Producer Jerry Bruckheimer took a theme-park ride, “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and turned it into a blockbuster movie franchise. With “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” he attempts to make a franchise from a video game.
Based on the video game of the same name, “Prince of Persia” needs a bit of back story. Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a prince of the Persian Empire, but not by blood. He was once a street urchin who, standing up for another child against a cruel soldier, was noticed by King Sharaman (Ronald Pickup) for his bravery and adopted as his son.
Now the Persian army stands at the doorsteps to the holy city of Alumet. Dastan leads what would be considered a commando group. His older brother, Tus (Richard Coyle), leads the full army and his other brother, Garsiv (Toby Kebbell), leads the cavalry. Acting as counsel to Tus is their uncle, Nizam (Ben Kingsley).
Nizam is the king’s younger brother, and he looks straight from central casting as a bad guy. He continually proclaims that he is only there to serve, but one wonders.
The army is forbidden to attack the holy city, but they believe the city is supplying Persia’s enemies with weapons. What to do? Long story short, the three brothers meet Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton), Alumet’s ruler and priestess. And some strange force that resides in a dagger winds up in Dastan’s hands and kick-starts the real adventure.
“Prince of Persia” plays much like a Western: the innocent loner, pretty woman, comic-relief sidekick, hired guns, horses and fights. It’s a rip-roaring good time from director Mike Newell, who has made franchise movies before (“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”).
Then logic kicks in. It is said at the beginning that Persia was so large it stretched to the Mediterranean, yet journeys in the movie take days, not weeks or months. Characters cross from the desert to a mountain pass to the snow in no time.
Alfred Molina steals the show as Sheik Amar, an ostrich-race-fixing entrepreneur who talks like a Tea Party patriot. And Gyllenhaal is a worthy Dastan, so physically buff you can believe he did most of his stunts. Unfortunately, no real sparks fly between Dastan and Princess Tamina, whose romance is key to the story.
Nevertheless, “Prince of Persia” isn’t a bad movie. You’ll pay your money, have fun and think it could have been better.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action.
Director: Mike Newell
Writers: Boaz Yakin and Doug Miro
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal: Dastan; Gemma Arterton: Tamina; Ben Kingsley: Nazim; Alfred Molina: Sheik Amar; Richard Coyle: Tus; Toby Kebbell: Garsiv; Ronald Pickup: King Sharaman.
The movie’s Web site is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.