The Prince of Persia: Sands of Time was an instant videogame classic upon its release, and it was tempting to think Disney’s re-purposing of the game in theatrical form would be a total flop. After all, Ubisoft captured lightning in a bottle by reinventing a revered 2D classic, and lightning seldom, if ever, strikes twice. Even with Jerry Bruckheimer at the helm, the theatrical version of The Prince of Persia: Sands of Time couldn’t possibly capture the essence or production quality of Ubisoft’s masterpiece, right? Wrong.
Bruckheimer and Disney have a knack for excellent teamwork, probably best showcased by their Pirates of the Caribbean films. OK, so “At World’s End” sucked. The other two were good. Regardless, the tandem has a good track record overall, and somehow the studio and producer managed to re-bottle the magic of the Prince and his time-altering dagger. Heck, they even managed to squeak in some Lord of the Rings-like familial drama and a love story. Action, romance, great special effects and a rousing score; it all managed to fall into place. Fortunately for owners of a PS3 or Blu-ray Disc player, that excellence makes the translation to Disney’s Blu-ray presentation, too.
The Prince of Persia: Sands of Time incorporates a wide range of visual elements, from bright desert scenes to dark prison-like environs, and from CG extravaganzas to human-based situations. In every case, the 1080p video is bright when it needs to be, dark when it should be, and seldom shows signs of tearing or crush. A few CG scenes look obviously fake — unfortunately highlighted by the film’s climactic scene — but this is due more to the quality of the CG in those sequences than it is to the quality of the 2.40:1 transfer.
By and large the audio holds up just as well, with the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio seeming perfectly balanced and immersive. In fact, in terms of immersion, The Prince of Persia: Sands of Time on Blu-ray has arguably the best surround-sound effects I’ve experienced in the past five years. One scene in particular really made me feel as if I was in the desert with Jake Gyllenhaal: when he’s momentarily surrounded by opposing guards. In this scene, the rear channels pick up a subtle chain-shifting sound, as if some metal is rustling behind the camera. The effect was so impressive that I actually turned around to look out the window at the back of my reviewing room, as I thought someone was poking around where they shouldn’t be. When I realized that the sound was actually part of the rear-channel audio, I laughed at myself foolishly and only then stopped to think “I’ve never had audio do that to me before.”
The only hiccup with The Prince of Persia: Sands of Time on Blu-ray is in its bonus feature lineup. At first blush, it appears that there’s only one bonus feature: a deleted scene that really adds very little to the film and essentially wastes two minutes of your time. The only other “bonus feature” in the menu appears to be an alternate place to access/play the feature film, which isn’t really much of a bonus, right? In actuality, accessing the film via the Bonus Features menu enables viewers to watch it using CineExplore, which is essentially an in-line way to view 40 making-of featurettes. As you watch the film, a digital representation of the Prince’s dagger will appear in the corner. When it appears, viewers have a set amount of time to click it using their remote. If it’s clicked, a featurette about the scene at hand appears, whether it be a series of interviews, an explanation of the special-effects techniques or things of that nature. Technically it’s a clever way to bind a host of unconnected featurettes to the scenes that inspired them, but in practicality it seems a bit disjointed. I may be very much alone in this , but it just seems more natural to me for the featurettes to be accessible individually via a normal bonus features menu rather than have them “hidden” within a feature film that I may not want to watch a second time right off the bat.
This unique presentation of bonus features is hardly a deal breaker when it comes to deciding whether to buy The Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, but it does give me pause when debating whether I’ll eek everything out of the on-disc content. I’m often a bonus feature junkie (much to my wife’s dismay), but had I not needed to explore the bonus features for this review, I likely would have skipped them entirely just due to the effort. Call it lazy if you will. I call it demanding convenience in a life otherwise consumed with a day job, wife and two kids. The movie itself is a hoot, the D-BOX support is mildly entertaining (read our full D-BOX review here), and I’m glad to have gotten my hands on this disc and film. But the mild apathy from several co-workers who borrowed the disc means this one may not be for everyone, even if you did absolutely love The Prince of Persia: Sands of Time videogame on your home console. Me? I liked it enough to share with those co-workers, so take that for what it’s worth.
Buy Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time from Amazon.com.
- Score: 8.3
— Jonas Allen