There is a reason why Jane Austen’s enduring Pride & Prejudice is a classic: audiences then and now still cannot get enough of the unlikely, angst-ridden pairing of the aloof Mr. Darcy and the quick-witted Elizabeth Bennet. Their romance starts off decidedly on the wrong foot but by the end of the novel they are in one another’s arms, having resolved their differences and discovered along the way that first impressions are not always accurate. It’s a formula that works equally well in Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South, in which the opinionated Margaret Hale forms an immediate negative opinion of Mr. Thornton until she later discovers his motivations… and what a wonderful man he actually is. But that does not happen until they have argued for several hundred pages (or several hours, if you choose to indulge in the terrific miniseries). Basically, what these couples teach us is that there is nothing more promising than a romance that starts off just plain badly.

The writers of Disney’s big screen adventure Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time were wise to adopt a similar trend in the form of their spirited and witty protagonists. The story opens with orphaned Dasdan proving his worth on the streets of Persia and being adopted into the royal family in the hope that his moral courage will inspire the princes to similar greatness. Many years later, he is an accomplished warrior whose smart military tactics assist their army in invading a foreign city believed to have been supplying their adversaries with weapons. Both an unusual dagger and the marital hand of Princess Tamina fall into his control, each of them presenting unique problems as Dasdan struggles to get to the bottom of recent events and reveal a traitor in the midst of the royal court. But before he can accomplish that, he must learn the secret of the dagger, the shifting sands, unearth a diabolical plot, escape a gang of tax-evading thieves, outsmart a league of assassins and… prevent Tamina from stabbing him in the back. Literally.

Historical inaccuracies abound, from the Islamic influences in the prayer beads, clothing, and architecture, which if you choose to assume a B.C. timeline from the described events, does not come into being for another several centuries, to the white cast and British accents. But in spite of these faults, the film is both a lot of fun and quite imaginative. It is based off a popular video game but stands alone, those influences only revealed in the action sequences. The hero and heroine are strong individuals and in many respects, worthy opponents, starting off with a decidedly bad opinion of one another. It’s not hard to see why they get on one another’s nerves. She appears to be a selfish, spoiled brat and at first, he seems no more than another “brutal and cruel” Persian prince. She makes his life miserable (or interesting) with her repeated attempts to steal the dagger, and in turn he insults her, at one point pretends to “sell” her in exchange for goods, and regularly threatens to leave her behind, engaging her in an ongoing banter of delicious wit that promises the audience of much to come.

Their instant sexual dynamic is engaging and there are numerous scenes guaranteed to result in laughs, such as when they meet a tax-evading bookie who specializes in ostrich races due to the heavy “oppression” from the Persian Government (it’s hard for anyone to make a dishonest living these days!). But while there are plenty of fight scenes, heart-pounding chases across rooftops, and more than one encounter with a deadly viper (not to mention sorcerers here and there!), it’s the constant bickering that makes it so much fun. For much of the film, Dastan and Tamina loathe one another, but when they do come around, it is done in such a way that we believe they truly have found common ground and overcome all their many former prejudices. Dasdan is willing to sacrifice his life so she can live, and she in turn is willing to give up everything, all her memories, even their romance, in order for him to fulfill his destiny. Her first impression of him was wrong… Dastan is worthy of carrying the dagger. He is pure of heart and honorable to the bitter end, even if he does aggravate her —even that lessens when they have a common purpose and total honesty between them. And he discovers that she’s not as much of a brat as he first thought, and gains respect for her beliefs and her many responsibilities.

One of the nicest things about them as individuals and as an eventual couple (although even there is a twist) is that they are equals in every sense of the word, fully capable of holding their own. Not only do they bring out the best in one another at the end of the day, they are complete on their own terms. Neither of them “need” one another and thus after a fashion, Dasdan and Tamina generate the perfect romance.