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Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”

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The Details

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Two and a half stars
Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley
Directed by Mike Newell
Rated PG-13
Beyond the Weekly
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Rotten Tomatoes: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

The track record for movies based on video games is so dismal that a merely serviceable action movie like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time can tower over nearly every other film in the subgenre just by being the least sucky. About on par with the Tomb Raider movies, Persia plugs a respectable star (Jake Gyllenhaal) into a stock adventure story that mashes together familiar elements from other movies, along with some so-so action sequences and sparkly special effects. Does it make sense? Not really. Is it memorable? Absolutely not. Will it prevent you from being bored for 100 minutes? Maybe.

Gyllenhaal’s title character is the adopted son of the king of ancient video-game Persia, a land full of mystery and colorful robes and populated mainly, it seems, by white people in bronzer. Prince Dastan is framed for the murder of his father and goes on the run with Tamina (Arterton), the princess of a thriving region unjustly conquered by the Persians thanks to the influence of Dastan’s nefarious uncle Nizam (Kingsley). Nizam is really after a magical dagger that has the power to turn back time, and Dastan and Tamina must keep it away from him while working to clear Dastan’s name and, of course, falling in love.

Gyllenhaal isn’t the first guy you’d think of as an action star, but he acquits himself well enough, even if his chemistry with Arterton is minimal. The dynamic between Dastan and Tamina is very Han-and-Leia, and the various intricate hideaways and traps recall an Indiana Jones movie set in the era whose artifacts Indiana Jones typically uncovers. Director Mike Newell was also behind the fourth Harry Potter movie, and there’s a bit of that myth-making going on here as well, although it’s not nearly as rich.

Mostly these things remind you of how much better they were done elsewhere, and the story and characters aren’t compelling enough to set the movie apart from its various influences. The ending pretty much undoes everything that came before it anyway, leaving the franchise free to start over right away, just like a video game.

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Josh Bell

Josh Bell is the film editor for Las Vegas Weekly, where he's been writing movie and TV reviews since 2002. ...

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