THE world of video game to film adaptations is an unhappy place, populated by so many instantly forgettable and critically derided efforts that it’s a wonder that filmmakers still want to go there.
Disney hopes its $200 million film version of the 2003 game Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, part of the larger Prince of Persia franchise, will buck this trend enough to warrant a series of sequels.
So has producer Jerry Bruckheimer succeeded in raising the bar for video game adaptations? Yes, though the bar wasn’t sky high to begin with. Nevertheless, the film is a pleasant action-filled surprise for anyone expecting yet another dud.
Prince Dastan (Gyllenhaal) is a former street urchin who was adopted into the royal family after the king witnessed an act of childhood bravery. He has a healthy rivalry with his two adopted brothers, and trusts absolutely his uncle Nizam the Vizier of Persia (Kingsley, looking remarkably good in eyeliner).
After Dastan helps capture the sacred city of Alamut in a spectacular battle, a disastrous turn of events forces Dastan on the run after being declared a traitor.
Joining Dastan as a fugitive is Princess Tamina of Alamut (Arterton), protector of the Dagger of Time, a mystical blade that can reverse time with the aid of magical sands that pour from its hourglass-like hilt.
The special effects are generally very impressive, especially the computer-generated depictions of earthly subjects such as mobilising armies or cityscape panoramas. Less convincing is the supernatural phenomena that dominates the climactic scene– Raiders of the Lost Ark did it better almost 30 years ago.
Gyllenhall is charismatic as Dastan, though it takes some time to get used to seeing the guy from Donnie Darko and Brokeback Mountain in a flashy action flick.
Lively actor Alfred Molina (An Education, Spiderman II) provides some laughs as he brings a touch of cockney gangster to the role of crafty bandit leader Sheikh Amar.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a thoroughly entertaining affair that won’t leave audiences wishing for an enchanted dagger to reclaim their two hours.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (M)
Directed by: Mike Newell
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Sir Ben Kingsley
Rating: Three and a half stars