A web comic I follow recently mentioned the film and begged the question: "When does a series about time travel travel itself through time?" The statement is a tongue-in-cheek, but rather accurate look at the Prince of Persia video game series. Beginning life as an early platformer for the Apple 2, it was the first video game to ever use (admittedly rudimentary) motion capture techniques to animate the main character. Thus, the game won some notoriety for the incredibly life-like movements of the protagonist, as well as clever platforming puzzles and traps that kept the player on his or her toes. That was in 1989. Fast forward a decade to 2003 and we have a new title developed for Nintendo’s GameCube called Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. Released at the beginning of the video game industry’s “parkour movement”, the game focuses on complex 3D platforming elements that enable the Prince to use his surroundings as a crutch to get exactly to where he wants to be. Coupled with innovative game play elements such as the Sands of Time, which enabled a player to reverse any bad move made (such as falling to one’s death in a pit), it also had a deeply immersive story with twisting plot points that took players by surprise. Indeed, the game was renown at the time for its cinematographic style of storytelling, blurring the line between video game and movie (perhaps even art) in ways that had seldom been done before.


So it is not so surprising perhaps that another decade later we have a Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time live action movie from Disney, timed to coincide with yet another video game in the series, one that ironically revisits the Sands of Time “original”. I have not had the pleasure of playing this legendary game, so I cannot say for sure where the plots differ between film and game, but I do know that Disney did a good job of taking elements from the video game and weaving their own competent tale around them.  A young street orphan named Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal in the adult role) manages to impress the King of Persia (Ronald Pickup) with his skill in avoiding the guards after stealing an apple from the local market while the King’s entourage was happening to pass by. The King takes the youth under his wing, raising him as a brother to his legitimate sons and heirs to the throne Garsiv (Toby Kebbell) and Tus (Richard Coyle). In time, he earns his place as a skilled warrior and as a prince, though adopted; a true member of the royal family. After learning of a plot against the King by a neighboring city-state, Dastan becomes instrumental in the fall of the city and the capturing of the lovely princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton). He also inadvertently picks up the treasure the city was guarding; a dagger filled with mystic sands that can rewind time. At an ensuing celebration party for the King’s victory, his gift to his adoptive father turns out to be booby trapped and results in the monarch’s death. Forced to flee, he vows to use the Sands Of Time to set things right; though he is pursued mercilessly by the King’s vizier, Nizam (Ben Kingsley), who seems to have motives beyond bringing him in for the murder of the King.