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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
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Good 3 Stars
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Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Gemma Arterton
Jake Gyllenhaal
Alfred Molina
Toby Kebbell
Reece Ritchie
Richard Coyle.
Directors
Mike Newell.
Screenwriters
Boaz Yakin
Doug Miro
Carlo Bernard
Jordan Mechner.
Running Time
115 minutes

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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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Plot
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….


Review
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...


Verdict
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

Not Bad But Not Great Either

I was only slightly entertained, the quarreling love interest thing is a cliche and the film itself never made me think oh that was cool, and it didnt make me laugh either, I pretty much expected it to be like this. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Bighousewill at 18:10, 24 May 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Better than the review gives it credit for

Well Prince of Persia was hardly a disappointment in that I personally didn't expect much from it anyway. As far as video game to film adaptations go it's one of the best...or less terrible. Jake is completely miscast...that accent was just embarrassing. I love the guy and he did his best to make his part work but he's just not right in this role. At all. Film itself had its fun moments but the direction and editing was all over the place. Such a mess. Especially the ridiculous, nonse... More

Posted by Edward Nygma at 13:54, 24 May 2010 | Report This Post


Better than the review gives it credit for

I thought the movie was better than Robin Hood and Iron Man 2. In my opinion, it could be the surprise hit of the year. An enjoyable family movie! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mojokola at 13:00, 24 May 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Boring review..zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

That is a bit harsh! I think we have all seen a film,given comment and sometimes said it actually wasn't that bad/good. Film reviewers get one chance and that's it. If we didn't disagree witht them,where'd be the fun? If you are into structural analysis(like poetry in essence) of movies,cool. I think most people just want a basic review of the film content and then make up their own mind. ... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 08:55, 24 May 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Boring review..zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

L: lipton village Ian Nathan your a pain in the hole. What utter high brow, intellectual snobbery. This reviewer is pompous. He provides very little info about the film but seems to meander off into a stream of conciouness diatribe of a review. Empire, will you get rid of this guy. He reviews films like he was explaining the inner workings of an atom. Pompous, intellectual high brow nonsense and trying far too hard to sound intelligent (which he's not). He's a fool. hat an intellectual ... More

Posted by Deviation at 16:12, 23 May 2010 | Report This Post


Boring review..zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Ian Nathan your a pain in the hole. What utter high brow, intellectual snobbery. This reviewer is pompous. He provides very little info about the film but seems to meander off into a stream of conciouness diatribe of a review. Empire, will you get rid of this guy. He reviews films like he was explaining the inner workings of an atom. Pompous, intellectual high brow nonsense and trying far too hard to sound intelligent (which he's not). He's a fool. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lipton village at 19:38, 22 May 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Prince Of Persia: The Sands of Time

I thought it was good, three stars.  Jake's accent was all over the place tho and my mate and I were laughing at it.  There were a few unintentional hilarious parts in the film.  Alfred was great providing comic relief, Gemma can act and she looked goreous. Everyone was decent in this. I don't understand the ending.  If Ben's character pressed the dagger surely he would get to choose to go back in time? So, A how does Jake remember it and B why didn't he go back to when... More

Posted by theoriginalcynic at 17:30, 22 May 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Prince Of Persia: The Sands of Time

Director: Mike Newell Screenwriters: Jordan Mechner, Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina Synopsis After the discovery of a dagger that lets the carrier travel back through time, the adventurous Prince Dastan (Gyllenhaal) teams up with a rival princess (Arterton) to stop a sinister ruler (Kingsley) from unleashing a sandstorm that could destroy the world. Review If there’s one thing that everyone will agree... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 13:32, 22 May 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Unhelpful Review

WTF?! This is a great write up! It's not a review for Lawrence of Arabia, for christ's sake. Ian Nathan takes the review about as serious as the film takes itself, and clearly has fun doing it. Loosen up, cinephile buddies! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by theJackal at 02:48, 22 May 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Prince Of Persia: The Sands of Time

I read an interesting review with Bruckheimer where he talked about this not being in 3D. He said he likes the format, but it's very expensive, and because they were shooting in the dessert it would of been tough to maneuver with the 3D cameras.  ... More

Posted by TrailMix at 22:24, 21 May 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Prince Of Persia: The Sands of Time

I'm not usually one for criticising Empire's reviews - I might disagree with the final analysis, but all criticism is subjective, and I've never really had a problem with the writing itself - but in this case I'm going to have to bandwagon. The 3D stuff in this review was extremely annoying and unnecessary. 3D is not the be all and end all of cinema, no matter how good Avatar's tech was. And why mention it specifically for Prince of Persia? I don't remember anything about 3D in, say, the Iron M... More

