Roger Ebert may have something else to say on the matter, but any gamer will tell you that a good video game can be as exciting and emotionally involving as a good film. So why do film adaptations of video games almost invariably suck? Must be something to do with dunderheaded studio execs throwing a criminal lack of talent at the projects. That smell you smell is the reek of greed and laziness. Also the smell of shit films.

So the first thing to note about the latest video game film adaptation to come out of Hollywood, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, is that, this time, it's a labour of love: in 2004, Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner pitched the film adaptation to Jerry Bruckheimer himself. Mechner stuck around to write the screen story and, one gets the impression, he hung around the set making sure no one messed with his baby. Thank goodness.

Formerly a plucky street urchin, Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the adopted Prince of Persia and the secret weapon of the Persian army. He leads an assault on people of the city of Alamut, who are suspected of hording and selling WMDs (though obviously they're not called that in the film). During the siege, Dastan acquires a mysterious dagger – and judging by the glances Princess Tamina of Alamut (Gemma Arterton) casts crotchward at Dastan, he's packing something of some significance.

Seemingly deceived by his brother Prince Tus (Richard Coyle) into killing the king, Dastan is forced into exile, and discovers that the dagger has the power to reverse a small pocket of time. Now, Dastan must clear his name and keep the dagger from falling into the wrong hands… if only he can work out to whom said wrong hands belong. If you've paid any attention to the promotional images, which feature Ben Kingsley as Dastan's sinister looking Uncle Nazim, you're one step ahead of Dastan.

A director rather than a gamer, Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) concentrates on making a good film instead of being precious about the source material. It must have been handy that Mechner's Prince of Persia games were inspired strongly by cinema in the first place though. The original Apple II game effectively transported the acrobatic heroics of Indiana Jones into The Thief of Baghdad, and Gyllenhaal's Dastan pulls off all the spectacular jumping-off-walls and leaping-from-rooftops parkour action of the games that fans were promised. Gyllenhaal goes for it with gusto.

In the game of the same name, the time-reversing dagger would forgive a multitude of the player's sins, but the film wisely unleashes its powers more sparingly. Dangerously close to the outer limits of logic as it is, the power of the dagger gives the film a refreshing thrust: sort of a sword and sandal and sci-fi flick. Great to see time travel finally working in Donnie Darko's favour.

With Bruckheimer and Disney behind it, and that pretentious Robert Jordanesque subtitle, you'd expect Prince of Persia to have some Pirates of the Caribbean in its DNA, and you'd be right. It doesn't quite have the oomph and scope of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, but it does have that familiar sense of high adventure, the theme park ride thrills and some hearty laughs. Alfred Molina's Sheik Amar character is the resident comic relief, occasionally verging into Monty Python territory. In fact, some sequences play out like an enjoyable reboot of Disney's Aladdin – all that's missing is a pet monkey in a fez. We'd all be happier if only Disney can refrain from enlisting Alanis Morissette to sing over the closing credits in the future though. No, we don't want Avril either.

This won't be the best US summer blockbuster – Inception, we're looking at you – but there's plenty here to enjoy for gamers and non-gamers alike. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a great leap forward (over a corpse-ridden bed of spikes) for video game film adaptations. More importantly, it's a decent film in and of itself.

- Darryn King

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time opens in cinemas this Thursday, May 27.
You can watch the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time behind-the-scenes here on The Vine.