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Film / Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

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"Defy the Future"

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a live-action film based on the video game series of the same name, directed by Mike Newell and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, and released in late May 2010.

The film features Dastan, an orphan adopted by the king. After playing a decisive role in capturing a holy city for the Persian Empire, Dastan is framed for the murder of his adoptive father. In the company of Tamina, princess of the city, and in possession of a dagger with the power to control time itself, he flees. Not only must he now clear his name and uncover the true nature of a treacherous plot, but also prevent the Dagger from falling into the wrong hands, which would have dire consequences indeed. The Prince must also avoid falling victim to the dreaded killers known as the Hassansins.


Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time provides examples of:

  • Adrenaline Time: Used for actions sequences, most notably in the combat scene between Seso and the Hassansin knife-thrower where time is slowed down to show the otherwise fast moving projectiles in flight.
  • All Is Well That Ends Well: So, Dastan (and his brothers) and his army invaded a city on false pretenses, killing, presumably, at least hundreds, if not thousands. However, since Dastan travels back in time and successfully exposes the nefarious agenda that caused the invasion to begin with, he's able to settle things peacefully without any further blowback whatsoever.
  • Almost Kiss: When it finally happens it's at the worst possible time.
  • Always Save the Girl / Save the Princess: Well, once Dastan and Tamina stop trying to kill each other. Subverted when Tamina lets go of Dastan and willingly sacrifices her life than allow Dastan to save her (which would prevent him from stopping Nizam).
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  • Animal Gender-Bender: Sheik Amar who arranges the ostrich races repeatedly refers to them and the only ostrich left later in the movie as "she", however, all the shown ostriches are dark bodied: they look like males. Then again, he's a Cloud Cuckoo Lander.
  • "Arabian Nights" Days: It's Ancient Persia, but its portrayal is very heavily influenced by the trope.
  • Arc Words: Literal ones, that open and close the movie:
    It is said some lives are linked across time. Connected by an ancient calling that echoes through the ages.
  • Arranged Marriage: Dastan is set to take Tamina as his wife after the Persian army takes over Alamut even in the rebooted timeline. Both of them are much more receptive to the idea in said timeline, albeit for differing reasons.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Dagger of Time if it's opened while it's inside the Sandglass.
  • Artistic License – History: The MST3K Mantra is in full effect here, as the movie features such cases of Anachronism Stew and historical deviations that it's really a big question if it shows a complete lack of historical knowledge or an equally great disregard.
    • The film's setting zig-zags between several times of Persian story. The map at the beginning shows the extent of the Achaemenid Empire as around 400 BC, but the architecture and iconography look markedly Islamic and seem to be trying to evoke the 7th century Muslim Persia.
    • Whatever the time it is, the movie is indecisive about whether this version of Persia is Islamic or not. They use Arabic script, names and clothing, as well as Quranic-looking religious texts, but women like Tamina are not dressed in the Muslim haya style and there seems to be none of the Muslim daily religious obligations.
    • The king and many of his courtmen are shown wearing regal attires of a style vaguely Nordic/European, being bare-headed and with headband-like crowns, in contrast to the vizier and other characters looking straight out of the Abbasid Caliphate.
    • References are made to the Turks in terms evocative of the 12th century Ottoman Empire, instead of the loose confederation of nomadic peoples in central Asia that Turks were at the time proposed above.
    • Indian rulers are referred to as "Mughals", a term that would not be used until the 16th century.
    • The allied kingdom of Alamut was not established until the 9th century and would be dismantled in the 13th.
    • In real life, the city of Alamut was actually where Hashashins resided. Not to mention, that vizier named Nizam was the very first man killed by them.
  • Award-Bait Song: "I Remain" by Alanis Morissette.
  • An Axe to Grind
  • Barrier Maiden: The young girl who first saved mankind from destruction at the hands of the gods, and all of her female-line descendants, including Princess Tamina.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • Used several times by Nizam while trying to retrieve the dagger.
