Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Entertainment: +2

Content: +2

Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton, Alfred Molina. Action adventure. Written by Doug Miro & Carlo Bernard. Directed by Mike Newell.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Set in the mystical lands of Persia, the story concerns a rogue prince (Jake Gyllenhall), who reluctantly joins forces with a mysterious princess (Gemma Arterton), and together they race against dark forces to safeguard an ancient dagger capable of releasing the Sands of Time—a gift from the gods that can reverse time and allow its possessor to rule the world. Directed by Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Action fueled, this adventure/fantasy is reminiscent of the Indiana Jones films, with its continuous cliffhanger escapades. From beginning to end, it moves with energy and good pacing. The leads are attractive, the sets and locales interesting, and you’ll never guess who the villain is. Oh, maybe you will – he’s always the villain. If you’re looking for a mindless, emotionless, popcorn-munching, by-the-numbers summer actioneer – this is it. Sadly, it never generates a sense of wonder.

The lead, demonstrating a flair for James Bond witticisms and Conan the Barbarian sword-swinging, should be pleasing to the ladies (Gyllenhaal is a good-looking guy), and guys should appreciate Gemma Arterton, a beauty with requisite puffed-up lips and magnetic brown eyes. Alas, there’s no chemistry between the two. The action sequences are shot with a bouncing camera, the fighting scenes (and they are endless) are muddled by extreme close-ups and quick cutting. Can any of the actors actually swing a club, an ax or a sword? Who knows? The battles are so jumbled, who can tell?

The emphasis is on action. No problem there, but the lack of narrative drive, its emotional ambivalence, the anachronistic dialogue and its muddled visual sense keeps it from being what any film in this genre should be – fun.

As for all those blaring, quick-edited battles between good guy and evil guy, today’s directors and crew have lost the choreographed simplicity that used to draw us into the action. Years ago, Basil Rathbone and Errol Flynn dueled in The Adventures of Robin Hood. A few years later, Basil got into it with Tyrone Power in Mark of Zorro. The fencing matches were highlights in both of those pictures. The two actors were aided by atmospheric sets, lighting, and staging. The camera held still, the score punched up the scene as much as the editor, and Flynn, Rathbone and Power looked like they were true duelists. Indeed, Mr. Rathbone was considered one of the best swordsmen in Hollywoodland.

The Prince of Persia is boisterous but bland. Now, that last statement is mere opinion. It is based on the fact that I have seen many films in this genre, some that amused me, some I found magical. But that’s the magic of movies, one entertains some, while completely boring others. Understand and believe, I do not like saying something negative about a filmmaker’s work. That said, I have an appreciation for this art form and find that too often films from this era are limited to a demographic studio heads think will best support movie-going. Mostly, studios make movies for 14-year-old boys, and then they keep in mind the tastes of the foreign market. Nothing wrong with that. It is, after all, a business. However, films can be smart rather than stuck in a formula where creativity becomes secondary.

In recent years, animation has been a breeding ground for thoughtful, amusing, even touching programming that reached both young and old. For example, last year’s UP contained a montage that moved me both to laughter and tears (shortly after the opening of the film we see the couple as they share their life). No other film that year touched me quite that profoundly. It succinctly said much about marriage and the filmmakers’adroit craftsmanship. The makers of that film along with the creators of most other animated films of that year were truly creative and respectful of their audience – both young and old. Why aren’t we seeing that imagination applied to live-action films? Certainly, I didn’t expect to be moved emotionally by The Prince of Persia, but I was hoping to be awed. I wasn’t. So, check out other reviews. If the majority of them show the film to be lacking, you might want to save your money.

DVD Alternative: The Thief of Bagdad. The 1940, color version starring Sabu follows a sharp native boy who outwits a villainous magician in this Arabian Nights fable. Oscar-winning photography, a great score and formidable special effects for their day highlight this truly entertaining fantasy adventure.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Disney Studios

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: One suggestive sexual remark.

Obscene Language: I caught none

Profanity: None

Violence: Though bloodless, there’s one intense battle after another.

Sex: No, everybody’s too busy swinging swords.

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: None

Other: None

Running Time: 116 minutes
Intended Audience: Older teens and above

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