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Review: The Prestige

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posted on Apr, 26 2007 @ 09:19 AM
For this week, I'll be reviewing The Prestige, also known as "The Magician Movie That Had Hugh Jackman In It, Not The One with Ed Norton" or "Where The Hell Is Ed Norton?". This is because it was released at the same time as "The Illusionist" (which starred Ed Norton), neither of which were remotely distinguishable from each other in trailers. In fact, for a while I was convinced they were the same exact movie, released under two different names to confuse and mystify the public.

Anyway... we watched the one that did not have Ed Norton in it.

The Breakdown

GENRE: Mystery/Drama
PLATFORM: Period Piece, Live Action, Color.
STARS: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, David Bowie, Scarlett Johansson.
RE-WATCH FACTOR: Moderately High
LOVE IT: Fans of Tesla and Magic Shows.
HATE IT: People who meant to see the Ed Norton movie.
ACTING: Superb, with the exception of Christian Bale.
MUSIC: Adequate.
WARNINGS: Mild violence, a little blood but no gore.
SCORE: 8.5/10
TEASER: Two magicians, once partners, become rivals, then bitter enemies, and wage a clandestine war of illusions against one another.

The Full Review

"The Prestige" is based upon a novel of the same name by Christopher Priest. The term "Prestige" (invented by Priest) refers to the third part of any good magic trick.

  1. The Pledge - First, you show the audience something ordinary.
  2. The Turn - Then, you make it disappear.
  3. The Prestige - Lastly, you bring it back.

    So, the title of the movie is actually in reference to the true secret of the magic trick. The trick in question being "The Transported Man", where the magician disappears from one spot and reappears in another, and the war between two rival magicians (Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale) over whom can better perform the trick. I can't say too much more without giving away important plot elements, so instead I'll focus on the non-plot related elements.

    Hugh Jackman (as Robert Angier) shows perhaps the greatest amount of new range in this movie, being completely indistinguishable from Wolverine (which he will probablly be forever typecast as). Instead of a big burly rebellious loner with something to prove and foot-long titanium claws, he's instead an effete, winsome, eloquent little obsessive with a great flair for showmanship. I didn't even realize I was watching Hugh Jackman until the wife pointed it out to me, and even then, I mistook the much more gruff Christian Bale for Jackman.

    Christian Bale (as Alfred Borden) comes across as a gruff, uncharismatic, supposedly gifted magician. He played the part adequately, but his lack of experience and talent put into a lead role was painfully obvious beside his betters. It wasn't that he was bad, but rather he needed to be given a lesser role, and a bigger star brought in to fill the limelight. Someone like Ed Norton. Oh...right.

    Michael Caine, as always, was fantastic. The role he played was just right, being the right-hand man to Hugh Jackman in front of the camera, and acting as the chorus behind the camera, narrating the story forward. Few people play "The Wise Old Mentor" like Caine. While you won't see anything new to add to his range, he's an actor with nothing to prove and he plays the part perfectly.

    The women's roles in the movies were negligable, and while Scarlett Johansson (as Olivia) was certainly beautiful, and Samantha Mahurin (as Jess) was adorable, the writers just didn't make their parts important enough to really matter who played them. They all did an adequate job at the roles, but I can't help but feel that the Nolan brothers could have done better with the script.

    The most astonishing surprise was the role of Nikola Tesla. I had no idea Tesla would be in the movie, and having been a huge fan of Tesla's, and watching him portrayed almost perfectly within the movie (at least according to how I always pictured him behaving), I was astonished to later find out that the actor was none other than David Bowie (as in, Ziggy Stardust Bowie)... He looked absolutely nothing like the Goblin King! I had no idea Bowie could even act (the Goblin King didn't). Huge props to Bowie for providing the biggest surprise of the movie.

    Best Bit-Part Actor easily goes to Andy Serkis, who played Tesla's assistant, Alley. His screen time was perhaps less than 2 minutes spread out over the course of the film, but he took a thankless bit part and made it shine. Had I been the director, after seeing the latent talent and abilities of Seriks, I'd have had him switch parts with Christian Bale. Never heard of Andy Serkis? He did the voice of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies.

    The cinematography as well as the music were both adequate. Having watched a few of Christopher Nolan's films now, he seems to put very little thought into either, taking the most efficient route to get the job done. While this saves a great deal of money and time, it, along with the choice of Bale as Bordon, is what prevents this movie from getting a perfect score. It's not that either were bad or distracting, I just never noticed anything spectacular about them.

    The set and special effects were superb. Aside from the lightning, both were extremely subtle and even heavily played down. Whereas one might expect lots of rhinestones and spangles from a stage magician, gawdy colors, laser light shows, smoke and fog, in point of fact the whole movie takes place sometime around the 1920's, before stage magicians tried turning their shows into really lame music videos. It took place during a time when the audience came to watch the trick, not the trappings surrounding the trick. Thus, don't go in expecting Harry Potter like magic. Expect very well done tricks and effects done with a minimum of noticable CGI animation. The stage, the drab coloring, the acts, the people, and every aspect of the film left one with the impression of a what must have been a fascinating microcosm within a much more rough and primative world, and the behind-the-scenes life of the second most mysterious profession on Earth.

    You might want to go ahead and simply buy the DVD to get the extras, but more so because you'll want to watch it a second time just to catch all the subtle actions you miss due to planned distractions. You might even watch certain scenes several times over to catch everything.

    Overall it was a really good movie. I'm obliged to count off half a point because of the director's choice of Bale for Borden, when several actors would have been better. And it fails to garner the extra point for having merely adequate music and cinematography. Had Hugh Grant been substituted for Bale, Hans Zimmer given the music, and Jeff Cronenweth or better given the cinematography, I'd gladly hand this movie a 10. Unfortunately, the neglect to these areas by Nolan only nets "The Prestige" an 8.5 out of 10, which is still really good, but not "Great".

    [edit on 4/26/2007 by thelibra]

posted on Apr, 27 2007 @ 05:59 AM
ahhh, Prestige... briliant movie...
I agree with most of what you said. After seeing Bale in The Machinist and Harsh Times I know how good he can act, how briliant he can be. The role of Borden just wasn't really his game.
Hugh Jackman, on the other hand, was simply amazing.
He has turned into one of the best character actors in Hollywood. I recently saw The Fountain and it is probably his best acting so far. (If you havent seen it, watch it, you will love it).

posted on Apr, 27 2007 @ 06:12 AM

Originally posted by paperclip
After seeing Bale in The Machinist and Harsh Times I know how good he can act, how briliant he can be. The role of Borden just wasn't really his game.

Oh? Admittedly, I haven't seen either of those. Perhaps I should. Do you recommend them?

Originally posted by paperclip
Hugh Jackman, on the other hand, was simply amazing.
He has turned into one of the best character actors in Hollywood. I recently saw The Fountain and it is probably his best acting so far. (If you havent seen it, watch it, you will love it).

The wife loves Hugh Jackman. In her eyes, he can do no wrong. "The Fountain" is another movie I haven't seen, but will check it out. Unfortunately, I've got that really lame image of Wolverine smoking a cigar from X2 in my head. Not that I have anything against cigars, it was just a really poorly conceived scene, and I've had trouble taking him seriously ever since. "The Prestige" was the first positive image I've gotten of him since, and it's nice to see I was wrong.

posted on Apr, 28 2007 @ 04:54 AM
Yes, I deffinitely recommend those movies.
The Machinist is one of his strangest roles. He lost a lot of weight on purpose for it, he looks anorexic, at times really disturbing, his acting is briliant though.

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