    • Another for Dastan, when he stabs himself with the dagger in front of his brother, hoping he would use the dagger to reverse time and save him and then in turn, believe his story.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Dastan and Tamina have an obviously growing attraction throughout the film. It's mostly apparent when they are trying to kill each other.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Nizam is dead and Dastan has saved the day and reunited with Tamina, but she (like everybody except him) has lost the memories of the entire adventure and they have to start their relationship from zero. Not that this perspective bothers him very much, however.
  • Bookends: The movie starts with the sun rising and Arc Words appear, and ends with the sun setting on the exact same horizon with the same Arc Words.
  • Boy Meets Girl: Dastan and Tamina.
  • Break the Haughty: A little bit of this to soften Tamina up and show her falling in love with Dastan.
  • Broad Strokes: This is not a word by word adaptation of the games, but rather taking the most important elements and telling another story.
  • Brownface: Gemma Arterton, a white Englishwoman, looks considerably tanner while playing the Persian princess Tamina. This is actually a subversion, as ancient Persians were significantly fair-skinned and many of their peoples could have easily passed as Europeans; it's probably just that Gemma Arterton would not have been convincingly Persian to Western audiences had she not been at least a bit dark.
  • Cain and Abel: Nizam kills his brother because he wants to be king. Then he tries to go back in time to kill him sooner, so he can be king instead of his nephew.
  • Carnival of Killers: The Order of Hassansins who comprise of: a man that controls snakes, a man that shoots darts, a guy with two deadly whips and finally a guy that throws explosives.
  • Character Development: Highlighted in the ending: with said development under his belt (not to mention the knowledge of what will happen if he doesn't do anything), Dastan takes the opportunity to Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Because Poor Communication Kills, Tamina...
  • Compensating for Something:
    Amar: (to a Hassansin warrior with a huge sword) You know what they say about men with big swords... (bends pinkie finger)
  • Costume Porn: The characters' outfits are very elaborate and gorgeous.
  • Crashing Through the Harem: Dastan does this during the fight scene after his father's funeral.
  • Cut the Safety Rope: Dangling from great height, Tamina chooses to let go off Dastan so he can live and foil Nizam's plan. But then again, Death Is Cheap thanks to the Dagger of Time.
  • Dawn Attack: How the Persian army takes over Alamut.
  • Deadly Dust Storm: The threatened world-ending apocalypse takes the form of a giant sandstorm to be sent by the gods. During the film, Dastan and Tamina take shelter from a smaller but still nasty sandstorm (they even bring their horse into the shelter with them) while Tamina tells Dastan about the history of the dagger.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: A throwaway line mentions the Crown Prince having several wives.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Seso bravely battles the evil Hassansin knife thrower in order to get the Dagger back, resulting in an epic knife fight. Seso kills his opponent, only to look down and see that he had been struck in the chest by four knives. In his final moment, he grabs the Dagger and tosses it out the tower window, falling several stories and impaling itself in the wood right next to where Dastan, Tamina and Amar were waiting for it.
  • Easily Forgiven: Not nearly as pronounced the first time around, but from Tamina's perspective post-Reset Button, Dastan invaded her city, killed lots of people, and now is hitting on her (even if they are to be part of a political marriage) - in his defense though, it was publicly admitted to her that the entire attack was a colossal mistake (including that they were misled into doing it), and that they're all contrite about the affair. It's also due in part to Dastan handing back the Sands of Time dagger, as a genuine gesture of good will. As a result, though Tamina has every right to be angry at Dastan for the attack, she chooses to be carefully diplomatic with him.
  • Epic Movie: The price tag is up there with Titanic (1997). It shows.
  • Escort Mission: Dastan, Tamina, Amar and Seso must travel to the mountains of India to the Sanctuary and return the Dagger to the stone it came from.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Subverted with Sheik Amar. When he says he'd sell out his mother out for the type of gold Dastan's brother is offering for his capture, Seso gives him an aghast look.
    Amar: Don't look at me like that. You don't know what she was like.
  • Fanservice: From both Dastan and Tamina throughout.
  • Flechette Storm: The Hassansin knife thrower hurls metal projectiles against his opponents.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble:
    • Dastan — Sanguine
    • Tamina — Choleric
    • Amar — Melancholic
    • Seso — Phlegmatic
  • Frame-Up: Dastan is framed for killing the king so his brothers will be too busy ruling the kingdom or hunting Dastan to pay attention to Nizam's search for the Sands of Time.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars:
    • Two of the Hassansins have severely scarred faces. One of them has a METAL scar.
