Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time — single drama review

Well, I suppose the warning sign was there from the start. Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time is based on the video-game reboot of the Prince of Persia series, and for some reason, the adaptation of that franchise decided to start with that, rather than at least beginning it first. The cardinal sin of film-making is to assume there’ll be a sequel, which too many features with brand recognition assume, be it a mid-credits sequence establishing its villain or an announcement of a second instalment at the end with no actual follow-up. But Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time goes one step further by seemingly starting the series it assumes will happen “in medias res”, that is, justifying its rush to the middle of the story by at least establishing a universe in a cold open. Cold opens are an exciting way of hooking the audience, but the way this film unfolds resembles exactly the kind of financial thinking that lacks any creativity, and the result of which is a two-hour film created in as boring a way possible almost as if everyone involved had been dared to or given an incentive.

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Premièred by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time
By Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard.

Well, I suppose the warning sign was there from the start. Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time is based on the video-game reboot of the Prince of Persia series, and for some reason, the adaptation of that franchise decided to start with that, rather than at least beginning it first. The cardinal sin of film-making is to assume there’ll be a sequel, which too many features with brand recognition assume, be it a mid-credits sequence establishing its villain or an announcement of a second instalment at the end with no actual follow-up. But Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time goes one step further by seemingly starting the series it assumes will happen “in medias res”, that is, justifying its rush to the middle of the story by at least establishing a universe in a cold open. Cold opens are an exciting way of hooking the audience, but the way this film unfolds resembles exactly the kind of financial thinking that lacks any creativity, and the result of which is a two-hour film created in as boring a way possible almost as if everyone involved had been dared to or given an incentive.

Director Mike Newell seems to direct like an accountant, showing the audience a series of check-list wish-fulfilments rather than bringing them together to tell, what we in the industry call, a story. Which is why “Dastan”, the prince without a surname, is given a very brief origin at the beginning, which is then completely ignored. I understand that origin stories aren’t important, but that really asks the question of, if it’s not important, why are you bothering to show it at all?

And then I remembered. It’s for the franchise.

Video-game adaptations are a joke. They might have a promising future, especially coming from the likes of Doug Jones, but there’s yet to be a single video-game adaptation that doesn’t at all suck. Which is really quite an achievement, when you think about it. For an entire genre to have absolutely no good entries. Not one. Zilch. Nada. Is there a conspiracy in Hollywood? I wouldn’t even bother making a sarcastic suggestion that, yes, there is, because it’s immediately invalidated by the thought that surely everyone involved wants to make a good film, even though they’re absolutely incompetent and incapable of actually doing so. And then, these things are basically advertisements for another product, so surely the parties that would benefit from that are keen to ensure that those advertisements are at least enticing?

Of course, I only ramble one like this because everything that I could say about Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time has been said. It’s just utterly, utterly dull. Jake Gyllenhaal stares as Dastan, which is a shame, since he’s a very naturalistic actor. Unfortunately, the film-making is tangible here. The badly-CG’d wide shots, the motivations behind making it. Everything shows through, and the illusion is never convincing. I spent so long wondering if/when it were going to get interesting that I can genuinely remember nothing of what even happened.

In my lifetime, I’ve seen tonnes of films. And I can just about remember them all, even the ones I remember for negative reasons. They stay with me on the basis of how intolerable they are. And I’m inclined to ask here if a memorably bad film is better than an unmemorably bad film. But then I consider that film is the universal Human conversation that everyone can contribute to in some way. And on that basis, I’ve decided that I’d prefer if this felt left me with even a feeling of hatred or anger, rather than just being a truly bored zombie.

Author: the Purple Prose Mage

I'm not Batman, but I wish that I were.

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