Saturday, June 12, 2010

Review - Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Adopted as a young boy by the King of Persia for showing bravery, Dastan grew into the Prince his father hoped for. However when Dastan is framed and made into a fugitive after his father's death, the adopted son must join together with a Princess to prove his innocence and save his place in time.

For all intents and purposes "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" wants to be the big summer blockbuster you'd expect it to be. It has massive scope. It contains enormous sets and locations that capture the vastness of the Persian desert. It is filled with choreographed action sequences that dazzle and tantalize our senses. It houses all of the pieces that have made effective blockbusters in the past, but somewhere through all the of the twists and turns it missed reaching its intended target.

Starting off with the look to the Mike Newell directed adventure, 'Sands of Time' is nearly flawless. The set designs, wardrobe and locations are great. The balance of CGI locations mixed with the real one's is fairly impressive to watch on screen. The downside is there are too many locations within the story. The action jumps from one place to the other and then back again so frequently it becomes hard to remember where the characters are from time to time.

That brings me to the characters. The script does a terrible job of trying to create sexual tension between Dastan and Princess Tamina. Screenwriters Boaz Yakin and Doug Miro desperately tried to write in that exchange that has been done so well before in films like Romancing the Stone, The Empire Strikes Back or even The Mummy. All the blame should not rest on the screen writers because both Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton do their worst in making the written banter stomachable.

More on them in a minute, because the I'd still like to focus on a few other poorly developed characters. Both Nizam played by Ben Kingsley and Dastan's foster brother Garsiv portrayed by Tobey Kebbell (RocknRolla) felt underwhelming. Garsiv has a major character development towards the end that I really would have loved to seen more of. That said, 'Prince of Persia' already has so much going on that it be hard to work in further character development on a supporting character. In the case of Nizam however, there is just hardly anything there. Nizam becomes a central aspect to the plot, however he is given zilch to do and by the finale your left wondering what could have been.

I've got hand it to the entire stunt department. From the parkour stunts to the hand to hand combat, everything looked pristine on screen. The stunts were thrilling and really helped keeping me compelled throughout the 116 minute action. I wish I could say the same for the CGI, most of which looked weak at best. All of the time traveling that utilized the Sands of Time looked straight out of a video game and I don't mean that in a good way. The CGI snakes looked awful most of the time, not to mention the finale which just has too much CGI and not enough reality. The sequences towards the end look unrefined and ultimately took me out of the fantasy.

I'm confused with Jake Gyllenhaal as Dastan. I could careless about his ethnic origin not fitting the role, I'm more implying his performance. Parts of me really liked his portrayal and the rest of me hated him. Most of this stems from post haste. During the film Gyllenhaal's dashing antics and comedic banter didn't bother me so much, but the more I thought about them, the more and more I became disgruntled. Gemma Arterton on the other hand, didn't push me one way or the other. Her performance really comes across as just plain generic.

Walking away from "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" I had a good time with the action adventure. Much like other recent fantasy adventure films like The Mummy or Pirates of the Caribbean, 'Sands of Time' has plenty of entertainment value and is a little over indulgent. It is not as refined as the fore mentioned titles, but its still a worthwhile experience. Could have it been better? Absolutely. Did I expect to be blown away by a movie developed from a video game? Not at all. Does that mean film makers should challenge themselves to make a better video game adaptation? Of course, but for what this latest Walt Disney Pictures adventure set out to do, it was alright by me.