Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Blu-ray)

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
7 out of 10
Extras Rating:
7 out of 10
Movie Details:
View here

Buy this DVD at Amazon.com

Rating: PG-13

Starring:
Jake Gyllenhaal as Dastan
Gemma Arterton as Tamina
Ben Kingsley as Nizam
Alfred Molina as Sheik Amar
Steve Toussaint as Seso
Toby Kebbell as Garsiv
Richard Coyle as Tus
Ronald Pickup as King Sharaman
Reece Ritchie as Bis

Directed by Mike Newell

Special Features:
Blu-ray Bonus features:
• CineExplore: The Sands Of Time - Take control of the dagger and use it to unlock secrets behind your favorite scenes! Turn back time and uncover over 40 spellbinding segments - Including "Walking Up Walls," "Filming In Morocco," and "Ostrich Jockey Tryouts" - with this exclusive interactive feature. Blu-ray puts you in control! [exclusive to Blu-ray in Combo Pack]
• Deleted scene: The Banquet: Garsiv Presents Heads

DVD Bonus feature:
• An Unseen World: Making Prince Of Persia

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.40:1)
DTS-HD MA 5.1 Sound
Spanish and French Languages
Spanish and French Subtitles
Running Time: 116 Minutes

The Details:
The following is the official description of the film:

"In the spirit of the 'Pirates Of The Caribbean' trilogy, Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films transport you to the mystical lands of Persia for this wildly entertaining, epic action-adventure. It's a race against time when a rogue prince (Jake Gyllenhaal) reluctantly teams up with a rival princess (Gemma Arterton) to safeguard a magical dagger that gives its possessor the power to reverse time and rule the world. Filled with death-defying escapes and unexpected twists at every turn - 'Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time' is a fun-filled adventure that will keep your pulse pounding long after the credits end. "

"Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action.

The Movie:
I was unfamiliar with the "Prince of Persia" video game, so I went into this movie with no preconceptions. But if the game is similar to the movie, I'd have to say this is one of the better video game films I've seen. Granted, that bar is not set very high, but it is good to see the translation done well for a change.

One of the things that makes "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" interesting is the setting. You're treated to grand palaces, interesting architecture, elaborate costumes, and a generally intriguing location. It immediately sets the movie apart from many other adventure films. It's kind of nice to be reminded that Iran was once rich in history and culture there even if we're only treated to the Hollywood version of it on the screen. (It would have been nice if they had cast more people that actually looked like they were from that region.)

The cast is generally solid. I wasn't sure what to expect from Jake Gyllenhaal as Dastan. I expected to be distracted by his fake British accent, his long hair, etc. But it didn't take long to buy him as the character and he handled the action well. He also had good chemistry with Gemma Arterton as Tamina. Arterton has been on the screen a lot lately, but this is definitely a standout role for her. She's kind of the "Princess Leia of Persia." She's feisty, beautiful, and has a good love/hate relationship with Dastan. It was also nice to see Ben Kingsley as Nizam. He has been in a lot of terrible movies lately, so it's nice to see him regain some of his dignity here. But the real standout is Alfred Molina as Sheik Amar. He provides a lot of comic relief and actually gets the most genuine laughs of any of the cast.

As I walked out of this movie, it felt very familiar to me. It took me a while to put my finger on it, but I eventually realized that it felt like a cross between "The Mummy" and the new "Clash of the Titans." "Prince of Persia" has the ancient settings and desert locations of "The Mummy." The relationship between Tamina and Dastan also felt a lot like the one between Evie and Rick. "Persia" also has the fantasy elements of both films as well as Gemma Arterton from "Titans." So I'd say if you liked both of those films, you'll likely enjoy "Prince of Persia."

I typically screen movies before I take my kids to them, but I decided to take my young sons to this without seeing it first. I figured if it was by Disney and they were selling LEGO sets from the movie, then it would be appropriate for kids. For the most part I found it to be suitable for them. There was a little blood and a gory scene where a snake was cut open, but it's generally on par with "Pirates of the Caribbean" as far as tone and content. If you let your kids watch "Pirates," then this is OK. I found it funny that when it was over and I asked my boys what their favorite scene was, they said it was a scene with a bunch of ostriches racing. Their favorite moments weren't all the CGI-filled scenes that Jerry Bruckheimer spent millions on. It was live ostriches. Take note, Jerry!

Now for the down side. Earlier in this review I compared the movie to "The Mummy" and "Clash of the Titans." It's like them in another respect – they were all good but not great films. "Prince of Persia" lacks that last little something that pushes it to the next level. Jake Gyllenhaal as Dastan is good but not great. The story is good but somewhat predictable. The action scenes are entertaining but not memorable. Across the board "Prince of Persia" is a solid, entertaining movie but I don't think it will be remembered as a great film or even one you'll feel the need to repeatedly revisit. It needed that last little 'oomph' to spice up the characters and make the script give us something we haven't seen before. Maybe if they do a sequel they can take it to the next level.

I complained a little about the action scenes. I have to mention they did get a bit repetitive. Most of the action sequences feature Dastan doing 'parkour' in the Persian cities, Dastan getting in a sword fight, or Dastan doing 'parkour' while sword fighting. I wanted to see something new and it didn't happen very often in this movie. Notable exceptions include a great scene where snakes attack a camp and an interesting knife-throwing battle takes place between some secondary and tertiary characters. I think if you're going to do sword fighting, there needs to be some serious character drama going on during it (like Luke and Vader's fight in "The Empire Strikes Back") or you need to throw in something fun and different (like the swordfights in "Zorro" or Jack and Will's first fight in "Pirates of the Caribbean").

"Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" also seems to take some swipes at the Bush Administration. Dastan's family invades the Persian city (in present day Iran) based on false information that there are weapons being made for enemies there. Sound familiar? Not only does this seem like a dated swipe, but it risks alienating a portion of the audience. Bruckheimer and crew seem to try and balance this by having Sheik Amar gripe about taxes and an invasive government, but it comes across as pretty blatant effort to win back conservative audiences and it rips you out of the fantasy world of this movie. I think it was a bad move and I can already hear conservative talking heads preparing their commentary to gripe about "Prince of Persia," Disney, and Bruckheimer. It's annoying.

"Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" could have been a lot better movie, but it's entertaining enough and a decent popcorn flick to get you through the weekend.

The Extras:
The bonus features on the Blu-ray are surprisingly light. You can watch the movie in "CineExplore" mode. As it plays, the dagger appears and you can access brief featurettes. They cover filming in Morocco, the use of parkour in the movie, the ostriches, the architecture, Gemma Arterton, Jerry Bruckheimer's traditional photo album, and more. Fortunately you have the option of watching all of these featurettes outside of this mode which I, as a viewer, prefer. You'll also find one brief deleted scene from the banquet. For a 'making of' featurette, you have to switch over to the DVD.

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