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Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
May end up being lots of fun.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Based on the Popular Video Game "Prince of Persia: Sands of Time."
OPENING WEEKEND: $55,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $180,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

May 14th, 2010: In the fantasy adventure based on Ubisoft's popular video game, Gyllenhaal will play Dastan, a young prince in sixth century Persia who must join forces with Tamina (Arterton), a feisty and exotic princess, to prevent a villainous nobleman from possessing the Sands of Time, a gift from the gods that can reverse time and allow its possessor to rule the world.

What to Expect: So, sometimes something that wasn't supposed to work, and had been give no chance of working, somehow ends up working spectacularly well to the point that nobody can believe it. You know how when that happens, everybody spends the next ten years trying to duplicate it? Remember all those substandard "Matrix" knockoffs? Remember every comedy trying to be "There's Something About Mary?" Well, this movie is not-at-all-secretly one of the results of the fallout from "Pirates of the Caribbean." C'mon, you know that when you heard they were making a "Pirates" movie, you had the same reaction most of us did. "Seriously?" I mean, a movie based on an amusement park ride? Give me a break. Except then it turned out to be fun, swashbuckingly exciting, and buoyed by exuberant performances by its lead actors. Can you recapture that lightning in a bottle? That movie's sequels couldn't even quite manage it. Does another property have a chance?

Article continues below

Disney has been looking to start up a new tentpole franchise now that "Pirates" is on the way out, and "Prince of Persia" has been on the slate for that job for a number of years. The video game series on which it's based has been a huge bestseller since the earliest days of video gaming, and the hope is that the built-in fanbase for the games will translate to the film's box office. The problem is that this has rarely been the case for film adaptations of games. Very few of them have been financially successful, and those that have been (such as the "Resident Evil" films and "Tomb Raider") haven't necessarily been based on the most popular games. Nor is the film necessarily an adaptation of the game, any more than the "Pirates" films were adaptations of the ride. The screenwriters took elements from the game and crafted an original story, just as the writers of "Pirates" did. The issue will be whether or not that story is any good.

Who do you call for a job like this? Jerry Bruckheimer, of course. He's the one who brought us Pirates in the first place, and heDirector Mike Newell is certainly excited about it. He's described the story as fantastic, otherworldly, and transporting. Newell got his taste of big-budget effects-laden filmmaking when he directed "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," one of the stronger entries in the Potter franchise, who was tapped in 2008 to helm "Prince of Persia." The story was a collaboration between Jordan Mechner, creator and writer of the videogames, Boaz Yakin, whose resume frankly doesn't inspire confidence, and relative newcomer writing team of Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard, who also wrote this summer's upcoming Jon Turtletaub film "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," which stars Nicolas Cage. The plot is some blah blah about orphan Dastan, who is adopted by the king and becomes a fourth-in-line Prince and adventurer who must wield the magical dagger and stop the bad guy from getting these Sands of Time that can destroy the world and whatever and ever amen. There are chases, there's magic, there's a buff hero and a pretty girl and lots and lots of eye-popping effects. Or that's the idea.

Speaking of buff heroes, their choice of actor to portray theirs has come under some fire. After many rumors flew around, Newell cast Jake Gyllenhaal as Prince Dastan. Jake Gyllenhaal, who is...Swedish. As in, not remotely Persian. Not that this is anything new in Hollywood, the casting of white actors in what perhaps ought to be ethnic roles, but that didn't stop people from bitching about it. As for me, you'll go a ways before you find a bigger Gyllenhaal fan than me, so I was thrilled that Jake would get the chance for a franchise of his very own (after so nearly being cast as Spider-Man when it was thought that Tobey Maguire might not continue). Jake was also considered for Sam Worthington's role in "Avatar," but yet he's still only had one $100 million grosser in his filmography (that'd be "The Day After Tomorrow") and is more known for his dramatic work. Still, the general attitude has been that it's only a matter of time before Jake got the chance to be an action star and pull a Matt Damon - maintain his dramatic cred while starring in successful high-octane thrillers as well. Newell has said that he kept coming back to Jake in his head. He wanted someone who could be an action hero but also bring a sensitivity to the screen, and the ethnicity really didn't enter into the equation so much. There is a bit of a retcon available in that Dastan isn't of royal blood and therefore not necessarily Persian, one could argue. It's a bit weak, but you could hang your hat on it if you absolutely must.

Gyllenhaal spent considerable time prepping for the role, working out and adding five pounds of muscle to his already pretty buff frame. He's said that he knew the role would be physical but didn't know exactly what would be asked of him, so he wanted to make sure he could do it all. The role reportedly required him to learn some parkour, ride horses, wield swords and run up walls. Newell has praised Gyllenhaal's physicality and athleticism in the role. Not to mention he had to learn a British accent, which based on the clips we've seen does sound pretty good. Cast in the role of Dastan's female foil was Bond girl Gemma Arterton, who does have a bit of the Eastern princess look about her as she's styled in the film. Sir Ben Kingsley appears as the villain, and I'm sure a cast of thousands backing everyone up as well as a whole buttload of pixels.

Which brings me to one of the issues with this film, one of the only issues on what seems to have been a remarkably trouble-free and rumor-light production. It was announced two years ago that the film would be pushed back an entire year, from its initial release in June of 2009 to May of 2010. That can't be good, right? What could possibly be the reason for such a big pushback? It couldn't be problems with the production being off schedule or problems with the shoot, the shoot was only two weeks old when the announcement was made. So why the shift? One theory says that Disney wanted to avoid butting heads with "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." Another says that they wanted to give themselves a cushion in case the then-threatened SAG strike delayed production. But one insider says that the delay was a prudent move having to do with the effects budget. The two "Pirates" sequels, both of which had locked-in, rushed-to-cinemas release dates, had to have gobs of money poured into them to finish the effects in time, which cut into the profit margin of the films, and Disney had learned their lesson and pushed the film back to give post-production plenty of time to finish the effects without paying through the nose for overtime and incentives and rushed effects. Since there's no indication of reshoots or problems with post-production or any other problems, this seems like a reasonable explanation.

One piece of good news, though - there's no indication that "Prince of Persia" will be forced to jump on the 3D bandwagon like so many other films (*cough*ClashoftheTitans*cough*). So far it looks like the film will be released in regular old 2D.

In Conclusion: Trying to recapture that magical Pirates formula, Jerry Bruckheimer once again buckles his swashes in sixth-century Persia with an effects-heavy spectacular. Everything will rest on whether this movie is as much fun as those were. If it's ponderous and self-important, it'll sink like a stone. If it's a fun romp, it'll do well.

Similar Titles: Resident Evil, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
May 28th, 2010 (wide)
September 14th, 2010 (DVD)

Walt Disney Pictures

Mike Newell

Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Alfred Molina, Ben Kingsley, Toby Kebbell

Total: 243 vote(s).

Action & Adventure

Click here to view site

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action.

116 min





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