I’ve discussed this a few times now, but early last week, as I watched The Prestige for the first time in two years, I innocently tweeted my admiration for the movie. It was a random, almost thoughtless tweet that turned my Twitter timeline into a firestorm. Within 10 minutes, I was flooded with people bashing the living shit out of Christopher Nolan’s dueling magician thriller.
I was stunned. I honestly – no bullshit – have never once heard anyone saying anything remotely negative about the film, so when people shared their distaste for it, I was completely thrown off. The following morning, I asked Twitter outright: do people love or hate The Prestige? This time, the response was unanimously positive. Since then, of the responses I’ve seen, the split is almost perfectly 50/50. Some love it, others hate it. Who knew? But fair enough.
You can place me proudly in the Love column, but because I’ve shared my opinions on this topic ad nauseam, I thought today would be a good time to let two bloggers I love step in. Below, you’ll find the reasons as to why Josh from The Cinematic Spectacle adores The Prestige, and why Nikhat from Being Norma Jean hates it.
Love by Josh
The Prestige is packed full of themes that are a breeding ground for great drama and compelling mystery. Though the number of twists in this film is enormous, it remains absolutely stunning. The film is really a magic trick in its own right, and that's what makes it so intriguing, so fantastic. As great as the riddle is, the way Nolan puts it together is even better.
A problem for some could be that the film does not offer a straight protagonist and antagonist. I love this ambiguity, since it is just another element to misdirect the viewer. If you think you know the villain at the beginning, just wait until the end. But this battle of wills is not only essential to the narrative, but it also provides a tug-of-war throughout that doesn't end until the final scene. Due to this rivalry, the story never drags, as the magicians are locked in constant conflict.
Hugh Jackman is the perfect showman, and Christian Bale is the perfect magician. One is flashy and dresses up his tricks, while the other creates a simple but mesmerizing act. Of the two, Bale outshines Jackman largely due to the part Bale is playing. More importantly, Bale's performance is one of things that makes this film so great. In a carefully manipulated portrayal of a man living with a secret, he tailors his performance to the tough demands of the script, and he's so subtle it's almost too hard to dissect. He creates a character that is nearly impenetrable, which is what the vast mystery of this story requires.
Despite all of these characteristics, the chilliness of this film can be quite polarizing. These magicians are not so much unlikable, as they are unrelatable. Granted, Borden (Bale) and Angier (Jackman) are two tortured men who have sacrificed greatly, seeking to outperform each other. But the emotional connection to these characters isn't fully realized. And why should it be? Borden is a man who wears many hats (so to speak), and Angier only wants to see his rival fall. These characters are part of a puzzle, and the puzzle is the most important – and the most successful – piece of the film. Everything occurs at a distance here. We can't quite get in on what is happening until the very end. Despite the negative connotations of most of this paragraph, I say bravo to Nolan for that. The puzzle is so elaborate, yet subtle, that it renders this film an unforgettable entry in Nolan's filmography. It may not be as entertaining as other Nolan films, but it is one of his most complex ones to date.
Why do I like The Prestige? I like it because it's challenging, technically sound, and wonderfully put-together. The performances are attuned to needs of the material, and Bale's turn as Borden is one of the film's highest selling points. The magicians' rivalry gives way to the mystery, which continues to baffle me as to how Nolan was able to create such a puzzle. I mean on the screen, not the page. (After all, it is an adaptation.) The disconnect to these characters only adds to the trickery that is made plain before our very eyes. Try as I may, I don't know that I will ever fully grasp all of subtleties of this film, and I admire it wholeheartedly for that. It's a magic trick full of misdirection and ambiguity that remains a mystery. It dazzled me. It shook me. It fooled me. And I wanted to be fooled.
Hate by Nikhat
The Prestige is a film that I did not like the first time I saw it, but I have been blaming my sleepiness at the time for that. After rewatching it recently, I must admit that there are things to like in it, most notably the absolutely gorgeous look of the film. I believe that it is the best-looking film in Christopher Nolan’s repertoire, with the Victorian settings and steam-punk elements. However my main issues with the film remained. The biggest reason why this film annoys me is because how unattractive the two protagonists, or maybe antagonists were. They weren’t villains, just complete bastards whose motivations become unnecessary and irritating and not worth rooting for. True that other Nolan films like Memento, Inception, and even the Batman series have heroes with questionable motives and traits, but we sympathize with them and want them to succeed. None of that happens in The Prestige, and someone like me, who is admittedly biased towards good-looking actors no matter what they do, really hated both Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale in it. They were just that infuriating.
The other thing I didn’t get behind at all was the whole Nikola Tesla’s “cloning machine.” I mean come on! When Thomas Edison was inventing light bulbs, Tesla made a cloning device – really? Like really? My belief can only be suspended so much, even in a film about magicians. Yes I got that Tesla’s and Edison’s rivalry mirrors that of the two magicians in the movie, but it is just so unbelievable. Although, casting David Bowie as Nikola Tesla – masterstroke!
There are certain themes I did like, and yes, magic tricks are cool, but at the end of it all, it was a completely unsatisfying experience for me.
Agree with Josh? Nikhat? Or are you completely indifferent toward the film? Let us know in the comments section!
Monday July 16
the Directors: Christopher Nolan
Tuesday July 17
My Favorite Scene: Inception
Wednesday July 18
In Character: Joe Pantoliano
Thursday July 19
The Polarization of The Prestige
Friday July 20
My Favorite Scene: Insomnia
Saturday July 21
Review of The Dark Knight Rises
Sunday July 22
Why You Need to Follow Following