42 Screens: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

In 2003 when Ubisoft released Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time it was a raving success that not only raised the bar for adventure games but changed the way we looked at landscape and puzzles.  The movie rights for the game were purchased a mere four months later and after being delayed by development and the writer’s strike it has finally been released.

The film, which gained 30+ million on its first weekend, follows the story of an orphaned beggar named Dastan who is adopted by the king to become a Prince of Persia.  After leading an assault on the holy city of Alamut Dastan, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, comes across the Dagger a Time, a mystical weapon that can allow its wielder to back-track short periods through time.  During the Persian victory celebration, Prince Dastan is fooled into presenting a poisoned gown, given to him by his brother, to his father, King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup), who dies upon donning it.  Dastan now flees as his life is in danger.  Dastan also learns that the dagger, which if misused, can bring about the end of the world.  With the aid of its protector Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton), an entrepreneur and ostrich racing-organizer Sheik Amar (Alfred Molina) and a Ngbaka masters of the throwing knives Dastan fight off his own army, thieves, mystical assassin and desert creatures in order to protect the dagger and reveal the truth.

The movie has been compared to a Persian swashbuckling adventure but with little substance, however it is wildly accepted that this is miles above any other video game-movie adaptation.  While some critics have panned Gyllenhaal performance, calling it uninspired, I found the doubts that he portrayed Dastan as having as well placed.  Dastan is an orphan blessed by royal adoption.  He is aware he has no royal blood and no claim to the throne and because of such he harbours doubts and insecurities and always wishes to show that he will do the position true.  One of the major themes of this movie focuses mainly on the true strength of family be they by nature or nurture.  This is a theme that is sadly rarely seen in film or television and one that is important to many people.

The movie, filmed in a fashion very similar in tone to Pirate of the Caribbean, has a nice playful atmosphere to it, never diving to dark into any one topic (an element hopefully reserved for the darker sequel of Warriors Within and Two Thrones), has some beautiful and iconic video game imagery but sadly from the wrong game.  We see Dastan’s exceptional skill at free running, or parkour, and his acrobatic skill.  We see the camera pan around him as he stares out over the city of Alamut, high atop a small perch, and we see him make dramatic dives or leaps of faith.  We see Dastan leap from a ledge to perform an aerial takedown, and him running across rooftops to avoid archers.  These are all iconic images, not from Prince of Persia but Assassin’s Creed.  It is true that Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time focuses on athletics and parkour, but the games focuses often lied in abandoned dungeon and fallen temples not the people filled city  of Assassin’s Creed.  I am not saying that the move has misinterpreted the game or the character I just say that when I look at the Prince’s athletic moves and iconic images I see Altair instead.

Despite the geek nitpicking, a crucial pass time of the geek population, the movie is still and enjoyable and exciting swashbuckling adventure, that is acceptable for the whole family, that will hopefully become a successful franchise like Pirates was.

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