Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Mike Newell
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 116 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 44.99
Release Date: September 14, 2010
Review Date: October 4, 2010
Video games are likely as viable as source material for movies as comic books or television shows provided the characters and situations are developed with some degree of interest and not simply a regurgitation of the one dimensional characters and scenarios that many of these media sometimes feature. Lara Croft – Tomb Raider did a pretty good job of bringing a video game to the big screen, and now no expense has seemingly been spared to bring Prince of Persia to the big (and now small) screen. Unfortunately, plotting in this incarnation is rather weak and muddled, and characterizations are clearly not intended to do more than scratch the surface of the most basic of emotions. This is a lively, action-filled movie without a drop of real human interest or believable human feelings in evidence.
Plucked from the streets by the King of Persia (Ronald Pickup) who admires his plucky, never-say-die nature and adopted into the royal family, young Dastan (Will Foster as a kid, Jake Gyllenhaal as an adult) is third in line for the throne after older brothers Tus (Richard Coyle) and Garsiv (Toby Kebbell). The king’s brother Nizam (Ben Kingsley) advises the family that an assault on the holy city of Alamut will reveal weapons of mass destruction (does that sound depressingly familiar?), and so the city is attacked and conquered. No weapons are uncovered, but what is found is a magical dagger containing a special sand which can turn back time, guarded by the Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) who also holds knowledge of the weapon’s more far-ranging power, something that one member of the royal family heavily covets. The initial act in the takeover of the throne is framing Dastan for the murder of King Sharaman, Dastan naturally fleeing the city with Tamina with his family and a host of hired assassins in hot pursuit.
Yes, this is boys’ adventure stuff all the way in the Boaz Yakin-Doug Miro-Carlo Bernard screenplay, complete with numerous chases, a variety of fight scenes, and a juvenile romance between Dastan and Tamina. It isn’t clear if it’s a running gag or just irritating and ridiculously inept plotting, but every time the two young people stop to make goo-goo eyes at one another, their enemies get the jump on them, and they find themselves in another hairy predicament which requires either luck, fate, or trickery to get out of. Director Mike Newell does a good job keeping things moving along, and there are plenty of impressive stunts and parkour maneuvers to hold one’s attention through the reed-thin story. And there is no shortage of breathtaking scenery or awe-inspiring special effects any time the time-bending fantasy is at work. But the writers seem to be unfaithful to their own mythology when the hour comes for a climax, and the viewer feels a little bit cheated by the easy way a group of lives lost are reclaimed without cost.
Jake Gyllenhaal may have effected a British accent for the picture, but he nevertheless reads too modern for this period fantasy though one must naturally admire the obvious physical regimen he has undertaken to be fit for the tremendous athleticism he must display in the movie. Gemma Arterton’s haughty disposition is quite off-putting in the early going, but she’s more down-to-earth and agreeable as the film progresses though she isn’t really required to display many diverse emotions apart from sauciness and displeasure. Alfred Molina walks away with all of his scenes as the scheming desert entrepreneur Sheik Amar while Ben Kingsley is a tightly wound spring as the brother-who-would-be king. Toby Kebbell and Richard Coyle don’t much resemble blood brothers, but they’re each given notable spotlight moments which they take full advantage of. Gisli Orn Gardarsson as the grisly leader of a troop of assassins is the film’s most memorable villain.
The film has been framed at 2.40:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. A very warm color palette has been selected for the film’s look, and the Blu-ray conveys this magnificently with rich, burnished colors that are deeply saturated and with the brownish flesh tones seemingly appropriate for the desert locations. Contrast is also dialed perhaps a click or two too hot to achieve further emphasis of the arid locations. Sharpness is usually exemplary except in scenes that are heavily green-screened where the image is a bit softer to better blend with the computer-generated surroundings. Blacks are excellently achieved, and shadow detail is handled expertly as well. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is everything one would expect from a modern action-adventure epic: immersive sound effects discretely placed in all the available surround channels, music by Harry Gregson-Williams that envelops the listener throughout the film, and superb use of the LFE channel for all of the big battle scenes. This is reference quality sound design.
The CineExplore feature allows the viewer to watch the film and at selected moments choose branching featurettes which deal with the filming or production of that particular scene in the movie. Helpfully, all of the featurettes may also be accessed individually from an easy-to-find index without rewatching the movie in the process. Here are the featurettes which make up this experience. They are all provided in 1080p:
- “Filming in Morocco” (2 ¼ minutes) finds the producers and stars discussing the excitement of filming on location.
- “Moroccan Marchers” (1 ¾ minutes) discusses the recruitment and training of extras for the crowd and battle scenes.
- “The Next Action Hero” (2 ¼ minutes) praises star Jake Gyllenhaal’s physical prowess and stamina in doing most of the athletic moves himself.
- “Functional Fitness” (2 minutes) discusses the star’s workout regimen enabling him to do the stunts and fights that were required of his character.
- “Walking Up Walls” (1 ¾ minutes) shows how the effect was done.
- “Designing Persia” (2 ¾ minutes) features interviews with the production designer, prop master, two art directors, the director, and the set decorator about the intricate sets for the movie.
- “Epic Live Breakdown” (1 ¼ minutes) shows how green and blue screen work aided in creating vast panoramas for the ancient locations being portrayed.
- “Gemma Arterton” (2 ¼ minutes) introduces us to the female star of the movie and the showering of praise on her by Jerry Bruckheimer, Jake Gyllenhaal, and the stunt coordinator.
