November 10th, 2006
|01:43 am - The Prestige vs. The Illusionist|
I saw The Prestige tonight.
Yes, yes, I know that everyone else who was planning on seeing The Prestige during its theatrical run did so a week before Halloween, but you must understand: I had planned not one, but two dates to see it (both cancelled), and then the plans I made to see it with lord_alucard got hosed when he ended up seeing it the night before -- on a date, no less.
Anyway, anyone in Madison who's seen a movie at a Marcus theater in the last few weeks got one o' them coupons for a $4 ticket, good this Monday through Thursday only. I generally am not free on weeknights until 10:00 or so, and I didn't think I'd be able to use the ticket, but I was wide awake after practicing with offBeat and decided to catch the last showing of The Prestige.
I will pay for this when I wake up. You don't understand that. You don't understand the 45 minutes to an hour and a half that it's going to take for me to wind down after writing this post. Whatever. I'll try to make it quick so I can be in bed by two.
I really enjoyed The Prestige. It's engaging, it's gripping, it's visually stimulating, and if you took away the special effects you'd still have a good movie. The plot centers around rival magicians Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale). Angier is a real showman, but he finds himself constantly confounded by the innovation of Borden's act. Oh, and it doesn't help that Borden may have killed Angier's wife. It's complicated, but suffice to say that Borden doesn't know, either.
The rivalry is ugly (read: potentially murderous) to begin with, and things are already interesting before Nikola Tesla (David Bowie, yes, David Bowie) and his assistance Alley (Andy Serkis, yes, A-- oh, never mind) show up.
Christopher Nolan is turning out to be a really fine director. Hollywood is unsettlingly full of really fine directors right now, which temporarily diminishes Nolan's strengths a little, but assuming that the human race lasts long enough, anthropologists will have a huge number of arty popcorn films to mull over. I wouldn't want to be the expert of ancient cinema who has to keep Nolan, Gondry, Fincher, and Jonez separate ("Lynch is distinguished by his musical scores, in which (for example) the sound of a car crash is slowed down to accompany a scene of passionate lovemaking. Also, he likes backwards-talking midgets.").
The casting in this movie is impressive, though I'm generally indifferent to most of the actors. I don't care for Jackman or Bale terribly, but they're great here, and Scarlett Johansson makes a good corner for the love triangle. Andy Serkis makes a surprisingly good American, Ricky Jay plays another magician because Ricky Jay only ever seems to play magicians, and Michael Caine (as the engineer behind Angier's tricks) is becoming increasingly a better actor as he gets older. David Bowie does a wonderful job as Tesla, and I found myself wishing that he'd star in a Tesla biopic, which won't happen. It's a shame because Tesla led a really interesting life, and his legitimate contributions to science are sadly overshadowed by the fact that he was almost as much of a friggin' nutjob as Thomas Edison. The difference? Edison's lightbulb was so useful that everybody looked the other way when he started trying to contact ghosts by telephone. All Tesla got was to inspire my favorite H.P. Lovecraft story.
But I digress. Quite seriously, I might add -- it's 1:30 AM. I'm tired. I should be in bed. Possibly using fewer italics.
Like The Illusionist, the ending of The Prestige becomes obvious about two thirds of the way through the movie, but unlike The Illusionist, the obvious ending turns out to be a temporary misdirection for a much bigger surprise. Oh, did you want to be surprised? Oh, well. Sorry.
Anyway, it's difficult not to compare The Prestige to The Illusionist because -- at least at a quick glance -- it seems just as fishy that they would come out so close together as it did when A Bug's Life came out on the heels of Antz. But in this case it probably is a coincidence, more or less. Which one is the better film? I'm going to go out on a limb and pick The Illusionist, simply because I found it more attractive and more stylistically original. Which one would I rather watch? That's a tough call and would depend on my mood. I think The Prestige is to The Illusionist what Armageddon was to Deep Impact. That might be a lousy comparison because neither one of those movies was very good. A better (but less accessible) one might Citizen Kane vs. The Seventh Seal, where both films deserve equally high praise for entirely different reasons. The Prestige is probably more fun, has more action, and more David Bowie being Nikola Tesla, but The Illusionist is more subtly beautiful.
