Friday, June 4, 2010

Review - Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Like the protagonist of the video game on which it's based, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time makes an improbable leap – from small screen to big – and miraculously manages to land on its feet.

The story is simple enough: Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), the adopted son of Persian King Sharaman, is framed for the murder of his father and must turn fugitive, fleeing his enraged brothers (not to mention their father's true killer, who should be easy enough for you to guess before you even watch the movie). Turns out the bad guy is after more than just the king, but seeks a magical dagger with the power to turn back time, protected by Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton), who must keep this McGuffin from falling into the wrong hands or else risk the future of the world. Naturally.

The plot (adapted by Jordan Mechner from his own story work in the video game series) is formulaic and highly predictable, serving merely as an excuse to bounce from one action set piece to another, leaving little time for trivialities like character development or thematic threads. But its simplicity actually does this film a service. You could accuse producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Mike Newell of several cinematic faux-pas, but you can't accuse them of over-reaching ambition. They know exactly the kind of movie they're trying to make, and compared to this summer's erstwhile duds Iron Man 2 and Robin Hood, Prince of Persia is actually quite enjoyable – at least if you're in the mood for some mindless action and a few mild chuckles.

I still wag my finger at Bruckheimer for being content to employ his infamous blockbuster equation, but I can only give him thumbs up for the amazing behind-the-scenes crew he assembled. The look of the film is gorgeously conceived by production designer Wolf Kroeger, costumer Penny Rose, and DP John Seale, who has a knack for capturing the desert on film, as anyone who's seen The English Patient will surely attest. I also have to compliment him and the FX artists for a smattering of amusing shots that intentionally mimic the camera movement of the video game. The film sounds great as well, with composer Harry Gregson-Williams doing a good Maurice Jarre impersonation, and a fine mix done by Peter Lindsay, Beau Borders, and Kevin O'Connell (who could be up for yet another fruitless Oscar nomination in February).

Nods in the Sound and Visual Effects categories are plausible, and hopefully one for either Art Direction or Costume Design will pan out.

**1/2 out of ****

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