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Gemma Arterton
Jake Gyllenhaal
Alfred Molina
Toby Kebbell
Reece Ritchie
Richard Coyle.
Mike Newell.
Boaz Yakin
Doug Miro
Carlo Bernard
Jordan Mechner.
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Prince Of Persia: The Sands of Time
And, lo, the destiny of video-game to movie adaptations fell to a man called Jerry...

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After being framed for his father’s murder, adopted Prince Dastan (Gyllenhaal) escapes with the diffident Princess Tamina (Arterton) and a dagger with the knack of rewinding time. A dagger the bad guys are keen on getting their hands on….

Prince Of Persia: The Sands of Time
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How swiftly we have acclimatised to this multi-dimensional post-Avatar age of big-bang entertainment. So when a multi-million-dollar production of suitably fantasy orientation comes dressed only in plain old 2D, we stare hard-done-by at the poster and twitch irritably at the very idea of having to put up with mere narrative and acres of golden CGI. What gives? Is this some kind of Arabian-styled throwback to the naked passions of the Cassavetes canon? A tribute, with humble computer-generated sandstorms, to the vérité streets of Leigh or Loach? Surely, it’s just so 2008...

Persia arrives at the party with the firmly held belief that the Jerry Bruckheimer formula is enough: no need for the hasty addition of an extra dimension. There was certainly ample opportunity when the film was postponed from the growing hurly-burly that was the summer of 2009 and into 2010. Here is a big-scale movie, amusingly given its subject-matter, which stretched its own time-frame. Post-production could ease and, optimistically, the returns would be seen on screen and shatter the famous curse that any game-to-film adaptation will be as much fun as an argumentative root canal.

Yes, there’s no avoiding the obvious, Prince Of Persia arrives dragging that old bête noire for the blockbuster consumer: ‘based on a video-game’. How teeth gnash at the mere mention of previous attempts at entertainment synergy — those pummelling mishaps, Super Mario Bros., the Tomb Raiders or Street Fighters. It’s a barren landscape, but to a man unfazed by transforming a dusty theme-park ride into a billion-dollar franchise, why not rise to the challenges of making a gainful movie out of a popular platformer.

Bruckheimer, now a Yoda-like presence among the producers of Hollywood, is prone to shrugging his shoulders and waving away the imponderables of the business. The key, as he professes, is to lose no sleep to the petty grievances of the internet grumbler, and give your all to the demands of the cinemagoer.

Back in 1989, Jordan Mechner created a platform-jumping classic on the Apple II, a grumbling grey packing case of a computer. The theme was loosely Arabian Nights-ish, wherein a renegade prince negotiates pits of spikes and flames — a game drunk on the influence of Raiders’ opening ten minutes. It’s highly influential, has spawned six increasingly fangled sequels, and was so bloody hard, many Apple II’s plunged to their own deaths from bedroom windows. For those yet unacquainted with the particulars of the gaming sphere, Mike Newell’s Jerry Bruckheimer’s Prince Of Persia is an adaptation of the fifth iteration of the Persia games, helpfully also referred to as The Sands Of Time.

The results, straining so hard not to succumb to the film-as-game curse, find a tepid middle ground between a Bruckheimer hurl-it-up-there approach, and Newell’s devoted restraint in the cause of character and story. Controversially, for the junior demographic, he’s axed the game’s mindless demons for a non-creature feature. If the Pirates sequels became ever more tangled thickets of plot, here things are winningly simple: a good prince, a feisty princess, an evil uncle (when are they ever trustworthy?), and the worrying news that a nuclear billow of accursed sand is about to lay waste to all human kind. The gods, this year’s rather literal variation on the deus ex machina, opting for the ditch-it-and-start-again approach to their creation.

Yes, Newell and his screenwriters make a token thrust at topicality by throwing in the false search for weapons as the kick-off for an attack on an innocent city, and including this gigantic ‘device’ ticking away beneath Middle-Eastern soil. Early on, a helpful map instructs us that the Persian Empire stretched to cover most of what is now Iran and Iraq — a neighbour to Scheherazade’s more glamorous Araby. Although, we’re not entirely sure why Newell also went with a sandpapered Green Zone aesthetic. Since when do fairy tales need realism?