Current Mood: sleepy
Current Music: They Might Be Giants -- Homunculus
I saw The Illusionist first, and I found that, while I figured them both out long in advance of the actual end, I enjoyed the Illusionist more for the sake of seeing it. I spent the first hour or so of The Prestige bored. Also, I didn't like the "magical" item that was Tesla's machine. Everything, more or less, is explicable in the The Illusionist, whereas you needed to suspend disbelief for the machine in The Prestige. I know they were both fantastical and all, but it still bugged me that I was required to make that leap, when I had just seen it was possible to still intrigue an audience without making them believe the impossible. I think they were both good from the actors point of view, but Ed Norton is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, and Wolverine aside, Hugh Jackman is decidedly not.
Yeah… Hugh Jackman’s a good actor who can sing, but guys like that are a dime a dozen. He was the main selling point of The Prestige for a lot of people, but for me the quality of his performance is governed more by the material he’s interpreting than it is by him.
I think the Tesla machine was probably the biggest difference between the two movies, and though I didn’t love the machine, I liked Tesla. As I said, I’d like to see Bowie reprise his role as Tesla. That would be a movie I think I’d really enjoy, but I don’t think anybody’s holding their breath for a Prestige spin-off. I wasn’t bored with The Prestige, as you were (I did start bored, but it picked up eventually), but the comparison between The Prestige and The Illusionist is the comparison between a popcorn movie and a really accessible art film. I guess I take back what I said last night – given the choice, I’d rather see the art film.
I agree with both yourself and Keith. I enjoyed the Illusionist more than the Prestige. However I did enjoy Tesla in the Prestige. I actually didn't know it was Bowie but now that I think about it, yeah I guess I can see it.
I didn't not enjoy the Prestige, I did start out a little bored, and I did figure everything out way before I was supposed to, but I found myself enjoying it anyway as it was kinda kitchy. It was a good film just not as good as The Illusionist.
Having not seen The Illusionist (neither Edward Norton or Paul Giamatti are my favorite actors), I have to say that among the movies I've seen this year (including Superman Returns, Cars, and Clerks II), The Prestige is among the best I've seen in a long time. Maybe it's my love of magic. I had a blast enjoying the one-upsmanship between Bale & Jackman, Michael Caine is proving to me why everyone else seems to like him (I couldn't stand him for a long time), and why David Bowie needs to be allowed to act more.
I get the feeling that The Prestige is more your kind of movie than The Illusionist, which probably comes off accidentally as an insult to your taste, so don’t take it that way. The Prestige is much closer to being a popcorn movie. The Illusionist is much quieter and much more subdued, and continuing the “popcorn movie,” it’s sort of what I would expect a popcorn movie directed by David Lynch to be like.
Anyway, regarding the acting, general consensus seems to be that David Bowie steals the show. I loved him as Tesla, and would like to see him get more acting work (that’s probably up to him – I’m sure the roles are available (especially now)). You hit on something about Michael Caine that I was thinking about saying – I’ve never liked him, and now I’m beginning to understand that it’s because he was good at being typecast as his character from Get Carter. I recommend checking out Around the Bend
for a good, recent Caine performance you might have missed.
No insult at all. You're correct that my tastes in movies do gear closer to the popcorn fare movies that something a little more thoughtful (though I know a good movie when I see it, Multiplex or Art-house).
I'll probably check out The Illusionist when it hits DVD, again alot of it is because of my love of magic (I love watching Penn & Teller and David Copperfield as much as I enjoy simple slight of hand and parlor tricks).
Michael Caine was also Scrooge
McDuck in The Muppets Christmas Carol. Quite possibly the best rendition of that story ever, certainly my favorite anyway. That sentence is gramatically incorrect, but I don't feel like figuring it out. Oh, well. That's the first performance I saw him give, and thusly, the child in me always says he's good, therfore he is. Anyway...
Yeah, for me it was The Muppets Christmas Carol and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. It was a couple of years after that that I actually started paying attention to the roles he was playing, and I found that I overwhelmingly didn't like him. Now that he's getting older, though, he's getting fewer tough guy roles and I think that's making me like him better.