As a rule, video game movies suck. It's a fundamental truth and an ongoing trend that has yet to be bucked. Take Resident Evil. Great games, hideous movies. Doom. Classic, iconic FPS, poo film. Alone in the Dark? Vomit. House of the Dead? Dreck. Silent Hill? Pass. Super Mario Bros? Ugh, go away. Street Fighter? Hell, no. Hitman? Bite me. Mortal Kombat? Maybe after a few drinks. DOA? Get out, now. Do you see a pattern emerging here?
Still, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time has all of the right ingredients for success on paper, with a superb actor and star in Jake Gyllenhaal, a perfect sneering antagonist played by Oscar winner Ben Kingsley, a director with a proven Hollywood track record on movies like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, a massively successful producer, a big budget and a story input from the game's creator, Jordan Mechner.
It's even quite faithful to the game's concepts, atmosphere and narrative devices – albeit the more recent versions – with Sands of Time's MacGuffin in question being the pesky Dagger of Time, a sacred artefact that grants the user the power to control time. Despite all of this, it was with exceedingly low expectations that we approached Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and having been severely underwhelmed by Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney's collaboration on the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, we figured that the PoP move would follow in similar footsteps.
Arguably, Prince of Persia is a better movie than Pirates, with a solid cast and decent performances at the centre of a reasonably entertaining story revolving around the dagger following a brutal assault upon the city of Alamut, lead by the prince's brother, Tus (Richard Coyle). Gyllenhaal's Prince Dastan is a former street urchin rescued from the slums by the king 15 years earlier, making him the perfect target for a frame-up when the king is assassinated when he dons a poisoned garment of all things.
Forced to flee the kingdom and live in exile, Dastan joins up with Alamut's feisty princess, Tamina, played by a pouty Gemma Arterton. Tamina and Dastan argue over the dagger a bit while trudging through the desert, as meanwhile back in the kingdom, Kingsley's villainous Nizam is twiddling his moustache and hatching a suitably nefarious plot to obtain the dagger and use it to change history and take the throne.
What follows is a pretty unconvincing romance between Dastan and Tamina, plenty of swashbuckling action with the sound of boxes being ticked as the Prince wall-runs, swings from wooden poles, and hops between pillars. You can't fault it for not trying to placate the PoP fans. It's the parts between the shorts spikes of action that'll test your attention span though, and although scenes with Alfred Molina's Sheik Amar and Steve Toussaint's Seso are (sort of fun), the rest of the movie tends to drag for the most part. You can't help but feel that the movie is a bit flabby in places and could have benefited from a more robust interplay between the two leads.
As it stands though, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is by no means a bad film and although it's quite possibly the best video game movie ever made, this is faint praise. PoP is a perfectly serviceable slice of throwaway popcorn fun with likeable performances from a game cast, but otherwise, it's an average Hollywood blockbuster that's entirely forgettable. It is however, a massive stride forward for video game adaptations, which bodes well for future stabs at attempting to translate the medium into film.
Visually, Prince of Persia is an astonishing 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that has an amazing filmic quality with a fine veil of grain, which gives the golds and earthen tones a rich and lustrous look perfectly in keeping with the regal setting. Skin tones are stunning and the black levels are incredibly deep and solid, textures are glorious and beautifully defined, making Sands of Time one of the most remarkable Blu-rays we've seen yet free of any technical shortcomings. Regardless of what you think of the movie itself, Disney has done a truly outstanding job with this transfer.
PoP's audio quality is equally accomplished, with a booming, muscular DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround track that makes every sparking sword clash and fight ring out with brassy exuberance. Bold and deep, the soundtrack lends added weight to the action set pieces and makes watching the movie feel more immersive. Harry Gregson-Williams' score sounds suitably epic and stirring and the entire field of sound will put your surround sound system through its paces. Dialogue too is nice and clear, although there are rare instances where it's a little louder than it needs to be. Otherwise, the audio matches the visual fidelity, making PoP a nigh-on perfect transfer.
Less great is the supplemental material, which while abundant, isn't presented in the best way. There's almost two hours of bonus content, but it's accessed via watching the movie as an 'interactive experience' that prompts you to press enter when an icon pops up at certain points in the film. Persevere with it, and there's forty featurettes to enjoy, which all adds up to a substantial peek behind-the-scenes of the movie's production. It would have been preferable to have been presented with an option to watch the material from the main menu however, rather than having to watch the entire movie. That there's no way of watching the featurettes individually, seems like a silly oversight. The rest of the disc features a solitary deleted scene and a batch of utterly missable Disney trailers. A frustrating bunch of extras. PoP is also available as a Blu-ray and DVD bundle or a Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a good way to spend an evening and is a worthwhile rental if you've yet to see it. It looks fantastic and is a sumptuous production with sweeping vistas and some good, fun action set pieces, which as far style over substance Hollywood fare of this ilk goes, makes PoP a fine, if ultimately disposable watch. The visual and audio quality is almost peerless and if you saw the movie at cinemas and enjoyed it, then you're in for a treat with this disc.
CineExplore: The Sands of Time (116 minutes) Deleted Scene (2 minutes) Sneak Peek (15 minutes) BD Live Functionality DVD copy Digital copy (Triple Play Edition only)
Deleted Scene (2 minutes)
Sneak Peek (15 minutes)
BD Live Functionality
Digital copy (Triple Play Edition only)