Standing in the way of disaster is Gemma Arterton’s comely princess/priestess Tamina. And a few awkward lurches of plot later (all that post-production and the film still staggers about like a drunk) they are teamed up, slow-burning their way to romance via the usual (but enjoyable) saucy bickering.

Newell has half-an-eye on the ebullient fizz of Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in the velveteen pomp of Sinbad The Sailor, wooing irascible Maureen O’Hara with his moon-sized grin and acrobatic gait. If the first Pirates taught them anything, it’s a worthy dimension in its own right — that merry dance of characters, the light frisson of comic exchange. And Gyllenhaal — likably warm and goofy, but a spiritual Han forever saddled with Luke’s lines — and Arterton, who gave 007 as good as she got, are a couple you root for. Arterton proves the most spirited character on show, even if she did recently lose a battle with Tango.

And, to be fair, most of their dialogue is as crusty as the city walls. How is it modern filmmakers never learned at Spielberg’s knee? That sublime trick of slipping in exposition without us noticing, never letting up on the action, the comedy, the bursting sense of adventure. The Indy films are a touchstone, but they wouldn’t be caught hatless with the listen-up-grandad approach to plotting here — “You mean this dagger can turn back time, so I can change what just happened to my own advantage?”, or lines to that effect.

Indy-refugee Alfred Molina makes a welcome appearance as a bandit who seems to have siphoned his dialogue in from Carry On Up The Minaret, and runs a delightful line in ostrich-racing. A suicidal ostrich comes very close to giving the finest performance in the film. The rest — Kingsley, Coyle, Kebbell et al — battle for credibility with some silly lines and very silly helmets.

Ironically, it’s when directly referencing the game the film finds it feet. There is a welcome attention to real-world stuntwork: the olde-worlde parkouring is thrilling, the swordfights have a steely urgency, and plenty of rapid-fire arrows, projectile snakes, and whirligigging cameras stand-up for a sturdy old-school prowess. And when called upon, the surging sandstorms, fizzing reversals of time, and other assorted uses of CGI are polished and unobtrusive. It’s with greater irony still, you imagine what 3D — good 3D — might have given it. Fancy hitting rewind, Jerry?

Gyllenhaal’s Dastan is the urchin adopted as a prince by a goodly king, then framed when he dons a poisoned robe. He’s got the moves of a street punk, parkouring about the ancient cities — dusty Minas Tiriths sticking out of the desert like pin-cushions — Bourne in baggy pyjama bottoms. He’s also come into possession of a dagger that holds a few of the Sands Of Time (subtitle alert!), and by the press of hilted jewel gets to rewind time by a minute — decently worked on screen in a whirl of electric light — to rework a scenario another way. Problem is, if said dagger falls into the wrong hands — look for the man wearing the most eyeliner — the entire tank of time-sand could be unleashed and strip the planet of pesky humans. What’s that? An ancient WMD buried in the desert...

Its restraint might put off thrill-seekers, but if you can endure the wooden dialogue and sloppy exposition, it musters the entertainment quotient of a middle-order Harry Potter.

Reviewed by Ian Nathan

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Prince Of Persia: The Sands of Time
Empire Star Rating

A Disney 50-50

The prince of Persia console game saga was a great in my opinion and I waited a long time for there to be a film adaption of it..sadly all I can say is that with Disney they get it either brilliantly right or terribly wrong..this time it wasn't good. The prince of Persia story in my mind is a lot darker and with Disney you just don't get that.. I suppose it's fine for kids, some good fight scenes (kinda)...but in my eyes in needed to be more edgy.. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jdowen24 at 23:18, 17 April 2013 | Report This Post

