Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (US - BD RA)
Gabe's back from isolation and catching up with Disney's latest franchise hope...
Many years ago, an orphan boy named Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) committed a selfless act of protection before the eyes of Sharaman (Ronald Pickup), the Persian King. Sharaman was so moved he adopted Dastan into the royal family. Always the black sheep, and street rat, Dustan is generally loved and accepted by his adoptive family, including his brothers Tus (Richard Coyle) and Garsiv (Toby Kebbell), and his uncle, Nizam (Ben Kingsley), the King’s main advisor. One night Dastan is given a chance to test his metal, and successfully leads a surprise attack on the sacred city of Alamut. When all is said and done he finds himself the hero of the day, and is given the right to present his father with a ceremonial robe, which is unfortunately laced with acidic poison. Now the lead suspect in his adopted father’s death, Dastan is on the run, and has Princess Tamina of Alamut (Gemma Arterton) in tow. The plot thickens when Tamina attempts to murder Dastan, and he discovers his one remaining treasure from the raid, a mysterious dagger with sand in the hilt, can take him temporarily back in time.
Prince of Persia practically reviews itself. There’s a series of ‘whys’ that are so obvious one hesitates to even bring them up for fear of sounding like an idiot. So here I go acting like an idiot.
The first why – Why is Mike Newell making a movie based on a video game? I have no idea. There’s almost nothing here to verify that Newell had anything to do with the film, unlike his entry in the Harry Potter series, which despite not being a personal favourite, exhibits the director’s talent with actors, and storytelling. Prince of Persia is actually less personalized than other Disney/Bruckheimer productions, even the blanderiffic National Treasure series. This film has production values to burn, but very little else visually sets the film apart from every other Lord of the Rings dejur (though clearly Indiana Jones is a much bigger influence here). This is not a shock, but the fact that the romantic comedy aspects fall flat, or are, sadly, downright obnoxious, is a big sign of folly from the guy who made me actually care about the relationships between the Hogwarts kids. I’m actually genuinely impressed with Newell’s grasp of action, but his use of slow motion, and digitally augmented camera movements is awkward, and frankly kind of ugly. It is impressive that computers can finally capture realistic-looking digital backdrops, which here look like they came out of a video game, but are wonderfully detailed and tangible.
The second why – Why are all these people white? It’s clear from the top of the film that Prince of Persia has about as much in historical accuracy as 300. Well, no, it actually has even less concern with historical accuracy than Zach Snyder’s over-stylized homoerotic blood feast. Honestly, I’ve tried to get more worked up about this particularly thinly veiled racism, but considering the basically alternate universe history, and general quality of the film makes it difficult. I’m sure there are plenty of genuine Persian or Iranian actors that could’ve done just as well, if not better than Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley and Gemma Arterton, but casting white has been a Hollywood tradition for so long complaining about is starting to sound petty. The bigger question is that of choosing English accents for all the leads. I understand not filming in Persian, and not using Persian accents, but why can’t Gyllenhaal just speak with his normal American accent. Why make up a detail? Seems like an unneeded effort to me.
The third, and biggest why – Why would you base a movie on a video game series that encourages the player to rewind time? This erases all dramatic tension. Not that the plot built up around the set pieces really offers many surprises, but something really should be at stake. Yes, the game has some very theatrical set-pieces, and the story limits the amount of times the dagger can be used without a refill, but then the idea of unlimited reboot is introduced, which leads to an incredibly unsatisfying finale. It’s not a wash, there are some quirky bites throughout the adventure, and the sometimes over-hammered comedy really does work. Any scene featuring Alfred Molina is especially amusing, even though every single aspect of his character should have been fingernail-pulling obnoxious. The plot is predictable, but captures the same sense of large scale, landscape-spanning adventure that was often the sole saving grace of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels.
Prince of Persia comes to Blu-ray in a good enough to make the purchase worth-while 1080p, 2.35:1 transfer. Newell and cinematographer John Seale draw from their Harry Potter experiences, including lots of CG assisted, massive vistas, and highly intricate production design and wardrobe. This particular film’s visual theme is a general warming of the palette, and the sandy, smoky look embraces film grain. These themes ensure that detail levels will probably not meet the standards of some videophiles, but despite a lack of highly numerable hues, and digital HD level sharpness, there’s plenty of reason to prefer the Blu-ray transfer to the DVD also available in this collection. Extreme close-ups exhibit plenty of skin and cloth textures (not to mention sweat), but it’s the bigger shots with their CG buildings that really impress. The warm digital grading softens some of the black levels, which otherwise remain relatively pure, while the brightest yellow highlights shine with incredible sharpness. Reds are a bit on the noisy side, but the occasional blues are quite lush. Occasionally the edges of the less sharply focused backgrounds exhibit some minor edge haloes, and there are inconsistent bits of detail here and there, but even the high grain moments work in the visual universe set forth by the filmmakers.
This DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track offers just as many surprises as the transfer, ie: none. The film has a big budget, and is full of large scale action sound design, so the overall size of the track probably shouldn’t surprise anyone. The track features enough charging hordes of horse riding soldiers, whooshing weapons, exploding bombs, rushing stand storms, and elaborate turning-back-time effects to make anyone’s system dance. If something can be represented in a rear or stereo channel it will be, and any excuse for a dramatic directional effect will be exploited, and just about every footstep causes the LFE channel to rumble and punch. The centered dialogue track is a bit iffy, and is occasionally mixed too loudly on the track, with a little too aggressive an LFE representation (even on the female voices), but there’s never an issue with clarity (outside of Gyllenhaal’s accent that is). Harry Gregson-Williams’ unassuming score is mixed pretty quietly overall, usually dipping well below the sound effects, and entirely lost outside a bass presence.
The extras consist of a whole bunch of little featurettes, which are accessed through the ‘Sands of Time’ mode, similar to the branching stuff Disney’s done in the past. If you’re like me and don’t want to watch the film yet again, you’ll find solace in the ‘Index’ option, which can be accessed via the pop-up menu button after activating ‘Sands of Time Mode’. Everything is high definition, and 5.1 Dolby Digital surround, but there’s unfortunately no play-all option. Each featurette is pretty self explanatory, featuring interviews with the key cast and crew, mixed with behind the scenes footage, and there is an EPK feel to the whole thing.
Rewind 1 features ‘Jerry Bruckheimer Introduction’ (:50, HD), ‘Filming in Morocco’ (2:20, HD) and ‘Moroccan Marchers’ (1:40, HD). Rewind 2 features ‘Next Action Hero’ (2:10, HD), ‘Functional Fitness’ (1:50, HD). ‘Walking Up Wall’ (1:50, HD). Rewind 3 features ‘Designing Persia’ (2:50, HD) and ‘Epic Dive Breakdown’ (1:20, HD). Rewind 4 features ‘Gemma Arterton: a New Kind of Princess’ (2:00, HD) and ‘Making a Princess’ (1:30, HD). Rewind 5 features ‘Alamut from the Ground Up’ (2:20, HD) and ‘Layers of an Ancient City’ (1:00, HD). Rewind 6 features ‘Parkour: Defying Gravity’ (1:50, HD) and ‘Parkour Legend David Belle’ (2:00, HD). Rewind Seven features ‘The Look of Rewinding Time’ (3:00, HD. Rewind 8 features ‘From Game to Film’ (2:30, HD), ‘The Dagger of Time’ (2:00) and ‘Moroccan Artisans (1:50, HD). Rewind 9 features ‘Behold the Might Ostrich’ (2:50, HD), ‘Ostrich Jockey Tryouts’ (1:40, HD) and ‘Moe the Ostrich’ (1:20, HD). Sigh, Rewind 10 features ‘Penny Rose: Master Costumer’ (2:20, HD) and Snake Dude (1:30, HD). Rewind 11 features ‘Avrat Bazaar Fight’ (1:30, HD), ‘Rock the Casbah’ (1:00, HD) and ‘How to Collapse a Tent’ (2:30, HD). Rewind 12 features ‘The Hassansins’ (2:20, HD), ‘Deadly Arts’ (3:20, HD) and ‘The Animal Lair’ (1:20, HD). Rewind 13 features ‘It was Hot Hot Hot’ (2:40, HD) and ‘Ostrich Love’ (1:30, HD). Rewind 14 features only ‘Filming in the Atlas Mountains’ (2:00, HD). Rewind 15 features ‘The Making of an Epic Battle’ (3:10, HD) and ‘The Whip Fight’ (1:40, HD). Rewind 16 features ‘A Knife Throwers Shoot-Out’ (1:40, HD) and ‘Too Close for Comfort’ (1:10, HD). Rewind 17 features ‘Filming at Pinewood Studios’ (2:30, HD) and Time-Lapse of the Pinewood Sets’ (1:00). Rewind 18 features only ‘Making Sand from Scratch’ (1:30, HD). Rewind 19 features ‘The Sands of time’ (1:10, HD) and ‘Memories of Time’ (1:10, HD). Finally Rewind 20 wraps it up with ‘Jerry Bruckheimer’s Photo Montage’ (1:14, HD). This took almost as much time to type as it did to watch.
The Blu-ray also features a single deleted/extended scene ‘The Banquet: Garsiv Presents Heads’ (2:00, HD), possible cut for rating purposes, and trailers for other Disney releases.
So is Prince of Persia the best video game adaptation ever? I dunno. I guess. I mean such comparisons are pretty pointless anyway. What we really have here is a typical Jerry Bruckheimer production. It’s perfectly entertaining, and only slightly overstays its welcome, but in the end it’s entire disposable. I see no reason to buy and own a movie like this, but if you’re a fan of the games, and generally aren’t looking for greatness you’ll probably be satisfied with a rental. The sad part of the story is director Mike Newell is almost entirely wasted, but fumbled love interests are often saved by Alfred Molina and ostriches. The disc is pretty grainy looking, but it’s likely and intended look, and the sound is flawless. The extras are a little annoying to access, and don’t tell us as much about the filmmaking process as we may prefer, but there is an index option, so thank God for that.
*Note: The images on this page were taken from the UK Blu-ray and re-sized for the page.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 13th September 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, 2.0 DVS English, DTS 5.1 French, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Picture-in-Picture, Deleted Scene, Featurette, Trailers, DVD Copy, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Mike Newell
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina, Steve Toussaint, Toby Kebbell, Richard Coyle
Length: 116 minutes
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