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Impressions: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (the trailer)

Kevin Kelly

We were invited out to Jerry Bruckheimer Films earlier this week to watch the trailer for The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The good news? It looks like a Jerry Bruckheimer film. The bad news? Well, It looks like a Jerry Bruckheimer film. He's put together a formula that combines stars -- Jake Gyllenhaal, Alfred Molina, Gemma Arterton and Ben Kingsley -- a lot of bombast and CGI. What usually comes out is a loud, boisterous film that makes a lot of money at the box office. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

The only hitch is that it's a videogame adaptation, and those just never seem to turn out very well. It certainly doesn't help that Ben Kingsley, the one who starred in the ill-fated and ill-conceived film version of BloodRayne, has returned in another villainous role. Still, we have to admit that what we saw (reminder: just a trailer) looks to be an exciting jaunt through swashbuckling adventure.

Read on for the highlights -- and take your time. The movie that doesn't come out until May 2010.

Cheatsheet: Prince Dastan has come into possession of the Dagger of Time, which can release the Sands of Time. As a result, the bearer can turn back time. The Prince and Princess Tamina must evade traps, demons, and the evil Nizam, who wants the dagger for himself, and race to the vaguely named "Secret Guardian Temple." Unfortunately, the trailer doesn't tell us if they're supposed to destroy the Dagger, unite it with something, or just sell it in a bazaar.

The Good:

There is plenty of "platforming" in here, where The Prince leaps, jumps, chimneys down walls, and narrowly escapes nefarious traps. That's a nice nod to the game, which first appeared on home computers back in 1989. You'll also hear a couple of familiar sound effects, like the psssshwt! of an arrow as it narrowly misses The Prince. The trailer was filled with heroic action featuring a very ripped Jake Gyllenhaal, performing everything you'd expect from the franchise's protagonist: sword fighting; wooing Princess Tamina, sweeping back his emo hair and ... err, more jumping. Lots of jumping. There's also a some witty repartee between Dastan and Tamina, a la Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood. What better movie to emulate?

The Bad:

They've made plenty of changes to the mythology of The Prince of Persia, which is loosely based on The Sands of Time game that came out in 2003. Creator Jordan Mechner wrote the first two drafts of the film script himself (see the trailer he cut together when he pitched the project to Bruckheimer here), although Disney later brought on three other screenwriters to work on it as well. They've given The Prince a name (probably out of necessity), so he's now Prince Dastan, and for some reason they've changed Princess Farah into Princess Tamina. Also, Dastan is a former street urchin who has been adopted by the King and turned into a Prince. It's also distracting that both Dastan and Tamina speak the Queen's English ... where's the Persia in here?

The Ugly:

Like other recent Bruckheimer movies, this one feels like it's going to rely so heavily on CGI that it won't feel real. The swirling sand effect that is used whenever Dastan uses the Dagger of Time to go into "Bullet Time" leaves just his floating head, suspended above a whirlwind that resembles his body. It looks both fake and extremely weird. Bruckheimer was quick to point out to us that this is still a work in progress, which we hope means, "This will actually look better when it's finished." They also feature an extremely small amount of Kingsley in the trailer, which makes us fear he'll be a hammy, over-the-top villain. Just give us a villain we can love to hate, not one we hate to love.

With the trailer providing only a snappily edited glimpse into the final film, writing impressions is like trying to judge a book by its cover -- a very noisy cover, in this case. You'll be able to judge for yourself on Joystiq next Tuesday, November 3rd, and in theaters in front of 2012 on November 13th.

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