Posted by shinysavage at 01:10, 21 May 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Unhelpful review

L: Olaf I forget what exactly it was that Alanis found ironic, actually. All I know is that it wasn't actually ironic, and as such it was ironic that Alanis said it was ironic when it wasn't. The irony. yrne(Irish comedian) does a great send-up of this. Anyhow,shit song,shit film-still don't get the irony. ... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 23:48, 19 May 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Unhelpful review

I forget what exactly it was that Alanis found ironic, actually. All I know is that it wasn't actually ironic, and as such it was ironic that Alanis said it was ironic when it wasn't. The irony. ... More

Posted by Olaf at 22:27, 19 May 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Unhelpful review

What?Irony? ... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 21:43, 19 May 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Unhelpful review

as Alanis Morissette once sang, isn't it ironic? ... More

Posted by Olaf at 10:04, 19 May 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Unhelpful review

th greater irony still, you imagine what 3D — good 3D — might have given it. Fancy hitting rewind, Jerry?i]Irony - noun. - the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning. outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected. han, I do believe you will find that what you are describing is not irony. It is you being a 3D fanboy. It is you insinuating that you would give a film you believe is average another star if it had a far-from-pe... More

Posted by Pigeon Army at 06:43, 19 May 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Unhelpful review

L: histeachn When it takes me about two-thirds of the way through what I'm reading to arrive at a point, much less THE point, I know I'm reading something bad. For the criticisms made about the movie they aren't strengthened by a jumbled mess of an argument. It's like it can't decide what it wants to be: an essay on summer blockbusters, an essay on 3D, or an essay on video game films. I was hoping to read a review, but I got what amounts to what a person writes after bingeing on Re... More

Posted by BOHEMIANBOB at 00:51, 19 May 2010 | Report This Post


What a shocking review!

I've actually registered purely to comment on this. The review may well make some decent points but its buried under a wave of pomposity and meaningness snipes. The 3D comment is classic, so you want some kind of 'Clash of the Titan's' rubbish? As a professional film review working for Empire I expect some half decent insights, not this excuse for journalism. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by latedavela at 23:57, 18 May 2010 | Report This Post


Completely agree with 'histeachn.' This a really unhelpful review and quite frankly a shambolic mess. D- Guess I'll have to make my own mind up by seeing it, ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jezzman at 20:22, 18 May 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Im so happy this is not 3D - even if the films will be bad?

I don't wear normal glasses, I have a lazy eye which means my eyes don't work together, that’s why I can't see 3D, I have even asked at my opticians and they did tests and told me no you can't see 3D and won't which is annoying when films just keep throwing that 3D crap everywhere, even TV is starting to go along with the trend and I really don't know why??? I thought Avatar was just fine in 2D. I know I’m ranting a bit, but thanks for the suggestion anyway. ... More

Posted by jokerpoker123 at 08:40, 18 May 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Im so happy this is not 3D - even if the films will be bad?

I saw Lebanon over the weekend and I couldn't help but notice the lack of 3D. ... More

Posted by UTB at 18:43, 17 May 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Im so happy this is not 3D - even if the films will be bad?

You know you can wear your normal glasses and put the Real D glasses over them, thats what my Dad did when I took him to see Avatar. Real D technology is good with the right film for example Clash of the titans was shit 3D because they just added a few scenes where cgi monsters come at you which was done in post production the rest of the film just looked no different. Other films like avatar and the upcoming Tin Tin are "filmed" in 3D the effect creates a deep stereoscopic effect it looks... More

Posted by Bighousewill at 17:39, 17 May 2010 | Report This Post


U forgot to mentioned the accent

I don't remember Reading that in ancient Persia people spoke with such a bad English accent. You'd expect them to have had a professor to teach the actor. It was an 150 millions production. And then again. Why did they need an English accent? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by smakris04 at 12:17, 17 May 2010 | Report This Post


Im so happy this is not 3D - even if the films will be bad?

3D over rated for the poor people like me who can't see it, fuzzy with glasses and fuzzy without, I guess film makers forget their are people with lazy eyes - yes makes me look weird when my eye tends to wonder were it shouldn’t, but I must say I am so happy that I can still see 2D films, and 3D hasn't taken over my local cinema yet. So just the fact that this is made in 2D, and the 3D fanatics will be wining it gets a huge 5 stars from me. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jokerpoker123 at 08:14, 17 May 2010 | Report This Post


Oops

Sorry, accidental double post. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by histeachn at 03:52, 17 May 2010 | Report This Post


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