Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Blu-ray Review
PictureYou certainly see where all the money got spent with this tremendous High Def 1080p video presentation that showcases the movie in its original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.4:1. Detail is stunning – even the CG scenes are hard to discern (apart from a couple of panning aerial landscape shots and, of course, the very fake-looking time-travelling dagger moments) – and from the wider angles to the close-ups on Gyllenhaal’s designer stubble, this is a near-flawless representation of the material. There are, of course, absolutely no traces of digital defects, noise or processing side-effects (like overt edge enhancement) and whilst this is only to be expected from such a recent, big budget affair, it is still nice to report a pristine image. There is a fine sheen of grain, but this only goes to add to the cinematic feel of the production. The colour scheme is broad and vividly reproduced. You might have assumed that the dusty, sandy Persian Empire-era setting would restrict the colour spectrum, but this is a Disney film at the end of the day, Aside from the richly coloured costumes, there are plenty of excuses to inject the proceeding with a broad array of deep colours, and it certainly makes the proceedings yet more visually opulent. Skin tones suffer marginally as a result, and many characters take on a marginally fake plastic-like edge, although I’ve no doubt that the heavy makeup utilised contributed no end to this. Marginally overpowering black levels also take the darker sequences down a smidge in terms of quality, but with generally well-observed contrast levels, as well as a hefty quota of noticeable 3D pop, this is still one of the better presentations I have come across recently.
SoundThe aural side of things is at least as impressive as the visuals, the film boasting a bombastic DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that screams ‘big budget blockbuster’ right from the outset. It offers up accuracy and potency, engaging both surrounds and the LFE channel at every opportunity. Dialogue, if anything, is the only element that suffers marginally in all the furore – either coming across as slightly overpowered or bellowing out loud above everything else. Still, it is certainly not the most important aspect of this kind of action-orientated spectacle, and in respect of the effects and the score, this powerful mix totally engulfs you. The atmospheric touches are keen and well-observed, with some nice directionality that is particularly noticeable from the arrows and blades that frequently whizz and whoosh past your head. Whether the crackle of fire, the thunder of hooves or the clash of metal, it all gets presented well on this boisterous affair, and if that weren’t enough to keep you entertained, the totally forgettable but nevertheless perfectly suited score rallies your enthusiasm during every successive action sequence. It’s a top notch affair, just shy of being demo worthy, although arguably few will really notice its minor faults.
ExtrasOddly, for such a recent, relatively high profile big budget blockbuster release, this edition sports only one significant extra. Sure, we get a solo, pointless, Deleted Scene (where the King is presented with a bunch of severed heads of his enemies) and a few Trailers (including a Preview for the eagerly anticipated Tron sequel) but the only really extra of any note is the CineExplore function. This is basically like an inferior, outdated variation on the fantastic Maximum Movie Mode option that some titles now sport, comparable to the old Matrix 1999 SD-DVD which boasted the (then-revolutionary) follow-the-white-rabbit option that works while watching the movie. Here, you follow the dagger instead, selecting it every time you see it in order to dip out of the film and into one of the many 2 minute excerpts – either interview snippets, behind the scenes tasters or b-roll footage of the film being shot, as well as a couple of VFX progression shots. There are no less than forty of them, including: Jerry Bruckheimer Introduction, Filming in Morocco, The Next Action Hero, Functional Fitness, Walking Up Walls, Designing Persia, Epic Dive Breakdown, Gemma Arterton: A New Kind of Princess, Alamut from the Ground Up, Layers of an Ancient City, Parkour: Defying Gravity, Parkour Legend David Belle, The Look of Rewinding Time, From Game to Film, The Dagger of Time, Moroccan Artisans, Behold the Mighty Ostrich, Penny Rose: Master Costumer, Snake Dude, Avrat Bazaar Fight, The Hassansins, The Deadly Arts, Filming in the Atlas Mountains, A Knife Thrower’s Shoot-Out, Filming at Pinewood Studios, The Sands of Time and Jerry Bruckheimer’s Photo Montage. As you can tell, just about every base is covered but, frankly – much like the sands of time themselves – this is all a bit of a showy gimmick. Are you honestly going to sit through the entire movie and watch for the daggers to appear forty damn times across its two hour runtime? Even though you can access an index, even that does not offer any kind of Play All function. Is that so much to ask for? Give me Maximum Movie Mode any day of the week.
To add insult to injury, the DVD included in this release actually boasts a comprehensive Documentary – An Unseen World: Making Prince of Persia – which utilises much of the footage from the CineExplore option, only presenting it in an infinitely more accessible fashion. Ultimately, at least they’ve included it on the enclosed SD-DVD but it’s cheap not porting it over to the Blu-ray for completeness.
VerdictDisney’s Jerry Bruckheimer-produced alternative to the soon-to-be-reinvigorated Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Prince of Persia, could have easily paved the way for an all-new franchise. But lacklustre Box Office draw and largely negative reactions could halt all those best laid plans, and given this first entry, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Still, The Sands of Time is far from a bad outing, besting the lame swords-and-sorcery Clash of the Titans remake and making for one of the best videogame adaptations to date (although neither is a particularly hard task). It is a fun, showy and frivolous action-adventure, a silly Parkour romp through the Persian Empire, marred by a marginally out-of-place Jake Gyllenhaal (sporting an equally out-of-place East End accent, which is unwisely shared by many of the other characters), a slightly off-kilter slapstick humour streak, and a thoroughly undermining time-travel gimmick which sucks much of the drama and suspense out of the flashy proceedings.
On Region-free UK Blu-ray we get the same excellent video and audio, and the same oddly inconveniently inaccessible extras as the near-identical US release, and fans should certainly consider this the definitive edition to own. Newcomers who like their swords-and-sorcery affairs to be big, noisy and expensive-looking, with enough story development and colour characters to carry you, happily, from one action set-piece to the next, will probably find this most entertaining for the duration, particularly in a Saturday-afternoon kind of way, even if it is probably worth renting first to see if it’s a keeper.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £23.99
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