Jerry Bruckheimer has a reputation of crafting hits from his producer’s chair. Every year something he’s touched has been amongst the higher grossing films, having been one of the men who helped define the summer blockbuster season as a time for box office excess. This year the man with a seeming golden touch couldn’t turn The Sorcerer’s Apprentice or Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time into anything remotely resembling box office gold. Both were shots at recreating the magic that made the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy a hit but neither broke $100 million domestically and (perhaps more significant) both come into the home video market without having turned the sort of profit Bruckheimer’s pedigree would suggest.
Persia, based off the video game of the same name in the franchise of the same title, follows the tale of Dastan, an orphan (Jake Gyllenhaal) turned prince in the Kingdom of Persia. When his father invades another country on the advice of his uncle (Ben Kingsley), and Dastan comes into possession of a princess (Gemma Arterton) and a weapon of unimaginable power, Dastan finds himself on the run from armies and criminals alike. Throw in an Ostrich-racing track owner (Alfred Molina) with an aversion to taxes, and some impressive action sequences, and you have the same recipe used for Bruckheimer’s last major franchise but with new scenery. But it just doesn’t click like that one did and it’s easy to see why.
With an estimated $200 million budget, on par with a Pirates film, this clearly looks the part. This is an absolutely stunning film to look at from purely a visual perspective based purely on its role as a spectacle. From how the sand in Dastan’s dagger flows and moves to the big action sequences there is plenty that could’ve been skimped on but wasn’t. Credit Bruckheimer for going all in to make this one of the best looking films of the year with no expense spared. But the one thing he should’ve invested in was a better leading man and perhaps a script that didn’t rip off elements from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl so wholeheartedly.
Jake Gyllenhaal is a first rate actor, and is in tremendous physical condition for the role, but is in the same role as Orlando Bloom in the first Pirates but without the physicality. Dastan does significant amount of action but we never feel like Gyllenhaal is into it. It’s perfunctory and soulless as opposed to engaging and enthralling; for a genre film that’s a blockbuster action film Gyllenhaal seems to be walking through the role as opposed to engaging it for what it is: a swashbuckler of old, albeit in the desert. Bloom may not have been very good in the part of Will Turner but he and his character have an understanding of what they’re in for. Gyllenhaal and Dastan don’t; Gyllenhaal is an actor who excels with more moodier, deeper parts and Dastan is close to Will Turner in spirit.
It doesn’t help that Gyllenhaal and the rest of the cast are saddled with a script that looks like someone took the original Pirates of the Caribbean script and just crossed the descriptors and names out, then replaced them with this film’s name and descriptors. The film plays out on nearly the exact same level, to, until the film uses the titular “Sands of time” as the ultimate in cheats throughout the film to ensure the requisite ultra-happy ending. Using it only once or twice would be one thing, but the film uses it regularly enough that it becomes irritating. The script doesn’t have the strength to go without a super happy ending and thus it has to use this as a cheat to get there.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time wants so desperately to harness that “lightning in a bottle” that made Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl a surprise hit that it fails to craft its own identity.
Disney has a reputation of having great transfers for both their DVD and Blu-Ray editions and this is no exception. The Blu-Ray is rather exceptional in quality but the DVD isn’t that far behind.
Blu Ray Extras:
A Deleted Scene that adds nothing back into the film is included.
An Unseen World: Making Prince of Persia is a 15 minute EPK piece that doesn’t offer much about the film.
A Digital Copy of the film is available as well.
Prince of Persia: Sands of Time came and went from theatres in the U.S with much bluster but not much to show for it in terms of box office receipts. The DVD release doesn’t have that much that is interesting or perfunctory. Recommendation to avoid.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. Directed by Mike Newell. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton, Alfred Molina. Written by Jordan Mechner, Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard based on the video game “Prince of Persia: Sands of Time” created by Ubisoft and designed by Jordan Mechner. Running time 117 minutes. Rated PG-13. Released on Blu-ray and DVD: September 14, 2010.