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Helmed by Donnie Brasco director Mike Newell and starring Donnie Darko lead Jake Gyllenhaal (pronounced "Jayk Jywenaaaaaahhh"), Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time ranks as one of the best videogame movies that currently exist, but is still fairly average when compared to other swashbuckling action movies.
Gyllenhaal (pronounced "YEEL-en-HAL") plays Dastan, an orphan who was adopted by the King. After leading an attack on a city, he comes into possession of a knife that he later discovers has time travel properties. Pressing the jewel on the handle allow someone to travel up to one minute in the past, but only when the handle is filled with a certain type of magical sand.
The magical sand comes from a giant hourglass called the Sandglass. Piercing the Sandglass could allow someone to use the knife to go back much further than one minute, but could potentially destroy the world. Which still makes more sense than the time travel in Donnie Darko.Prince Of Persia is pretty fun once it gets going, but it gets off to a rough start. I think they were hoping to grab people right from the start by having a big battle sequence in the first fifteen minutes, in which Dastan leads the attack on a city. But instead it has the opposite effect, because it's difficult to sympathize with an army invading a sacred city when you know next to nothing about the characters or why they're doing this.
Essentially, they're acting on a rumor that this city was manufacturing weapons for their enemies. Which ends up not even being true. And even if it were true,a rumor is not enough to get us to root for them. Maybe if we saw them viciously attacked by one of their enemies, and then they hear the weapons came from this city, it might have been enough to get us on their side. But instead they just go attack this city out of nowhere based on a rumor. Not only don't we feel like there's anything at stake, but it makes the supposed hero and his people seem like dicks.
Throughout the first half of the movie, I felt like it would've been a better story if it had focused instead on Princess Tamina, whose city was being attacked and whose mission it was to keep the knife out of the wrong hands.
Tamina is in many ways the true hero of the story, while Dastan is duped into being a villain. And yet the focus is so tightly on Dastan, it almost seems like we the audience are meant to hate Tamina for being so strong, clever, feisty, and (understandably) distrustful of Dastan. She's played as the antagonist to Dastan up until he realizes what's actually going on, when in fact Dastan was her antagonist the entire time.
While the second half was fun, there was still some sloppy writing that hurt it.
Since the end of the movie involves pressing the reset button, the writers were free to kill everyone close to Dastan leading up to it. They don't tell us about the reset button up front, mind you, so the deaths still have meaning. But many of the deaths are so cliche and predictable that you can already tell two minutes before it happens that this is totally going to be a death scene. In at least two instances, people close to him die only sixty seconds after he has managed to explain to them what's going on.The worst is the scene where he tries to convince his brother of the truth. Dastan could've simply asked his brother to touch the jewel on the handle of the knife, but apparently that would've been too easy. Instead he feels he needs to trick his brother into doing it...by telling his brother he should press it in a moment, and then stabbing himself with the knife so that his brother is forced to press it to revive him! HOW DOES THAT MAKE ANY SENSE AT ALL?
Also, did I mention that the King dies from a poisoned cloak?And that, because Dastan was the one who presented him with the cloak, everyone automatically believes Dastan was responsible for the King dying, when the cloak was given to him by his brother? Even his own brother believes Dastan was responsible, when he was the one who gave Dastan the cloak. WHAT?
And then there's the Sandglass. Tamina is insistent that Dastan must keep the villain from piercing the Sandglass with the knife, because it will literally end the world. It's played as an important plot point, to make us feel like there's more at stake then just the bad guy messing with the timeline. Yet when the Sandglass is eventually pierced at the end, and Dustan is sent back to the beginning of the movie...the world is fine. No problems, no repercussions.And those are the things that keep Prince Of Persia from being a great movie instead of just a good movie. But overall it's still fairly enjoyable, and is probably one of the top five videogame adaptations of all time. Despite having sand assassins that are called "asSANDssins."
Disney reportedly intended Prince Of Persia to become another monster movie franchise in the same vein as Pirates Of The Caribbean, but as of this writing it has still yet to receive a sequel.