- “Making a Princess” (1 ½ minutes) goes into the skin and henna tattoo makeup which turned the actress into a high priestess.
- “Alamut From the Ground Up” (2 ¼ minutes) has the location manager, the stars, and the construction manager discussing the building of the sets for this location.
- “Layers of an Ancient City” (1 ½ minutes) has the art director showing how models and computer graphics were used to make up the city of Alamut.
- “Parkour: Defying Gravity” (1 ¾ minutes) has the stunt director discussing the use of this technique in the movie.
- “Parkour Legend David Belle” ( 2 minutes) introduces us to a leading expert in the field who taught the technique to Jake Gyllenhaal and also choreographed moves for him and other players.
- “The Look of Rewinding Time” (3 minutes) has the film’s stars and special effects supervisor discussing how this effect was achieved in the movie.
- “From Game to Film” (2 ½ minutes) features the game’s creator along with Jake Gyllenhaal, Jerry Bruckheimer, and the writers discussing how they brought the game to the screen.
- “The Dagger of Time” (2 minutes) has the prop master explaining the many different facsimiles of the weapon used in various places in the movie.
- “Moroccan Artisans” (2 minutes) shows how local crafts persons fashioned many of the hundreds of props used in the movie.
- “Behold the Mighty Ostrich” (3 minutes) features the stunt coordinator and the ostrich trainer discussing the racing scene in the movie.
- “Ostrich Jockey Tryouts” (1 ¾ minutes) shows various men attempting to ride the birds in order to be in the film.
- “Moe the Ostrich” (1 ½ minutes) was star Jake Gyllenhaal’s favorite so he gets a little featurette all his own.
- “Penny Rose: Master Costumer” (2 ¼ minutes) interviews the film’s costume designer who had to design thousands of costumes for the film and has earned producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s trust to fashion the wardrobe for all of his epic films.
- “Snake Dude” (1 ½ minutes) shows the film’s wrangler dealing with several snakes and a scorpion.
- “Avarat Bazaar Fight” (1 ½ minutes) shows the stars and the fight coordinator staging the big fight in this part of the movie.
- “Rock the Casbah” (1 minute) has an interview with Jake’s stunt double who explains the moves in this particular fight scene.
- “How to Collapse a Tent” (2 ½ minutes) has the special effects coordinator showing how the stunt will work with soldiers being dragged off a roof by a falling tent.
- “The Hassansins” ( 2 ½ minutes) features interviews with actors who play major roles in the assassin force.
- “The Deadly Arts” (3 ¼ minutes) features the director and stunt coordinator discussing the special abilities needed for the assassin team’s tricks to work.
- “The Animal Lair” (1 ½ minutes) shows us the snakes, ravens, crows, and dogs used on set to give proper atmosphere to the lair of the assassins.
- “It Was Hot Hot Hot!” (2 ½ minutes) has the producers, stars, and director describing the intensity of the heat during the filming dates in July and August, the hottest months of the year in Morocco.
- “Ostrich Love” (1 ½ minutes) features co-star Alfred Molina describing his moment of intimacy with an ostrich during filming.
- “Filming in the Atlas Mountains” (2 minutes) has director Mike Newell and the film’s art director describing their work to capture scenes of great beauty in this difficult location.
- “The Making of an Epic Battle” (3 ¼ minutes) features interviews with the fight and stunt coordinators and the stars describing their work on making this climactic fight scene work.
- “The Whip Fight” (1 ¾ minutes) shows how star Jake Gyllenhaal along with the stunt and fight coordinators worked out the whip fight using some whips and the rest done with CGI.
- “A Knife Thrower Shootout” (1 ¾ minutes) has co-star Steve Toussaint who played the majestic Seso in the movie describing his work with the stunt coordinator get the knife throwing scene just right for the movie.
- “Too Close for Comfort” (1 ¼ minutes) is a throwaway moment showing how the knife-at-the-crotch shot was achieved.
- “Filming at Pinewood Studios” (2 ½ minutes) details the 30-35 sets that were constructed at London’s Pinewood for interior sequences in the movie as well as the use of the 007 Stage for a recreation of the bazaar exteriors.
- “Time Lapse of Pinewood Sets” (1 minute) is actually one set being built from beginning to end.
- “Making Sand from Scratch” (1 ½ minutes) has one of the film’s CGI experts explaining how the underground sand cavern sequence was created in the computer.
- “The Sands of Time” (1 ¼ minutes)is explained by the special effects coordinator who shows the creation of the sandglass prop for the film.
- “Memories of Time” (1 minute) has one of the CGI technician explaining how the memories within the sandglass were created.
- “Jerry Bruckheimer Photo Montage” (1 ¼ minutes) is just that: a montage of photographs of the actors taken on set in costume.
The disc is BD-Live ready, but apart from the film’s trailer, there was nothing on the network that was specifically related to Prince of Persia.
The second disc in the set is the DVD copy of the movie.
The third disc in the set is the digital copy of the movie which can be used on Mac and PC devices.
There are 1080p trailers for Toy Story 3, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, A Christmas Carol, Fantasia/Fantasia 2000, Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2, The Lion King, and Tron Legacy.
3.5/5 (not an average)
A boys’ adventure film of no great distinction but one which features great production values which show up wonderfully well in high definition, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time seems like minor league Indiana Jones filmmaking at best. Fans of the movie will undoubtedly enjoy the interactive CineExplore experience that gives a really comprehensive look at the making of the movie.