Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Blu-ray Review
You just know that Disney aren't going to muck this up, don't you?
Prince Of Persia comes with a glorious AVC transfer that paints the screen with a vivid and detailed 2.40:1 canvas. This is one lovingly burnished image. Persia. Deserts. Sand. The palette is golden and tanned, so much so that you may even need to rub some after-sun into your skin after watching it. But this gleaming, honeyed glow is actually very appealing and is rendered with a smoothness that blends hues with ease and subtlety, although it does tend to give everyone a rather warm and ruddy complexion. Not exactly unusual for the supposed environment, though, I suppose. Grain is light, but certainly visible and the image is pleasantly film-like. No ugly DNR has been used.
Colours, on the whole, are splendid. The costumes are well-catered for with lush primaries and lots of variety. The shifting sands of time – a swirling CG vortex – are finely delineated grains of gold that the image reproduces with detail and crisp colours. The eyes on the spectral Hassansin snakes – and their black scales – are squirm-inducingly sharp and superbly shaded. Blue skies and powder-puff white clouds, the green of the odd oasis, and the bright orange of fire all come across with terrific saturation and the sort of enticing punch that you don't want to look away from. The scene when Dastan leads his cocky infiltration of Alamut is bathed in a fine midnight blue. The full might of the sands of time when they are unleashed at the end ignite the screen with a literally white-hot inferno, and this looks tight and bright and untarnished by blooming or hazing.
With its distant vistas, gritty stone walls, exotic tapestries and more jewels, silks and embroidered costumes than you can, ahem, sheik a stick at, the transfer's ability to render the finite with the far-off is frequently tested. And it proves eminently capable of delivering the goods in both extremes. Close-up detail is terrific, from facial texture, stubble, and the frisky gleam in royally roguish eyes to the edge on blades and the pattern on armour. The CG crafted cities may not have that superbly realised detail of the hill-side shanty-maze in The Incredible Hulk or the rooftop mosaic on The Bourne Supremacy, but the image invites and allows for scrutiny. CG shafts of sunlight add immeasurably to the dreamy appeal of much of the imagery, but the detail in and around such visual punctuation remains at a premium. The sands of time as they rewind characters and situations do not destroy any of the three-dimensionality that the live-action imagery enjoys, the CG hardly passing for reality but certainly not detracting from it either. Detail does not appear to be lost within the shadows either. Contrast is crisp and vivid, and the black levels are never called into question. In fact, the blacks are often tremendously smooth and deep.
Finally, the typical digital gremlins of edge enhancement, banding, aliasing and artefacts are blissfully absent from this transfer. Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time looks stunning on Blu-ray, folks. This gets an official 9 out of 10, but it is probably closer to a 9 ½!
If the image is a treat, then the audio mix for Prince Of Persia is something else again. Disney's disc packs a solid and dynamic punch with a DTS HD MA 5.1 track that fills the room with sonic action and engages the surround channels with oodles of activity. The film feels alive with warm, energetic sound that provides constant dynamics and excellent detail. The front soundstage is wide and deep. Dialogue is marvellously projected at all times – although you can't help wishing it could a little more for Gyllenhaal simpering vocals.
Bass is extremely powerful and far reaching. Impacts – traps, crashing structures, tumbling rocks, bodies hitting the ground etc- have real heft to them. The rush of weight is carried effortlessly around you, too. The big crashes thump solidly out in front of you, but resonate with lingering aftershock behind you. The sub is utilised often, and it clearly enjoys its work!
Directionality is fantastic. Blades whistle through the air, horses thunder around the room, impacts and sword-clangs emanate from all corners of the environment and crowd scenes throb and hum with ambient voices and activity. But best of all comes the blade-throwing confrontation with one of those Persian Ninjas up in the high tower, and Dastan's duel with a whip-flinging baddie down in the caves – with both sequences producing the split-channel, wrap-around joy of sizzling fly-bys that cut across the soundscape with alarming crystal clarity and the kind of over-produced enthusiasm that will have you grinning. The subtleties are not neglected in all this bombast, but they are not the things that you will be showing off when you want to impress people with this disc. Another great touch is that the score is allowed to permeate the full soundscape, bolstering the big moments and helping to create that feeling of all-round immersion. The mid-range is full and warm, top ends glittering. But the sweep and power of the music perfectly balanced.
So, it is hard to find a fault with this incredible track. Panning, I suppose, is a little obvious and elaborate, but no less enjoyable for it. The effects are keenly amplified and over-egged, but you won't find any complaints about that from me, either. I guess, then, that Prince Of Persia gets another 9 out of 10 from me for its audio performance. That's another 9 that you can happily nudge up to 9 ½ … but, shush, don't tell anybody else, okay?
This release is Disney's US single-disc edition and, as such, it evicts any other copies of the film and, in fact, only retains the gossamer-thin selection of one – count it – one Deleted Scene, and the puff-pastry EPK of a lousy 16-minute making-of.
Honestly, there isn't much to say about either offering – because they aren't worth the effort. So I'll say no more.
Initially, I had found Bruckheimer's big budget romp very enjoyable. Advance word had led me to believe it would be eye-rollingly poor, but at the flicks I was more than pleasantly surprised. Gyllenhaal made for an engaging lead, although that voice didn't fit the body, and Arterton actually provided more than just a little bit of eye-candy. The action was fast and frenetic and the scope of the movie suitably large and lavish. The daftness of the plot was irrelevant in the scheme of such good-natured and goofy hokum, and the whole thing skated by with entertaining if disposable exuberance.
But revisiting the film on Blu-ray finds the affair somewhat diluted and sanitised, with its shortcomings all too plain to see. There is something of an air of disappointment about it now that you can't avoid, no matter how engaging the characters and the set-pieces may be. The thing that I noticed this time out was that I was losing interest quite rapidly because I knew that cop-out ending was coming – and this is where I am mainly pointing my finger, I'm afraid. We all want to be able to enjoy a film time and time again (there's a pun there, folks) and knowledge of how things ultimately pan out is rarely an issue. Police Chief Brody's lucky last shot in Jaws, Luke Skywalker's Force-aided torpedo at the end of Star Wars, that big monkey falling off the Empire State Building – it is the journey towards those climactic points that makes such films worth sitting through again and again. But there is nothing worse than an ending that actually undoes all that we have seen already. “Oh, it was all a dream” is certainly a bad enough denouement, but Persia provides the ultimate anti-climax as far as I am concerned – the sweetest and naffest cataclysm of convenience that Bruckheimer and his cluster of writers could conceive of, and something that renders the rest of the film almost totally redundant.
But this takes nothing away from a stellar transfer and a rollicking lossless audio mix. This edition has nothing of interest with regards to extra features, but the experience that its AV provides is a sumptuous delight.
Prince of Persia offers fun, adventure and spectacle. The leads are unexpectedly appealing and the film provides first-time exuberance and wit aplenty. The problems come when you consider returning to it … because that initial magic is unavoidably dulled and diminished, ironically making you wish that you could use that dagger to alter the ending, yourself.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.79
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