It’s a tale of two magicians. Each have their own pride of showcasing the impossible to the public at the turn of the 20th century. For all who come to see the show directed by Christopher Nolan (Inception, Memento), they’ll be grasped by this mystery of a man on trial after supposedly accused as the one responsible for a magician’s murder. For anyone outside its target audience, they will walk out requesting a refund due to the overly complex post-modern approach to this picture that beautifies rivalry.
As the curtain of The Prestige opens, Nolan regular Michael Caine narrates the three acts to a magic trick:
- Pledge- Show something ordinary
- Turn- Turn that ordinary thing into something extraordinary
- Prestige- Turn it back into ordinary
As for the two magicians we see in this story, played respectively by Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, they are in a battle of wits, to death if required, to outsmart the other on stage. There is plenty of intrigue in what they come up with: the disappearance of a birdcage, the transportation from one end of the stage to the next, the fear of something going fatally wrong in the show, and one that I cannot name out of the need for story secrecy. While these magical stunts are always climbing on top of one another in competition for our amusement, the stakes of the magicians themselves are not rising much in any way, no matter how much their obsessive madness defies the laws of nature.
The lives of these two magicians off the stage are not even remotely as engaging at their lives onstage. Magician Bale falls in love with a completely dull woman played thoughtlessly by Rebecca Hall (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), after he attempts to uplift her traumatized son who witnessed implied animal cruelty in his friend’s magic show.
The dialogue between these two is as unimaginative as it is difficult to hear under the flavorless musical score by David Julyan (Insomnia, Memento). Yet as for magician Jackman, his story is much more bearable. I won’t give much away about it here, as much of it leads to spoilers, but he essentially hires Scarlett Johansson to be his lovely assistant and secret spy. Now, who wouldn’t want that?
Christopher Nolan has over the last ten years of The Prestige’s life proven to the world how much command he can generate from the screen in an approach that honors arthouse cinema as well as the most profitable audience in Hollywood (that is, teenage boys). Here, he displays commanding signs of that power, but not the very best of it.
Each of the magical stunts have no relative pizazz to make up for the already generic feel of the motion picture. Nolan does have his moments of spectacular imagery, including the creation of early 20th Century England and a line of lightbulbs enveloped by a misty field of snow, but there’s nothing here as memorable as the Joker blowing up a hospital, or Paris folding over itself.
Overall, there is no reason for this to dwindle its content down to a suitable PG-13 rating. None of the characters have any personality to appeal to that age group, as they talk about topics such as rivalry, family struggle, affairs, and suicide.
I am now getting the feeling that Christopher Nolan is a heavily overrated director who does not deserve his large following. He has had successes with Memento, Inception, and The Dark Knight trilogy, but that’s still a minority of all the feature films he’s directed.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
D'Angelo, Mike. “The Prestige plays a trick on its audience, hiding a secret in plain sight.” Digital image. A.V. Club. Onion Inc, 19 Feb 2016. Web. <http://www.avclub.com/article/prestige-plays-trick-its-audience-hiding-secret-pl-232247>.
Nolanite. Urban Dictionary. Web. <http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Nolanite>.