    • The scars on Nizam's hands provide a clue to Dastan about the real cause of why he's on the run in the first place. Dastan himself is covered in scars, seen in his Shirtless Scene early on, as well as one on his face.
  • Gratuitous Princess: Tamina, the reigning princess of Alamut, which is obviously an independent principality at the start of the movie. One comment by her suggests that for some reason, each woman who guards the time-reversing dagger is called a princess.
  • The Hashshashin: Part of the antagonist force in the movie.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Seso and Tamina. Thank goodness for the time reset.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Garsiv commands a cavalry company and is given command of the attack on a city. Any Total War enthusiast will tell you that cavalry is the worst choice for your vanguard in a siege attack. They're best held in reserve for when the city is breached or for open fields without narrow streets. Garsiv also knows only how to attack from the front. Combine his tactics with his choice of troops and you can imagine the results if Dastan and his company hadn't opened a second gate that was virtually unguarded.
  • Homage Shot
    • The scene where the camera rotates around The Prince on a high tower to give a good view of the landscape. The exact same shot which was used for viewpoints in Assassin's Creed, another Ubisoft franchise.
    • During the opening invasion, the camera moves to important locations as the Prince explains his plan, echoing similar camera-work in the Sands of Time game upon entering an area.
  • Hope Spot
    • The Prince gives his life to prove to his brother that the Dagger is real and would work, assuming said brother would rewind to save him. It works. Then the uncle comes in and promptly kills said brother.
    • Done earlier in the exact same way with his other brother, who is just starting to believe Dastan... and then gets shot several times in the chest.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Implied to be the case with Princess Tamina and her ancestresses. According to the backstory she tells to Dastan, she is descended from a girl who managed to prevent the gods from destroying all of mankind through the wish of her pure heart that humanity would be spared.
  • Inertial Impalement: With his last breath mortally wounded Garsiv uses his spear to impale one of the Hassansins who was about to jump onto Dastan from above.
  • Irony: In the first time line, the brothers treated Princess Tamina like a prisoner and a prize to be awarded to one of them. After Dastan does a grand rewind and exposes his Uncle's deception, the princes approach this same princess as an equal to apologize to.
  • Kill 'Em All: Almost all main and secondary characters are dead by the end of the movie. But then, much as in the game, time travel makes everything okay.
  • A Light in the Distance: Bis signals the Persian army that the eastern gate is open by waving a torch in the distance.
  • Literal Cliffhanger: Dastan and Tamina are pushed off a cliff by Nizam but Dastan manages to hold on to a ledge. But he cannot sustain himself and Tamina. Cue her Heroic Sacrifice in form of a Cut the Safety Rope.
  • MacGuffin: The Dagger of Time.
  • MacGuffin Delivery Service: Happens at least twice.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: The usage of the Dagger of Time is very clearly defined in that you can't exist in two places at the same time, merely move backward through your own timeline with your memories intact.
  • Make Wrong What Once Went Right: Nizam rescued his brother when they were children. He wants to use the power of the Sands to undo that.
  • A Match Made in Stockholm: The movie starts out with the Prince's army taking Tamina prisoner, but ends with the Prince and Tamina in love.
  • Meaningful Echo: "Have I told you about the Ngbaka?" "Yes, you have."
  • Mental Time Travel: The Dagger brings one's mind back in time, allowing them to change things from that point forward with the memory of what will happen.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The writers use the first three minutes of the movie to show Dastan as a kid, establishing him as a rebellious and athletic character.
  • Mortal Wound Reveal: After killing the Hassansin knife thrower in combat, Seso looks down on himself only to see that he had been struck in the chest by four knives. He dies soon after.
