Studio Name: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment (Buena Vista)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Disc/Transfer Information: 1080p High Definition 2.40:1 Widescreen; BD-50 Blu-ray Disc; Region 1 (U.S.) Release
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit)
Director: Mike Newell
Starring Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton
If I had to judge it, the best part of Disney’s rather violent Prince of Persia had to be watching the up-and-coming Gemma Arterton as a tantalizingly sultry princess. Ever since I saw the trailer for this on the Armageddon Blu-ray, I was intrigued; however, like so many other films that I watch in my home theater, it seemed to just lose something as compared to when I walk out of a theater and see a film – and I shared this observation with my wife when viewing Prince of Persia. This seemed to be one of those films and times. Something just tells me, should I have seen this on a massive screen with expensive buttery popcorn, it would have played better to me – I wasn’t that impressed with the Blu-ray copy I demoed.
The premise looked interesting – the normally annoying Jake Gyllenhaal (why young women find this kid to be a drop-dead-gorgeous sex symbol worth feinting over, I’ll never get…but then again, I will never get young women as a concept standing by itself) plays a beefed-up Persian warrior of some sort who battles his way through CGI-infested setpieces replete with rolling sands, fierce creatures and a demon figure, and who has the beautiful Arterton in tow for the ride. The special effects seemed worth the price of a rental or admission alone, which suggested The Mummy meets National Treasure with a dash of Pirates of the Caribbean mixed in for good measure (of course it would seem that way; we have the Bruckheimer stable responsible for production values). The final product, though, was riddled with plot confusions, overtly hammy performances from everyone involved and was simply too thick for its own good – at one point, you’re not going to know what’s going on.
I applaud Disney when they make films like this, and take on a project which they hope will one-up the last major silver screen deluge of theirs – there’s a sort of “theme park” feel to these films, as the studio has grown beyond the boundaries of their Snow White and Cinderella days into big-budget spectacles that bring their most beloved attractions to life on the screen, a la Pirates and even Haunted Mansion. While National Treasure and Prince of Persia aren’t based on any of the corporation’s theme park rides, they still have that Disney-esque feel that I don’t need to describe – but this one gets too complicated too quickly, and doesn’t feel as memorable as the members of the Pirates franchise as a result. With some typical onscreen narration, Prince of Persia tells the story of a boy who was taken in by the Persian king after displaying a show of indifference to soldiers overtaking a village. The boy grows up to be a prince of Persia (Gyllenhaal), but we’re never really given any insight as to how he obtains his Daredevil-like abilities to spring from walls to rooftops and take out other soldiers and warriors like an expert; it’s all very rushed and candy coated with CGI sequences and the like. Apparently, if I followed this right, the prince is framed by one of the king’s brothers when the king is given a robe of some kind that appears to be cursed and ultimately kills him rather horrifically. The robe is initially thought to be cursed by the beautiful princess of the kingdom the Persians are attempting to take over (Arterton) but by the time half the film runs, you get the clues which point to the prince’s uncle.
Reading into it more carefully, the king’s brother wanted to be crowned ruler of Persia, and in a typical Hollywood revenge plot, seeks to get rid of the king by framing the prince, as it was the prince who gave the king the robe upon returning from the meeting with the princess. The plot gets heavily convoluted at this point onward, as the story regarding a dagger that Arterton has been protecting that contains special sand develops, and takes Gyllenhaal on a journey that encompasses battling hordes of ostrich racers (I’m not kidding), deadly desert warriors and mythological demon people that really weren’t that frightening. A large chunk of the middle of the film is spent depicting the prince and princess arguing about this dagger with the special “button” on its handle and how Gyllenhaal doesn’t want to give it back to Arterton until she explains what the sand does and why it’s so important – indeed, this gets childish after awhile. The prince actually discovers on his own with a press of the dagger’s button that the knife actually turns back time – but requires special sand to do so. The uncle’s plot? Get a hold of this sand, dagger and the aforementioned mythological demon creature to possess the sands of time in order to change history so his brother isn’t king of Persia.
