Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Review

A kind and bold example of how no career is sacred, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is both an exploration of how dull Jake Gyllenhaal is as a lead and how unintrusive the work of director Mike Newell is. The pair have had success separately, but it appears that, like most hoping to take on video game projects, they were doomed to failure. Rightly so. Who cares for Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time? It’s like holding out hopes on an emotional connection with an egg timer. The House of Mouse tanks another adventure-themed feature and shamefully so. The scope and finesse of the larger scenes and the genuine awe Newell can create here is a sad and irredeemable waste.

Courageous orphans and sandy cities give a nice backdrop to the world Gyllenhaal and Ben Kingsley exist in, but the effect is quick and forgettable. Although Newell is successful in creating a scope, it feels extremely faux and fails to understand the characters living there or what they should be doing. Some awful, truly awful choreography and parkour open this feature, occasionally cutting back to Kingsley so Newell can say he hasn’t entirely ripped off and cut down the opening of Aladdin. Sand-clad streets and dark colour tones for the world for the Holy City of Alamut and all the other bottled-up cities that will mean nothing to so many are finely made but exceptionally dull.

There is a blurred sheen over the mid-range shots, a lack of identity found in the close-ups and a failure to engage with the characters in the extreme close-ups. Having Gyllenhaal go from having his head kicked in during a brawl to being some great saviour exploring the great distances happens in the blink of an eye and will be forgotten in another. Magic swords, Alfred Molina and everyone trying a little too much to make this world of rogue princes and magic elements work. They all lift a heavy burden and do extremely little because of a flat score, an unsteady director trying to figure out where everything fits and how it comes together and a sincere lack of interest in the material presented.

No room for creativity in a feature that hopes to hold Gyllenhaal in fits of parkour and fighting while having Gemma Arterton cry on command and do little else. It is the painful slashing of what makes a popcorn feature good, with Newell actively removing what could have been a deep exploration of lore and a world ripe for the picking. It is not as if detail is lacking, backstories and character arcs had already been built up by the video games of the same name, but Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time shares the name and not much else. Poorly written features are difficult to engage with, and it is rarely the fault of the performer. But here, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time fails because of how generic it is but also due to the cast embracing that without much care. Kingsley hams it up, Molina takes on a role that seems fairly unsuited to him, and everyone comes off looking pretty drab indeed for a film that doesn’t know what to do or where to take its characters.

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