Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, 116 minutes
"Prince of Persia": a handsome, entertaining, forgettable
"Prince of Persia: Sands of Time" is another one of those movies. One that is based on a video game. Now you know what to expect. Yes, it's entertaining. Yes, it's a big, expensive and handsome production with plenty of action and two appealing leads in Jake Gyllenhaal ("Brothers") and Gemma Arterton ("Clash of the Titans"). However, combine it with uninspired direction, a confusing story and third-rate dialogue, you have a forgettable, empty exercise in filmmaking.
The plot follows Dastan (Gyllenhaal), a street urchin in the Persian Empire in the sixth century who is adopted by the king. He grows up as part of the royal family with "no royal blood and no eye for the throne." Dastan leads an attack to a city ruled by Princess Tamina (Arterton) who is said to be a jewel. As it turns out, he must team up with Tamina to stop a common enemy - the villainous nobleman Nizam (Ben Kingsley) - and to take from him an ancient dagger known as "The Dagger of Time," (a valuable dagger with time traveling capabilities) and keep him from generating a sandstorm which could destroy the world.
"Prince of Persia" isn't necessarily a terrible film considering its source, it's enjoyable, fast-paced and otherwise fun, much like the video game it's based on. But also much like video games style tends to trump substance and that's the case with the film version too. The action set pieces and the impressive, colorful production are the clear highlight of the film, and many will also note that Gyllenhaal and Arterton are eye candy. But "Prince of Persia" leaves you with little to go on, with a muddled story that takes itself far, far too seriously for a video game. Good luck in also trying to figure out who's chasing who or the meaning of that dagger.
Gyllenhaal is a gamely bland action-hero lead and his British accent is passable, but it's a foolproof role that a hundred other actors in Hollywood could be exchanged for. Arterton is a little better though it'd be nice to have her wear a better fitting wig. The always-watchable Kingsley chews on the scenery as does character actor Alfred Molina (best known as the bad guy in "Spider Man 2") in a supporting part next to some ostriches, in what has to be the film's most amusing scene.
Mike Newell, who successfully helmed "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," directs with uninspired flair here and is wise to let the action take center stage. If you've played the video games you have a good idea of what to expect and while it certainly is enjoyable at times, this something you can take or leave. You'll enjoy the action but you'll be hard-pressed to remember anything else.