The power to rewind time will not save video game movie adaptation Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time from the likes of Roger Ebert and the assembled movie critics in this rare but highly warranted movie Frankenreview.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time might never live up to star Jake Gyllenhaal's most famous role. It's doubtful that a video game adaptation could ever stir the emotions or make a person re-evaluate their life like 2001's Bubble Boy did, but with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Mike Newell behind him, maybe Jake can actually turn back time to that storied moment in his career.
You will believe a man can jump around like a monkey, but is it art?
New York Daily News
Dastan is framed for his father's death, but the real reason for the chase is because the dagger has a doohickey on it that, when pressed, releases mystical "sand from the gods." The resulting storm sends the knife-holder back in time for a minute in the dumbest, clunkiest bit of mumbo-jumbo since anything in "Lara Croft Tomb Raider." That comparison is apt, since "Prince of Persia" is based on a popular videogame and sets up challenges for Dastan that are essentially get-to-the-next-level obstacle courses (he gets through many with his ability, shown in slow-motion, to leap like a flying squirrel). Within this world, the newly-buff Gyllenhaal is essentially an avatar, although his puppy-dog eyes always seem on the verge of tears, so maybe he knows he's trapped somewhere he shouldn't be. Kingsley scowls enough for the entire Persian army, while Arteron appears to have strolled in from making "Clash of the Titans" without even changing her wardrobe.
The Miami Herald
Proudly wielding the volume and frenetic, numbing pacing that are hallmarks of Jerry Bruckheimer-produced films, Prince of Persia is based on a video game that is probably a lot more fun to play than just watch, seeing as there's not much new in sword fighting these days. The story centers on the brave, agile orphan Dastan (who grows up to be Jake Gyllenhaal), plucked from the mean streets by the Persian king to be raised with his sons. Dastan is sort of like an underprivileged Hit Girl from Kick-Ass, only less well armed and a lot less pithy.
Dastan is good at running on rooftops. He also can leap from back to back in a herd of horses, jump across mighty distances, climb like a monkey and spin like a top. This is all achieved with special effects, ramped up just fast enough to make them totally unbelievable. (Douglas) Fairbanks has a 1924 scene where he hops from one giant pot to another. He did it in real time, with little trampolines hidden in the pots, and six pots in that movie are worth the whole kitchen in this one.
Prince of Persia is too cozy and safe to excite the senses, though John Seale's location shooting in Morocco is a sight to behold. Gyllenhaal's roguish charm meshes nicely with the spirited sexual teasing of Arterton, who scored as a Bond girl too quickly dispatched in Quantum of Solace. Sadly, nothing pops up to take us by surprise. There's no Johnny Depp around as Jack Sparrow to twist the plot into perversely funny shapes. Director Mike Newell, equally at home with comedy (Four Weddings and a Funeral), drama (Donnie Brasco) and franchise-polishing (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), tries to compensate by staging a rousing series of traps and escapes that keep the blood racing. The retro appeal of the movie is undeniable, recalling the Arabian Nights splendor of 1940's The Thief of Bagdad.
Then there are the obvious physical charms of the actors. Arterton isn't just a blandly pretty face. There's something bold and sensuous about her, particularly in these costumes (designed by Penny Rose). In fact this, and not Sex and the City 2, is the movie for clothes lovers this weekend. Arterton's Tamina is decked out in silky harem pants, jeweled headdresses and mini brocade vests that highlight her decolicious decolletage, outfits that are completely appropriate for the woman, the climate and the fantasy-historic setting, as opposed to just being a fashionista mish-mash. Even the horses here are decorated, sporting some excellent golden nosepieces.
Sure, it's no blockbuster. It'll be lucky to get a sequel, let alone go down in history as an epic tale of sand, back flips and knife-play. But it's a solid film. It has a decent cast, a decent story and some decent effects. Most importantly, though - for me at least - for the first time in my life I could sit down with my wife, watch a movie and not feel embarrassed to say it was based on a video game. And surely that counts for something.