When released to theatres earlier this year, PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME was not the franchise-starter it was intended to be, but as far as videogame-to-film transitions go, it is light years better than the current RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE. Thought it may not be the kind of film you eagerly anticipate viewing again and again, PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME makes a nimble transition to home video, via Walt Disney Video’s 3-disc combo pack, which includes Blu-ray, DVD, and a digital copy. Not only that: the box includes a password to unlock an online streaming version of the film, which you can access at Disney.com/WatchMovies. Before getting into the details of what’s contained on this discs, we should note the significance of this.
Consumers have always felt that, once they purchase a film or a record album, it should be theirs to use as they see fit, even if that means copying versions for the desktop computer, the laptop, and/or some portable device. Meanwhile, the sellers wanted to maximize profits by finding ways of encouraging customers to buy separate versions for separate uses. But with the new 3-disc combo pack, Walt Disney Video is making THE PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME available in every format, with a single purchase – in effect, giving the audience what it wants
And in case you wondering why you would need multiple versions the pack’s slipcase contains inserts offering suggestions: the Blu-ray disc for the high-def television in the living room; the DVD for the kids room or the portable player in the car; the digital copy for the desktop computer and the smart phone or other portable device; the online streaming version for the portable laptop. Now, when you make your purchase, you may view the film however you want, in whatever manner is most convenient for you. (The only catch here is that Walt Disney Video wants this convenience to extend only to the family that purchase the pack; the insert warns: “Transfer, Sale, or Fradulent Use of Codes Prohibited.”)
As for the discs themselves: they come in a sturdy plastic case with proof-of-purchase coupons to redeem for points at DisneyMovieRewards.com. The plastic case is enclosed in a cardboard cover embossed with a glossy version of the promotional art, which gives the box the look of a nice collector’s item. Walt Disney Video clearly intends the three-disc combo pack to be the complete, definitive home video edition of PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME: the bonus features are deliberately parceled out between the DVD and the Blu-ray disc, so that you need to own both if you want to see everything.
The PRINCE OF PERSIA Blu-ray disc, like almost all these days, begins with trailers for other releases; unlike many discs, this one allows you to bypass the previews by clicking on the Menu button (instead of requiring you to chapter-stop through the trailers one by one). There are language options for English, French, and Spanish, in digital stereo, plus subtitles in the same languages (including English for the hearing impaired). The sound mix is clear and balanced (you can understand the dialogue without being blown away by the music and effects). The widescreen transfer captures the beauties of the location filming and the glossy special effects with rich colors and a sharp image.
The extras seem a bit light, until you dive into them: a deleted scene and an interactive featured called “The Sands of Time.” The former is a brief bad joke, wisely eliminated from the final cut, in which Garsiv, one of the king’s three sons, presents the heads of fallen enemies to his father as tribute; it’s amusing in a ghoulish way, but it’s hard to imagine even Garsiv being stupid enough to think his father would approve of this ugly intrusion into what is otherwise a lavishly beautiful celebration.
The “The Sands of Time” interactive feature turns out to be quite extensive. Basically, this is a throwback to the sort of thing that was in vogue on DVDs ten years ago, when branching technology first allowed viewers to stop the film when some symbol appeared on screen, so that they could access alternate sequences and/or behind-the-scenes material. In this case, the image is of the time-dagger, which allows you to “stop time” and rewind to see brief making-of segments. There are twenty rewind points, each offering one to three segments:
- REWIND ONE: Jerry Bruckheimer Introduction; Filing in Morocco; Moroccan Marchers
- REWIND TWO: Next Action Hero; Functional Fitness; Walking Up Walls
- REWIND THREE: Designing Persia; Epic Dive Breakdown
- REWIND FOUR: A New Kind of Princess; Making a Princess
- REWIND FIVE: Alumet from the Ground Up; Layers of an Ancient City
- REWIND SIX: Parkour – Defying Gravity; Parkour Legend David Belle
- REWIND SEVEN: The Look of Rewinding Time
- REWIND EIGHT: From Game to Film; The Dagger of Time; Moroccan Artisans
- REWIND NINE: Behold the Might Ostrich; Ostrich Jockey Tryouts; Moe the Ostrich
- REWIND TEN: Penny Rose – Master Costumer; Snake Dude
- REWIND ELEVEN: Avrat Bazaar Fight; Rock the Casbah; How to Collapse a Tent
- REWIND TWELVE: Hassassins; Deadly Arts; Animal Lair
- REWIND THIRTEEN: It was Hot, Hot Hot; Ostrich Love
- REWIND FOURTEEN: Filming in the Atlas Mountains
- REWIND FIFTEEN: Making of an Epic Battle; The Whip Fight
- REWIND SIXTEEN: A Knife Thrower’s Shoot-Out; Too Close for Comfort
- REWIND SEVENTEEN: Filming at Pinewood Studios; Time Lapse of Pinewood Sets
- REWIND EIGHTEEN: Making Sand from Scratch
- REWIND NINETEEN: The Sands of Time; Memories of Time
- REWIND TWENTY: Jerry Bruckheimer’s Photo Montage
These featurettes (which run approximately one to five minutes) are a mixture of short promotional videos (some of which have, such as “Hassassins,” have been available on YouTube for awhile), some B-roll type behind-the-scenes footage, and some special effects pre-viz shots and/or time-lapse photography presented without narration or explanation. The sheer volume is exhausting, giving the impression that they probably could have been condensed into a good making-of documentary. Spread out over the course of the film, they provide interesting glimpses of what went on behind the scenes, but they sometimes skimp on details, suggesting that they were designed with the casual viewer in mind, not the cinefantastique aficionado who wants to know everything.
Some of the segments are not quite as scene-specific as one would like and would probably have been better utilized as stand-alone bonus features or even easter eggs, instead of being inserted at specific points in the film. Fortunately, once you have activated the Sands of Time feature, you can go to the Index and access all the rewind points there, without sitting through the entire film again.
The DVD treatment of PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME is about what you would expect from the format. There are audio and subtitles options for English, French, and Spanish. The standard-def transfer is enhanced for widescreen televisions with very good results; even if it does not match the clarity of the high-def transfer, it looks great when enhanced on a Blu-ray player. On a smaller television screen or a portable player, the difference in quality would be eclipsed.
There are two bonus features not on the Blu-ray disc. The first features some actors from the Disney Channel performing allegedly comic antics to promote the Blu-ray format; unfortunately, the continue well past the point when they have made their point about the superiority of Blu-ray over DVD. Disney is definitely pushing the format: the PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME combo pack includes an insert with instructions on how to obtain a discount coupon to upgrade your existing Disney DVDs for new Blu-ray discs.
For those purchasing the three-disc combo pack, the second bonus feature is of more interest: the behind-the-scenes featurette “An Unseen World: Making Prince of Persia.” Running over fifteen minutes, this short subject takes the best footage spread throughout the Blu-ray’s “Sands of Time” rewind feature, and fashions it into a concise mini-documentary that should appeal to viewers who do not wish to wade through over forty individual segments one by one.
Although PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME is not a great film, its presentation on home video is superlative. The lack of an audio commentary is unfortunate, but the “Sands of Time” interactive feature offers much of the information that would have been included in a commentary. More important, the three-disc combo pack, with digital copy and online streaming option, should become the standard for offering movies to consumers, allowing them a convenient and satisfying range of options to watch the film.