Video games have, thus far, proven notoriously difficult for the hollywood adaptatron to transmogrify into anything resembling a satisfying movie. There have been a few guilty pleasures ("Super Mario Brothers", "Street Fighter") and some relative financial successes ("Resident Evil"), but even those can at best be described as "mildly entertaining" or - if you're feeling uncharitable - "rancid arse-puke".
Enter: Jerry Bruckeimer (steady on). The Bruck has produced movie bullion out of an Air-Force training video, Bruce Willis' unhealthy obsession with drilling, and a fricking fun-fair ride; so the piddly problem of porting a pixelly pantomime from nerd's bedrooms to the big, shiny screen should pose no challenge whatsoever.
"Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" tells the tale of a Persian ragamuffin who is plucked from the streets and raised as a prince (following an opening scene that is a live-action re-enactment of the bit in "Aladdin" where he is chased down alleys and over rooftops by swarthy palace-guard types), before getting embroiled in some mystical gubbins about a time-warping McGuffin in the shape of a dagger filled with magic sand that TURNS BACK TIME.
Bruckheimer farms very similar ground to the "Pirates" cycle ; producing a light-hearted romp with tongue firmly in cheek, but director Mike Newell seems unable to imbue proceedings with the same comic sensibility mixed with flair for visual set-pieces exhibited by Gore Verbinski in the seafaring saga. Here, the action sequences are needlessly over-edited, leaving a choppy and incoherent feel which can lead to confusion as to who is doing what to whom, and the comedy often falls flat.
Aiding and abetting the occasional sabotage of the action are the generally sub-par digital effects. Gyllenhaal is often seen standing in green-screen composite shots that would've been sneered at ten years ago, seriously damaging the overall plausibility of the world.
The Gyll, as the Rodney Trotter-accented Prince Dastan, has a likable cheeky charisma but struggles to generate any serious chemistry when pitted against Gemma Arterton's Princess Tamina. Arterton delivers another "I look pretty and deliver exposition in a theatrical upper-class accent" performance, and the banter between the two leads often feels forced and annoying rather than sparky and free-wheeling. There were points where I wanted to punch both characters in the eye and simply say "Stop being a dick and get on with the film!", but they're not real, so I didn't.
The biggest crime this film commits is the waste of such a searing talent as Toby Kebbell. He is cast in a supporting role which requires little more of him than running around after Donnie Darko whilst emitting some raging Shakespearean roars. No offence to Jake, but Kebbell should've been the lead.
The plot is needlessly convoluted (taking in mysticism, time-travel, politics and sibling rivalry), often laid out in unwieldy chunks of Arterton's aforementioned expo, and builds to a borderline nonsensical climax which commits the cardinal sin of all time-travel fiction by effectively over-writing the events which you just spent two-hours watching unfold.
Also, there is a plot-point which could easily be construed as some kind of crudely topical political allegory, as the occupation of a city is carried out in order to find a "weapon forge" which may or may not exist, whilst an evil conspirator in a position of power in the invading force is secretly after the property of real value which is hidden under the city: Magic Sand. I laughed.
As for the identity of said conspirator, you'll be screaming "That's the bad guy" as soon as you see his mug, and then counting the minutes until dopey Jake works it out too.
With all this in mind, it is worth saying that PoP is not a particularly bad film. It is mostly entertaining in a similar sort of manner to the first "Mummy" film. Interest is maintained via a team of ninja assassins with cool superpowers, Alfred Molina doing a mash-up of Jack Sparrow and Del Boy (lots of "Only Fools and Horses" in this film") as a wheeler-dealer ostrich-pimp, a few funny lines here and there, some agreeably acrobatic swash-buckling, Arterton looking pretty for people with an eye for the ladies, and The Gyll's amiable presence and buffed-up emo-band look for those that way inclined.
So PoP doesn't break the curse of the video game adaptation, but it does give it a crafty kick in the shin and then escape by doing a back flip off a balcony and landing on a camel. Or summmat.