Neither Hateful nor Anything Special

An unambitiously solid disney adventure movie that hardly shames the original video game series or displays its true potential. Its predictability and all the exposition make this easy viewing which does make it verge on boredom. However because of the charismatic fun of Gyllenhaal and Arterton and some interesting fight and visual sequences it does at times provide good entertainment. A safe film, hardly hateful but if only the writers could have been as adventurous as the film they aimed to ma... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by trainedasninja at 11:49, 13 August 2011 | Report This Post

RE: Prince Of Persia: The Sands of Time

This was better than I thought it was going to, I assumed it would be a cheesy disney movie and was not to keen on watching but I sat down and chucked it on anyways, And i was pleasently surprised, i enjoyed it :P It was cheesy in a way but it was light, which I thought what well done considering the type of movie, the fight scenes were epic and I liked the story, I did enjoy watching it, great movie :) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by megatron_bee at 23:03, 05 July 2011 | Report This Post

RE: The REAL Prince of Persia!

Watched an hour of this generic pap then kept using the skip 15 sec button on my remote, everything was soooo predictable. I only stopped doing this when Gemma Arterton was on screen (and not because she was giving great performance). Were the only real Middle Eastern actors in this film extras and throwaway henchmen? And what the Hell was going on with those accents?? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Tech_Noir at 14:47, 25 June 2011 | Report This Post


This was an enjoyable film. In regards the empire review, who wants to bet that if it had been in 3D it would've gotten an extra star. I have taken to only reading empire reviews after I've seen the film but how many other films have they criticised for not being in 3D? ... More

Posted by musht at 21:56, 22 April 2011 | Report This Post

Excellent. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by reminn at 11:35, 03 November 2010 | Report This Post

Epic Fail

From the "team" that brought us "Pirates Of The Caribbean", comes this rather lacking and somewhat boring effort. The trailer said it all, but I dared to hope for more, but in fact got even less. The acting is up there with some of the worst and most wooden that I have ever seen, with the plot and even the scenery chewing the scenery! I wanted very much to say that Alfred Molina's performance as the Ostrich racing bandit was a saving grace but even this could do very littl... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by neopol at 14:45, 22 September 2010 | Report This Post

RE: please i want another movie of prince of persia

I enjoyed it. It passed the time on a drunken friday night. Lots of orangey people pouting and flexing (and that's just Alfred Molina). I'm suprised people were 'disappointed', how great did you expect a video game adaptation produced by Jerry Bruckheimer to be? Certainly better than the last 2 Pirates movies. ... More

Posted by UTB at 12:03, 21 September 2010 | Report This Post

RE: please i want another movie of prince of persia

L: sanchia Never get between a man and his love for an Ostrich. A lot of the film seemed to be taken wholesale from Assassins Creed rather than The Prince of Persia anyway. It did seem like an Assassins Creed adaptation rather than PoP didn't it? Also, the entire plot involving the assassins was dull. Like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, only far duller. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 22:09, 20 September 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Prince of Persia

L: TrainOfThought An enjoyable film, but it is spoilt slightly by its obvious preachy-ness on the subject of Iraq. ow was it preachy about Iraq? I didn't really pick up on that. Then again i cant remember much of a plot. Something about a dagger and the guy from Coupling. But i enjoyed it anyway the two leads were pretty good and the fight scenes were well put together. ... More

Posted by target at 21:13, 20 September 2010 | Report This Post

RE: please i want another movie of prince of persia

I watched this recently and found it pretty boring  - 2 /5 I actually enjoyed Clash of the Titans much more than this, and that is saying something... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by hampstead bandit at 20:56, 20 September 2010 | Report This Post

RE: please i want another movie of prince of persia

Never get between a man and his love for an Ostrich. A lot of the film seemed to be taken wholesale from Assassins Creed rather than The Prince of Persia anyway. ... More

Posted by sanchia at 18:38, 19 September 2010 | Report This Post

RE: please i want another movie of prince of persia

You have to give it to Newell though, I would have never thought of putting comedy Arabs who race ostriches in a film about the Prince of Persia. Mostly becuase it was a stupid idea. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 18:26, 19 September 2010 | Report This Post

RE: please i want another movie of prince of persia

An intensely average film in every way. The action is forgettable and quite sparse. The acting is forgettable and especially from Artherton dialed home (at least I hope so otherwise she is made of cardboard). The plot is pointless and the whole thing centres around a macguffin. The ending is awful and pointless and the whole film is pretty much a lot of CGI sand flying around. It is ok for a watch and then forget film but expect nothing and that is what you shall receive. ... More

Posted by sanchia at 12:10, 19 September 2010 | Report This Post

please i want another movie of prince of persia

is so beatiful and the music, any way, i love it ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tamina at 16:53, 17 September 2010 | Report This Post

please star your reviews

like i said ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by kable2010 at 12:48, 09 July 2010 | Report This Post

great saturday night fun

'nuff said as it was the best video game adaption that does not fail as an action ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by kable2010 at 12:45, 09 July 2010 | Report This Post

Jolly Good Fun

I don't see what you're all harping on about. This film doesn't pretend to be some high-concept, thought-provoking movie. It's meant to be action-packed escapism, and it delivers on all counts. OK, the dialogue is a bit clunky at times, and there could have been a bit more action, but all in all, if you wanted something to entertain you, you couldn't go far wrong. I'd much rather turn back my own Sands of Time and watch this moving a couple more times, than spend my hard-earned cash watching som... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Nosdod at 23:06, 09 June 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Prince of Persia

I actually thought it did a nice job of keeping everything moving along at a nice pace. I don't recall feeling like the movie was ever dragging or looking at my watch. There are definitely some long movies out there this summer that need to be cut down, but I thought Prince of Persia did a nice job of just keeping it to the meat and potatoes.  ... More

Posted by TrailMix at 15:52, 07 June 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Prince of Persia

Didn't really enjoy this.  Loved the first half hour but after that the film went downhill for me.  Weak script, thin plot and cheesy dialogue.  Loved the action scenes but even these couldn't make up for all the other cheesy elements. Jake Gyllenhall was excellent as the prince.  But Gemma Atertons character got on my nerves; not helped by the fact that she can't act.  She was awful and wooden in this. The supporting characters were okay...for me Alfred Molin... More

Posted by princessa at 12:13, 06 June 2010 | Report This Post

Prince of Persia

An enjoyable film, but it is spoilt slightly by its obvious preachy-ness on the subject of Iraq. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TrainOfThought at 00:06, 06 June 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Prince Of Persia: The Sands of Time

Enjoyable, forgettable. ... More

Posted by jcthefirst at 13:15, 04 June 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Prince Of Persia: The Sands of Time

It could have been better but I was expecting much worse. All in all it's disposable fluff but enjoyable throughout. There are a few squandered promises in the execution (the action ranges from great to meh) and not much is made of the parkour or time travel aspects (I would have loved to have seen Dastan fall to his death only to reverse time at the last possible moment), but overall I quite enjoyed it. It moves quickly. there were a few genuine goose bump moments and Gemma Arteton is beautifu... More

Posted by Gazz at 10:48, 04 June 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Prince Of Persia: The Sands of Time

Great fun.  Not original but enyoyable.  The cast were excellent.  The script was passable but only just.  Empire's review for this was just terrible but others have commented on that. ... More

Posted by Kingseany at 12:50, 03 June 2010 | Report This Post

A royal rumble!

OK - first of all Empire, please stop going on about bloody 3D!!! I for one am getting a bit sick of dodgy 3D adaptations that make you feel like you're watching a 2D film with sunglasses on (Clash of the Titans anyone?). Anyway, back to the film! I really enjoyed this and it's a good old fashioned action/adventure. Feels like a cross between Aladdin, The Mummy and Indiana Jones but that's no bad thing. The tone is just right achieving a balance between action and comedy and whilst some of the d... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by trueborndjross at 09:17, 03 June 2010 | Report This Post

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