  • Mutual Kill: Seso can throw any blade with surgical precision. He faces off against a Hassansin firing bolts out of a wrist-mounted automatic crossbow. Seso has one blade left, so he jumps out of the column, runs, aims and throws it, while the Hassansin is firing bolts at him. The blade flies true and kills the bad guy. Then Seso looks down and sees bolts embedded in his chest. It took him longer to go down than it did the Hassansin, though.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • One of the Hassansins wields the Dark Prince's Daggertail and the iron claw of the 2008 Prince of Persia.
    • While the movie was based on the Sands of Time trilogy, the prince wears some headscarves that are quite similar to the 2008 Prince of Persia's headwear.
    • Those who use the Dagger to rewind time temporarily gain Power Tattoos on their dagger half of the body that look similar to Dark Prince from The Two Thrones.
    • The Prince's armor is heavily based on the outfit he wore in Warrior Within.
    • There's a short scene where the prince wears a turban on his head, which is something the prince from one of the first Prince of Persia games does.
    • When the Hassansins are first introduced, during their weapon training, upon being hit with a weapon, what looks like sand flies out of one of them. This is a direct reference to the Sand Creatures in the Sands of Time game, until it is revealed that they are indeed human.
    • Many of Dastan's outfits bear resemblance to the Prince's outfits throughout the games. During the fight between Dastan and a soldier, his appearance mirrors that of the Prince's appearance at both the end of Sands of Time (before turning back time) and his whole appearance throughout The Two Thrones. During the takeover of Alamut, his appearance mirrors that of the Prince's appearance in Warrior Within.
    • The Adipose Rex that Dastan is carrying during the king's funeral is a reference to the fat king from the game who is the king's friend.
    • Tamina's knowledge of the Sands of Time and what they can do somewhat mirrors Kaileena from Warrior Within. Likewise, her actions, aside from using weapons, mirror that of Farah from Sands of Time.
    • There's a scene in which Garsiv holds his sheathed sword. It's lampshaded too. This is a reference to the 2008 Prince of Persia game in which the prince holds his sheathed sword all the time.
    • The film carries on the tradition of having the Prince's love interest die moments before the climax only to be resurrected in the end, in a manner suspiciously similar to Farah's Heroic Sacrifice in the original Sands of Time game.
    • While the Prince is scaling the walls of the city by grabbing onto arrows fired from the ground, one of the arrows hits his (thankfully armored) hand and he looks back with chagrin. This is a nod to the Sands of Time game, in which Farah had an annoying tendency to sometimes hit the Prince with arrows instead of the enemy she was aiming at.
    • As mentioned in the entry below, the fact that all the major characters have British accents is a nod to the Sands of Time game.
    • The Prince finds himself on the run from the royal army after being framed for his father's murder. The second game in the original series, The Shadow & The Flame, has a similar setup. Even better, the reason he's running in that game is because the Princess has been tricked into thinking that he's a beggar from the streets.
    • Early in the movie, we see Dastan attempting a vertical wall run with somersault, a move frequently used in the games, and failing. Later, however, he pulls out a perfect one while on the run.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The path leading to the Hourglass is said to immediately self-destruct if something touches the sand on either side of the path. Presumably Nizam's digging destabilised the cavern, because otherwise it seems like a rather strange safety feature, considering just the door opening caused enough vibrations to cause stones to begin falling from the ceiling!
  • Opening Monologue
  • Our Time Travel Is Different: The Dagger of Time only moves one person through their personal timeline and only into the past.
  • Le Parkour: Of course. Wouldn't have been Prince of Persia without it!
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: The infamous gang of cutthroats and slavers that live in the Valley of the Slaves... don't actually exist. Turns out that Sheik Amar simply manufactured this fiction so he could run his business, far from the reach of the taxman.
  • Poison Is Corrosive: The poisoned robe corrodes flesh, but not linen.
  • Possession Implies Mastery
  • Produce Pelting: In the Minor Kidroduction Dastan throws a fruit at the soldier who socks the other boy for making his horse balk.
  • The Queen's Latin: The movie version features Jake Gyllenhaal in the title role sporting a British accent, a nod to The Sands of Time game, in which both the Prince and Farah had British accents.
  • Rated M for Manly
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: An evil snake steals the dagger from the heroes. Later its Hassansin master cuts it open to get the dagger back.
