Prince of Persia: Sands of Time is live-action fantasy film that was directed by Mike Newell and distributed by Walt Disney Studios in 2010. The movie is based on the popular video game of the same name that was developed by Ubisoft and released on March 2003. In addition, the film also took elements from other games in the Prince of Persia franchise, namely the Warrior Within and The Two Thrones, and incorporated them in the story.
While the Prince of Persia franchise is considered to be one of the best video game series of all time, the 2010 movie did not garner the same praise and acclaim. Despite being able to get $336.4 million in box office sales, the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is still regarded by many as one of Disney’s biggest flops, and the planned “new franchise that replaces Pirates of the Caribbean” for the Prince of Persia never really panned out since it didn’t get a sequel. What went wrong with this action movie that led to it being a flop? Let us find out as we dive into the production history and reception of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
The film rights of the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time video game was already granted to a production company called Jerry Bruckheimer Films just one year after the release of the game. The producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, then hired John August as the executive producer and Jordan Mechner, the creator of the 3D Prince of Persia game, to be the story writer. It is important to note that Jerry Bruckheimer also produced the Pirates of the Caribbean films, and seeing how similar that said franchise to the Prince of Persia, he hoped that the latter would also turn into a popular franchise for Disney.
When writing the story for The Sands of Time movie, Jordan Mechner said that he added new elements to the story of the original game in order to make the movie more exciting. In addition, he also noted that he wanted to turn the interactive experience of the game into a non-interactive experience for the film while still making the story heart-pounding or thrilling. Before the purchase of the film rights of The Sands of Time by Bruckheimer, Mechner initially wanted to produce an animated Prince of Persia film, but because of the deal offered by Disney and Bruckheimer to him, he disregarded his initial goal and started working as a writer for Bruckheimer. When the story was finished around the end of 2005, Bruckheimer hired Jeffrey Nachmanoff to be the screenwriter for the film.
In November 2007, Disney hired Mike Newell, who is known for directing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Four Weddings, to be the director for the adaptation. In May 2008, Jake Gyllenhaal was hired to play the protagonist of the movie, while Gemma Arterton was cast to play as Tamina, the protagonist’s love interest. Filming began in July 2008 in Morocco, and the production eventually moved to England, specifically at Pinewood Studios.
Disney planned to release the movie on July 10, 2009, but because of the 2007 to 2008 Writers Guild of America Strike, the filming and production were postponed, and it ultimately led to Disney delaying the release of the film to 2010.
Disney released the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time in a step by step pattern. The film first premiered in London on May 9, 2010, and it was followed by the premiere in Italy, France, the Netherlands, Finland, Denmark, and other European countries on May 19, 20, and 21. The movie was then released in the United States on May 21, and it released in Asia starting on May 27. Disney believed that the gradual release of the film would generate hype, but what they didn’t anticipate is the number of negative reviews written by film critics even before the release of the movie in Asia. Despite the reviews, the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time grossed $335,154,643, making it the highest-grossing video game adaption before the record was broken by 2016’s Warcraft.
The overall box office sales of the movie are mainly attributed to the fact that the Prince of Persia is already a popular franchise among gamers, and their purchase of tickets was not deterred or influenced by the negative reviews by critics. However, even though it was a box office success, the number of criticisms regarding the movie’s plot and the actor’s acting capabilities led to it being a critical failure.
In 2019, Jake Gyllenhaal stated that it was a mistake to take the role of the protagonist of the film, as he, as well as the critics, believed that the role was not really meant for him. Because Gyllenhaal expressed regret in starring the film, a sequel for the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time never materialized. Coincidentally, the Prince of Persia video game franchise went into a long hiatus following the release of the Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands in 2010. However, the hiatus ended when Ubisoft announced that they would release a remake of The Sands of Time in 2021.