Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time: Like a Footprint in Sand, Forgotten in No Time

1 06 2010

With all the buzz around Jake Gyllenhaal’s abs in the new Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time movie, you’d think the box office numbers would be more forgiving. Unfortunately for Jake (and his abs), Prince of Persia underperformed miserably this weekend, raking in a measly $30 million. With numbers like that (and lackluster word of mouth) it’s doubtful that Prince of Persia will become Disney’s new Pirates of the Caribbean replacement franchise. Here’s the breakdown:

Dastan, orphan-turned-prince, is framed for his father’s murder and hunted by his brother and uncle. In his attempt to clear his name, he teams up with the mysterious and beautiful Princess Tamina and discovers she is hiding a secret that could change the course of history forever. Tamina is the guardian of the Sands of Time and the mystical dagger that controls them – with the press of a button, the wielder of the dagger can go back in time. Dastan must stop evil forces from harnessing this awesome power, saving the world and proving his innocence in the process.

The Monkey: As with most Bruckheimer productions, Prince of Persia delivers on the action and the wonderful visuals. With bustling street bazaars, glittering domes and exotic costumes, the movie felt epic.

Despite a relatively formulaic plot, there were moments of originality, namely a comedic interlude involving an ostrich race, the deadly fighting style of the Hassansins and the dagger’s time travelling special effects.

Gemma Arterton’s Tamina was forced to be the narrator, constantly explaining all the finer plot points and mystical aspects of the movie; yet she managed to keep the audience from growing bored and looked stunning in every frame (although I much preferred her in Clash of the Titans). Alfred Molina was a pleasant surprise, playing the scumbag-with-a-heart-of-gold character with gusto. Unfortunately, he was underutilized.

Jake Gyllenhaal’s Parkour scenes added something new to otherwise routine fight sequences, and acted as a nice nod to the movie’s video game origins.

The Weasel: As with most Bruckheimer productions, Prince of Persia leaves audiences feeling empty. Great special effects, decent actors, visually exciting, humor, romance, action…sitting in the theatre, it seems like the movie is delivering everything necessary for a great night at the movies. But as the credits roll, you realize it was empty. Part of the problem is the target audience. Being a Disney production, the movie has to appeal to a younger market (how else are they going to sell shelves of toys?). But Prince of Persia rides an uncomfortable line between kid-friendly film and adult-oriented action movie. And without a comparable Jack Sparrow character from Pirates of the Caribbean or the cleverness of National Treasure, Prince of Persia’s franchise potential is limited. After all, a movie can’t be supported by abs alone.

The plot wasn’t complicated or dark enough to be taken completely seriously (although the movie itself took itself far too seriously), and it wasn’t light-hearted enough to be seen as a family-friendly action-adventure. The result is Prince of Persia gets lost in the middle somewhere, easily forgotten.

The plot is painfully predictable; the audience continues watching in hopes there might be a twist, or, at the very least, an entertaining action sequence that will distract them from the trite storyline. The biggest cheat, however, came with the movie’s finale. SPOILERS: Dastan goes back in time, to the beginning of the film to keep the entire movie from happening in the first place. Aside from the fact that this gives cutthroat reviewers the perfect set-up for “I wish the viewer could have done the same thing” or “The audience should have been given the same opportunity” jokes, this particular plot device slaps the viewer across the face, saying, “Thanks for sitting through this movie for two hours, but guess what, you didn’t need to, because nothing that you just saw actually happened!” Hmmm…not the best message to leave your audience with. Plus, Dastan traveled back right AFTER the opening battle – why couldn’t he have traveled just a few hours earlier, sparing countless lives? Seems a bit callous.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was a visually entertaining movie and a fun way to kill a couple hours. Unfortunately, it did not live up to expectations, which is too bad, because, if handled differently, it could have been the start to a great franchise. But with the way things are looking at the box office, I doubt there will be any sequels.

2 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Did Prince of Persia do the source material justice? Do you think the movie has franchise potential? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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