Movie review: Prince of Persia – The Sands of Time

Score

Like the computer game it's based on, Prince of Persia is fun but shallow

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Cert: 12A, 116 mins

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley

Should we be worried? Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a film based on a computer game, from a producer whose biggest success to date came from adapting a theme park ride, starring an actor best known for sensitive tear-stained dramas, with a director best known for comedies, using a script written by no less than four writers.

In short, yes. Everything about the Jake Gylenhaal-starring, Jerry Bruckheimer-produced, Mike Newell-directed Prince of Persia should be a dog’s dinner.

But then Pirates of the Caribbean was much the same – a leading actor in Johnny Depp known mainly for sensitive indie roles, some deeply suspect source material, and a director in Gore Verbinski better known for horror remake The Ring and quirky indie drama The Weather Man.

Prince of Persia doesn’t match the initial Pirates magic, but there are hints in that direction, and after all, it could have been a hell of a lot worse.

Based on the game franchise, Prince of Persia is part Pirates of the Caribbean, part Arabian Nights, and all tosh. The plot sees Jake Gyllenhaal, played by a pair of pectorals, as a street urchin named Dastan in ancient Persia, who the king takes a shine to, and makes him his de facto son. Cue an assault on a nearby holy city in search of arms that aren’t actually there (do you think there might be a political message here, hmm?) and the king’s assassination that Dastan is blamed for, and what we’re essentially left with is an odd-couple movie.

Dastan is on the run and must find out the truth, and Gemma Arterton’s princess (from the conquered city) is on the run too, trying to cover up a bigger truth – the mysterious “sands of time” dagger which has the ability to re-wind time and play an event again and again. Great for the holder of the dagger, truly horrific for the cinema-goer checking their watch.

Kingsley chews each line as Dastan’s mysterious (ie evil) uncle, and Arterton once again manages to look like a screen siren only to talk like a Harvester waitress. And yes, the plot is silly, people keep having to recount it to each other to know what’s going on, and if we’re splitting hairs, some of the sets do look a little “Thorpe Park Aztec Zone”.

But while this is a piece of machine-tooled family entertainment that’s hard to love, it’s hard to hate too. You feel they’re trying to cram so much in – ostrich races! Creepy pale ninja men! War! Magic! – to give us so much to look at, the film doesn’t have a heart. And so while it doesn’t really work as a whole, the set-pieces are diverting enough along the way.