Video game movies are no stranger to cinema. Ever since they became popular in the late 80’s and early 90’s, movie studios have been dying to get their greedy little paws on their licenses. Many have been made, but few have been worthy. Some argue none have been. Not a single video game movie ever made sits fresh on the aggregate movie critic score website Rotten Tomatoes. Yet many of those critics aren’t gamers themselves. I am. Not that it means I’m more qualified to judge, but I feel my dabbling in the video game culture has benefited me when looking at some films. Take Hitman for instance, a movie whose central character confused many, but whom I completely understood based on my knowledge of the video games. The latest game adaptation to hit the screens is Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and is based on the long running series begun in 1989 and it's a fun romp, regardless of what the naysayers may preach.
In an opening that’s more likely to elicit memories of “Assassin’s Creed” than “Prince of Persia” from gamers, we meet the king of Persia, King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup), who adopts a young boy after his valiant effort to save another kid from soldier cruelty. That young boy grows up to be Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) who has no wishes for the throne, but only to protect his family and do what is right. A neighboring city, led by Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) is believed to hold weapons and Dastan, along with his friends, infiltrates it and begins the siege. After the victory, Dastan gives the King a customary present, a robe that he immediately puts on. But it’s laced with poison and the King dies right there. Dastan, accused of murder, flees with Tamina and finds himself in possession of a mystical dagger that can turn back time, which could disrupt the very fabric of time and space if put into the wrong hands. He must find out who killed his father while also protecting the dagger.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is dopey and meaningless. It’s a monumentally absurd movie with a nonsensical plot, goofy costumes and laughable dialogue. It’s trashy, but it’s the right kind of trashy. It’s a summer action blockbuster that solidly mixes its campy writing with its high flying action. It’s what last summer’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra tried to be, but failed.
The action, as computer generated as it may have been, is hard to not have fun with. Watching the Prince hop across rooftops to elude capture and slide down a mountain of sand while crumbling structures fall all around him is a blast. The swashbuckling swordplay comes with benefits too. In all its over-the-top glory, the clinks and clanks and flying daggers make for a serviceable distraction from the troublesome story that doesn’t bother with development, but rather says every plot point matter-of-factly so it can move on to the next outlandish action scene.
This amusing stupidity would be for naught without Jake Gyllenhaal, however, who expels just the right amount of charm, wit and good looks to fit the role. He looks like he’s having fun and never seems to take the sometimes flat dramatic story turns too seriously. Couple him with the beautiful Gemma Arteron, who holds her own around the Prince with an even faster tongue and trickier sleight of hand, and you have a hot potato match where the dagger changes possession so many times you may lose track of it yourself.
Saying that Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time succeeds on its brainless action and enjoyably stupid plot is faint praise. Even fainter praise would be to say that it’s one of the best video game adaptations ever made. But faint praise is still praise and any at all may come as a shock to many. Maybe it’s because I’m a gamer and have played the games it spawned from, but I liked this movie and if you can get past its faults and find the awesome B-movie hidden underneath, you might like it too.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time receives 3.5/5