As I said, with this premise in place, the plot splinters and just gets too complicated for its own good – without all this nonsense about the uncle needing to get the dagger to the demon people in order to release the sands to get him back to the time he needed to get to, it may have actually worked and been interesting. There’s also the problem of Gyllenhaal and his ridiculously forced British/Persian/Arabian/I don’t know what accent that gets really annoying after awhile. I believed him, for a bit, as the muscle-bound, knife and shield toting warrior from the Persian underbelly raised by the king as an orphan child who grows up to defend the kingdom, but many of the sets and dialogue got downright silly and unbelievable – including moments when he’s flying through the air like a Marvel Universe character, seemingly with no supernatural abilities at all. I never understood this in many films – that is, the tendency to suggest most characters have this ability to cling to walls, do backflips without breaking something, jump from rooftop to rooftop like you and I tie our shoes…when they’re supposedly just human. Remember the lovely Kate Beckinsale in Van Helsing? What was that all about, when she flips from a rooftop onto a tree branch, then lands on both booted feet without any of her makeup looking even remotely disturbed? Excuse me – when she flips upside down onto a tree limb…
Anyway, to get back to Prince of Persia, there is a cornucopia of CGI and special effects going on here, culminating in the final sequence in which the sands of time explode open to expose the film’s most lavish budget foray. But as a film and as a judgment in narrative, I just don’t think this succeeded…it was certainly not terrible and it was entertaining at least, but it wasn’t overtly memorable. What I suspect is that Disney is hoping to build this into a growing franchise, a la Pirates and National Treasure, but who knows, since The Haunted Mansion bombed in doing so.
But Gemma Arterton? Between Quantum, Clash of the Titans and now Prince of Persia, this rising starlet is definitely one to watch in Hollywood, and perhaps the most interesting thing to watch in Persia as a whole.
VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC LOOK?
Disney Home Entertainment’s Buena Vista distribution channel presents Prince of Persia in a typically fine-looking 1080p encode on this Blu-ray, coming in a la a rather wide 2.40:1 ratio. All the standard Buena Vista high-def details are here – the facial details during close ups, the individuality between the grains of sand in desert shots, the heat-bleached “feel” of the beige colors during outdoor sequences, the rock-solid black levels and shadow detail…from what I could recall, there weren’t any issues with the disc’s video presentation.
AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC SOUND?
You know, I could recall when Disney Blu-ray releases were accompanied by nothing but Uncompressed PCM audio soundtracks…i.e. Pirates, No Country For Old Men, National Treasure, Con Air, Haunted Mansion… Switching with the times, Prince of Persia gets an involving DTS-HD Master Audio mix in a 5.1 channel configuration that indeed exposed all of this audioscape’s minute details for the most part. Clangs of swords, swooshes of kicked up and blowing sand, rousing score…they all find their way into the surround channels quite effectively. As I normally find with Buena Vista-branded releases (save for really rambunctious tracks like on Armageddon perhaps), there was a bit of a “leanness” to the audio – that is, while aggressive in many places, the audio wasn’t as forceful as it could have been during suggestive heavy action sequences. I commented about this even on Disney’s first two-disc DVD edition of the first Pirates and its DTS track when I reviewed it back then, and even Geoffrey Morrison of Home Theater magazine said the same, regarding the fact that the mix seemed a bit “lean” in its use of aggressive panning and wild effects. There were traces of this symptom on Prince of Persia’s Master Audio track which kept it from being a real standout.
There were a plethora of extras, a la Disney style, including the prerequisite “making of” featurettes, deleted scenes, digital copy and more.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATIONS:
Definitely worth an evening’s rental with the family – but be warned: This isn’t typical Disney non-violent entertainment. Some of the sequences are drenched in violent suggestions, if not completely blood and gore soaked. I won’t personally be adding this to my collection, but as always, your mileage may vary – something just stops it from being a very memorable Disney fantasy/actioneer, and it was probably the aforementioned plot confusions which just get too thick for the film’s own good.
Thank you for reading, and please let me know what you thought about Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time if you see it/saw it! :wave: