PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action.
Walt Disney Pictures
** ½ out of 5
“Based on a video game.” For better or worse, you probably know at least somewhat what to expect upon walking into a film under this pretense. These films really run the gamut from bad to worse including everything from “House of the Dead,” “Double Dragon,” “Street Fighter,” “Mortal Combat,” “Super Mario Bros.,” “Alone in the Dark,” “Silent Hill,” “Doom,” soon-to-be-four “Resident Evils,” two “Tomb Raider’s,” “Max Payne,” and “Hitman.” There will always be a niche for these films no matter how bad or tolerable they may be, and there’s nothing we can do to stop them.
Not even bringing in a director with clout can completely save a film from a terrible script. Director Mike Newell has a very broad spectrum of films under his belt with his most notable starting from 1992 on. From here he’s given us “Enchanted April,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “An Awfully Big Adventure,” “Donnie Brasco,” “Pushing Tin,” “Mona Lisa Smile,” and most recently “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” Aside from that last film, I can’t think of any reason why Newell was brought on by Disney to direct their latest venture to fill their “Pirates” void, “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.”
In the royal City of Nasaf, we first meet the youngster street rat version of Dastan (William Foster) who saves his brother from peril against the King Sharaman’s (Ronald Pickup) men. After staying one jump ahead of the King’s goons he’s finally captured, but the King sees in young Dastan the chance for something greater. He adopts this diamond in the rough and raises him as his own while young Dastan grows up to be Jake Gyllenhaal with a horrible “British” accent 15 years later.
A spy has been issued into the Holy City of Alamut by the King’s brother Nizam (Ben Kingsley) to confirm the suspicion that the city is selling weapons to enemies of Persia. Once confirmed, Dastan is sent along with his “brothers” Garsiv (Toby Kebbell) and Tus (Richard Coyle, or Jeff from the hilarious BBC’s “Coupling”) to infiltrate Alamut and confront the princess Tamina (current go-to hottie Gemma Arterton). Come to find out that the real story is that Tamina is the guardian to a dagger containing the “sands of time,” which can turn back the clock in case anything dangerous happens and one’s gotta get back in time to prevent imminent danger.
After the King is killed with a poisoned robe (yes, a poisoned robe, sigh) and Dastan is framed for the death of the King, Dastan escapes with Tamina and they hit the road to Mount Doom, err… wherever it is if you’re still paying attention by this point in the movie, to return the dagger to its resting place. Nizam has other plans as he wants the dagger for himself to return to a point in time where he once saved his brother's life to let him die so that he can take over the throne he feels is rightfully his.
To say anymore would be to give the script more credit than it’s due. What screenwriters Boaz Yakin (“Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights,” “From Dusk Till Dawn 2,” the Clint Eastwood/Charlie Sheen “actioner” “The Rookie,” and the 1989 Dolph Lundgren version of “The Punisher”), and writing partners Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard (the WWII film “The Great Raid,” the Korean “A Tale of Two Sisters” remake, “The Uninvited,” and the upcoming Nicolas Cage starring “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”) have cobbled together is a hodgepodge of weird elements from other films that have nothing to do with each other. If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if you threw “Aladdin,” “Back to the Future,” “Lord of the Rings,” and “Indiana Jones” into a blender, then look no further, but you’ll be sorry you did.
Not only is the film a complete bore but the final “twist” and wrap-up are such a cop out that it makes the entire runtime feel like a complete waste of time. I’m sure you can guess what happens considering the plot revolves around turning back time and evil people trying to steal the crown. If the film had any sense of fun or adventure, it would not only be forgivable when the denouement arrives but would make one yearn for a sequel as it’s the only feasible way it could even happen.
But alas, the Duh Meter reaches new highs for a Disney action film and, when Nazim tells Dastan, “What a glorious mess we are,” one can help but wonder if he was commenting on the film itself. But as the plot thinks it's thickening and instead just becomes aggressively more convoluted and progressively dumber in the process, you’ll be too busy wishing you had your own time traveling dagger to get you back the two hours you just wasted.
Article first published as Movie Review: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time on Blogcritics.