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Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Is Fun with Pop-Spirituality Cliches
See more reviews by Paeter Frandsen, Contributing Writer

Prince of Persia PosterAll I really know about the "Prince Of Persia" video games is that the first one was way too freakin' hard for me, so I never bothered with the others. (Though I hear that's changed.) So I didn't come into the theater as a fan of the video games, just a fan of fantasy adventure.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time's story centers on a young street urchin turned prince who finds himself caught in the middle of treachery within his adopted royal family. He is accused of a murder and is on the run for most of the movie, trying to prove his innocence by unmasking the true culprit and his evil schemes.

There is plenty of adventure to be had as the title character, cleverly played by Jake Gyllenhaal, leaps from roof to wall like an ancient free runner, stopping now and then to engage in fast-paced swordplay. Some of the early action scenes especially are clever in their design and very engaging to watch. Fights are well choreographed, but with no innovation.

The story is straightforward and somewhat predictable. Performances are fine, though these actors were not given much to work with. This is an action-driven movie. Characterization moments are obviously planted in the script, rather than coming through the material naturally. But if you're a fan of light-hearted adventure with a touch of darkness now and then, you may find this movie has some things in common with the first three Indiana Jones films. Not much meat to the characters, but they serve the plot well.

Paeter's Rating:
Quality:      4 stars
Relevance: 3.5 stars

Hollywood Needs to Raise the Bar
The special effects are standard quality and not as common in the film as the trailers would have you believe. But they shoot for some pretty big moments near the end that you may find fun to watch. Maybe I'm getting even more jaded toward Hollywood CGI, or maybe I'm just playing too many video games. But when big summer movie effects are no more interesting to my eye than an average video game session, I feel like Hollywood needs to raise the bar. (At least I can interact with those visuals in my video game.) And I'm not convinced 3D is the answer. (Video games are delving into that, too.)

The score is very enjoyable, blending the sounds you'd expect to hear in a fantasy adventure score with an appropriate middle-eastern quality.

I don't think it's very likely that many will come away from this movie and have a meaningful discussion about anything of real worth as a result. But I'd still like to draw attention to a couple of pop-spirituality clichés that once again find their way into a Hollywood script.

Truth Doesn't Change and Doesn't Contradict Itself
The first comes near the beginning, when a Persian royal advisor is talking about the kingdom they are about to invade. With disgust in his tone, speaking of their religious beliefs, he says that this kingdom is open to no truth but their own. I understand what he means to convey, but using the word "truth" instead of "ideas" or "beliefs" suggests flexibility to the nature of truth. Yet, truth does not really change and never contradicts itself.

Truth, according to Webster, is that which conforms to fact, or reality. There is no such thing as your truth or my truth. There is only THE truth. One or both of us may conclude wrongly what the truth is. But there is still only one actual truth. A very small, almost unnoticeable bit in the script. But when a word is misused so many times, as "truth" is by Hollywood, we can forget what the word actually means.

Of greater notice are two key moments in the script, one during the resolution of the climax, where we hear the proverb, "a good king listens to counsel, but always follows his heart." I think a better proverb would be, "a good king listens to counsel, but always uses his best judgment". Why? Because no one that I know of has ever nailed down what it means to "follow your heart".

The Heart Lies
Does that mean follow your instincts? Follow your feelings? Do what you think is right? How do you know what your heart is telling you? The truth is, "follow your heart" really just amounts to "do what you want to do." And this advice only works when the heart in question is guaranteed to be good and noble.

After all, you never hear characters tell a bad guy to follow their heart. And I don't mean bad like Darth Vader. I mean bad like Emperor Palpatine. Just bad through and through. We never tell those guys to "follow their hearts". We might even say they don't have hearts. As though the heart is some pure untainted compass for life that only the most evil people don't possess. But Jeremiah 17:9 says that "the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"

I've got a non-Christian friend who laughed in agreement when I pointed her to that verse. She'd had a series of bad dating relationships and said, "That's right! My heart LIES to me!"

Script writers have complete control and can guarantee that "follow your heart" will always be the best advice for their characters. But in real life, it's not near that simple.

This movie is a fun ride that never gets emotionally intense. You probably won't ever grip the edge of your seat, but you may very well enjoy what you're watching. An exception to the norm for "video game movies".

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action.

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- Philippians 4:13

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