Summer Blockbuster Preview: Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time

The latest videogame to inspire a big screen outing, can Disney’s Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time deliver on the promise of the source material?

What Is It

It’s the latest attempt to break the curse of the videogame movie, and one that lots and lots of money is being thrown at. It might need it too: the graveyard of videogame adaptations is well populated, with even the most successful to date – the original Tomb Raider – failing to deliver a decent film to match the box office takings (a reboot is, somewhat inevitably, in the works). The less said about the likes of Max Payne, Hitman and such like the better.

Prince Of Persia is a different beast, though. It’s based on the gaming franchise that Jordan Mechner sparked into life in the late 1980s, and that’s seen many different instalments since. Action adventures at heart, the game series was rebooted in 2003 with arguably the best Prince Of Persia title to date, The Sands Of Time. That’s the one that’s been chosen to set the movie around.

The story? Well, it follows the prince of the title in medieval Persia, who has to use the dagger of time to, basically, save the kingdom and turn everybody back to normal. Said dagger, you see, will allow the sands of time to return to whence they came, taking with them all the trouble they’ve caused.

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It’s a fairly hokum sounding story when taken away from the original source material, granted. But to be fair, the narrative worked well in the videogame, offering an effective framework to hang everything else onto. There’s little reason why it can’t do the same again here.

Who’s Behind It

This is a Jerry Bruckheimer production and one with the budget to match. It’s the first time the producer has tackled a videogame adaptation, and he’s wisely made sure that Jordan Mechner has been kept firmly on board. Mechner is credited with the screen story, and also as executive producer.

Directing the film isn’t necessarily the most obvious choice for a huge summer blockbuster, with Blighty’s own Mike Newell calling the shots. Newell isn’t a complete stranger to massive movies of this ilk, though, as he proved with Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire. His CV also includes, though, the likes of Four Weddings & A Funeral, the marvellous Donnie Brasco and the acclaimed Enchanted April (amongst his many, many works).

In front of the camera is an actor taking the full-on lead as a movie star in a major blockbuster for the first time: Mr Jake Gyllenhaal (The Day After Tomorrow doesn’t really count, given that the film was hardly sold off his name). It’s a beefed-up Gyllenhaal we’ve seen in the posters and trailers thus far, too, and alongside him is Gemma Arterton (who has a Bond movie, Quantum Of Solace, to her name).

On bad guy duties is Sir Ben Kingsley, and we’d take a tempered version of his Sexy Beast character Don Logan over his villain turn in Thunderbirds if that’s okay with him. The cast also boasts Alfred Molina too.

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Why Should We Watch It?

In amongst the flashy special effects, the silly-sounding story and the fears over its videogame origins, there’s, perhaps ironically, something a little old-fashioned looking about Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time.

It seems to have been a lavish-looking production, for instance, with massive sets built for real rather than relying on computer enhancement. And what’s more, it looks like it’s trying to tap into the spirit of action and adventure that make the earlier Indiana Jones films, and the first of Stephen Sommers’ Mummy flicks, so downright entertaining.

There’s also the Gyllenhaal factor, specifically the fact that there’s a proper, quality actor at the front of centre of the film. Tie that in with the fact that the shots are being called with a strong director of actors, and the guts of the film seem firmly in place.

The trailers thus far have actually looked quite promising, selling the concept of the story quite well, although when the computer effects have kicked in and the film has suddenly slowed and sped up, our levels of interest dropped a little. Still, there’s a real sense of a large scale, sweeping fantasy movie that’s quite hard to resist. Could it be a meeting of old and new film making styles, perhaps? Time will no doubt tell.

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The pitfall, meanwhile, is very obvious. There’s no getting around the elephant in the room, in this case that oft-quoted curse of the videogame movie. Even the most enthused about the movie must surely have the slightest pang of fear about that, given that we’ve been watching films based around games for over a decade now, and still we’ve yet to meet one that does the idea justice.

Still, Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time is a tangible, solid stab at breaking the mould here, and we’d argue it’s got a sporting chance of doing so. Sure, it all looks a bit daft from the outset, but there’s also the sense that the right people may just have been brought in to do it.

If it hits, expect sequels in due course. If it doesn’t? The queue of other contenders trying to do videogames justice is not getting shorter…

UK release date: 28th MayUS release date: 28th May