  • Reset Button: The Dagger of Time, as long as you have a steady supply of Sands of Time. When he wrenches the Dagger of Time from Nizam's hand, the dagger moves Dastan back in his own timeline until he pulls it out of the sandglass. He winds up back at the beginning of the movie and manages to stop the terrible events that set the plot in motion.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Aside from the obviousness of Dastan and his brothers all being great warriors and Dastan saving the world, Tamina is very much this trope — not only does she prove herself quite capable of manipulating, deceiving and outsmarting her 'ally', as well as handy in a fight, as the Guardian of the Dagger she is literally the only thing standing between humanity and The End of the World as We Know It, and quite willing to perform a Heroic Sacrifice in order to fulfill her role.
  • Say My Name: Quite a bit of "DASTAAAN!" and "TAMINAAAAA!" between the two leads.
  • Scenery Porn: All the freaking time.
  • Screw Destiny: "I believe we make our own destiny, Princess."
  • Second Hour Superpower: The Dagger of Time.
  • Sequel Hook: Not an evident one, but with all the events undone, Nizam is the only character dead by the end of the movie. Plenty of space to feature Amar, Seso and the Hassansins again in sequels.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Dastan does this in the end, as per the games.
  • Sexy Soaked Shirt: There's a scene where both our male and female lead jump into a fountain and end up soaked head to toe while making an escape, a rare instance of a unisex application of this trope. Look.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Dastan performs a Leap of Faith. Dastan also takes out a mook in a way very reminiscent of an air assassination.
    • There are scenes in the movie resembling scenes from Disney's Aladdin.
    • Prince Dastan locking a prison like gate and taunting his pursuers with the key ring is a shoutout to the Pirates of the Caribbean with which this film shares a production company and producer.
    • When using the sand, Daston's appearance is very similar to the Prince on the cover of "The Two Thrones".
  • Shovel Strike: Well, to be fair, the man did spit in Amar's face first.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Dastan and Tamina, naturally.
  • The Smurfette Principle: The film has princess Tamina as the only female character in the movie, but she proves she's not just there to look pretty. The fate of the world lies in her hands.
  • So Proud of You
  • Spikes of Villainy: The Hassansin that fought Seso in the Dagger of Time's chamber.
  • Standard Hero Reward: Dastan is given Tamina as a gift from his father for his role in the battle. After the reset, he is offered her again with a more diplomatic air to the proceedings.
  • Stepping-Stone Sword: Dastan uses crossbow bolts to scale Alamut's walls, although he nearly falls several times due to a few bolts being unable to support his weight for long.
  • Storming the Castle: The film opens with the Persian army storming a fortified city. It's a subversion, however, because Dastan notes that his brother, who's leading the charge, only knows how to attack from the front and would have sacrificed a lot of soldiers just to get inside. Dastan instead sneaks over a wall with his small group and opens the gates on that side, allowing the army in with a minimum of casualties.
  • Swirly Energy Thingy: The Sands of Time storm inside the Sandglass.
  • Sword Fight
  • Take That!: Sheik Amar takes a stab on taxes.
  • Those Two Guys: Sheik Amar and Seso Ngbaka. Also Chekhov's Gunmen.
  • Time Skip: 15 years pass between A Minor Kidroduction and the main plot.
  • Title Drop: Several times. The opening narration has a literal example, where the title of the movie comes up right as the narrator says it.
    Narrator: "... the day a boy from the unlikeliest of places became {beat} a prince of Persia."
  • Visual Pun: Amar, after running from a fight, hides behind a chicken coop.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: While evading capture, Dastan can be seen killing the soldiers coming after him — it's particularly jarring as these are soldiers of Persia, the same people whose lives he hoped to save by attacking Alamut in the way he did, and who he could stand to rule some day as a prince. Rendered moot, however, when Dastan goes back in time.
  • Whip It Good: One of the Hassansins wields two whips at the same time. One is a Daggertail from The Two Thrones and the other is an iron claw.
  • Whip Sword: The Daggertail.
  • You Talk Too Much!: Seso asks Sheik Amar whether anyone's said this to him before running off to get the dagger. Amar actually says "uh-huh."

Alternative Title(s): Prince Of Persia