budget blockbuster.  This may not be a movie that reassures you of a prosperous future for mainstream cinema, but it’s good enough that it won’t make you fear an impending and disastrous Dark Age.  B+ /


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One response

2 07 2010
may7black

the prince of persia is another sloppy attempt to make sense of the persian empire for the western audience. and another (yet yet another) attempt by the filmmakers to portray the wrath of god on mankind. somehow i have the notion (conspiracy theory, rather) that the gods have a strong lobby at Hollywood. how else do i describe this feeble rewriting of the old tales of yore. god not happy. threaten human. human scared. human self- sacrifice. god happy. everything all right.

and on the top of this incredibly stupid story, the film has Gyllenhaal as an action hero. seriously?

the action is decent. but why does hollywood waste so much money on movies like this? beats me.

sorry my opinion doesn’t match your review. 😦
the plot is really sloppy. a movie can’t bejust snatches of action scenes. that’s all i have to say.

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