Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Prestige

Hello from the Cineplex in Evanston, Illinois where I just saw THE PRESTIGE.

It’s SPY VS. SPY with pretty assistants, it’s TIN MEN with stupendous water chambers. Don’t worry, no spoilers. All I will say is whoa! Never piss off a magician! The only deadly contraption not featured was a guillotine but you could see one of those in Theatre 3 which was showing MARIE ANTOINETTE.

I come away from every Christopher Nolan movie feeling the same way – great premise, lavish production, dazzling sequences, and ultimately – HUH??? What the hell was going on? I felt that in MEMENTO, BATMAN (I also had big Katie Holmes problems in that one), and now this. Nolan is a terrific filmmaker but always seems just too clever for his own good. It’s fine to have a lot of twists and turns, but Chris, we’re watching the movie in REAL TIME, buddy.

As I was watching this I felt I had seen it before. Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, London, magic – no wait, that was SCOOP. Now if Woody Allen had played the Christian Bale part then you’d have a scary movie.

THE PRESTIGE – Rated PG. Not recommended for doves or rabbits.


Joel Kelly said...


Just got back from it. Thought it was great. If the Jackman secret had been the only one I'd have been disappointed. It would have just come off as hokey. But with the Bale twist as well, that just made the whole thing cool.

Anonymous said...

I find your assessment of Nolan's storytelling challenges a bit surprising. I agree that they are uniquely paced and stylized, but I've never heard anyone actually suggest that you cannot follow the storyline and are left wondering what's happening. Especially with Batman Begins, that was a pretty linear plot; what did you find confusing about it?

Anonymous said...


Totally agree with you about Nolan but "Insomnia" was a notable exception. I felt that film ( I know it was a remake of a fine film) did feel like a completly realized piece of work. I also had a HUGE Katie Holmes problem in Batman. The girl is NOT a movie star. Have you noticed her mouth, her eyes, her entire face droop downwards. (as does her acting)

Tenspeed & Brownshoe said...

I'm gonna add this to the long list of movies that you find confusing.

I'm actually confused that you find some movies confusing. What in the world could you possibly be confused by in Batman Begins

I loved The Prestige. It's nice to know that there are some movies that aren't completely paint by numbers.

By Ken Levine said...

Maybe I'm dense but in Batman there was a thing about water and electricity and a certain spot that was going to blow up Gotham and take out half of Metropolis, I dunno. Been a year since I saw it. I just remember being a little befuddled.

I did like INSOMNIA. I loved MEMENTO but have no idea what happened at the end. Again, I could just be a dolt. Remember, I make my living in TV.

And in a few weeks, after everyone's seen THE PRESTIGE, it would be nice to get a dialogue going about the plot.

Anonymous said...

SEMI SPOILER ALERT (I like that term - I'm not giving away anything that a trailer wouldn't).

I left my last comment before seeing The Prestige, and now I just got home from it. First of all, I was very impressed, and so was the sold-out audience here in NYC. You can always tell when a movie keeps the audience interested for every single moment. Not a second of wasted space. Constant intrigue. Rare.

In this movie, I have to admit, Nolan was asking a fair amount of his audience throughout much of the film. It seems to take place in 3 different times simultaneously, and I couldn't always keep track of which events were in which segment of chronology. Also I kept asking myself, "wait, who is reading who's diary and when did they get them?" Eventually, how the diaries were attained was explained. And, in the end, every moment in the movie made sense and I was definitely satisfied, and not at all confused. But there was some frustration for me along the way.

This film most resembled for me Nolan's first movie, which was not Memento as many think, but the tiny-budgeted feature black/white Following, which is absolutely spectacular, made for less than 10K. It shares the same storytelling style as The Prestige, and is the film that ultimately launched Nolan's career by giving him the chance to make Memento.

Anonymous said...

The editing in Batman was WAY too quick! The plot could still be followed, of course, but during the action scenes, I could hardly tell what was going on.

Unknown said...

I saw it, today. Since I went on a whim with a pass, I saw the second half first, saw an hour of THE GAURDIAN, then, saw the first half. It was fun to see everything Nolan set up. I followed everything. It was very good. Not the ultimate end all, be all, I always expect from Nolan, but the thoughtful, solid, lush tale I usually get. This was a good movie. Exactly what I expect from a magician movie. It dark in a good way. The title worked on a few levels, as it should, as well.

I really love the inherent metaphor of magic for movies. I expect Alan Moore and Grant Morrison to love this film.

If you want more challenging and rewarding reading like THE PRESTIGE, check out BATTLE BOY at

Unknown said...


"Maybe I'm dense but in Batman there was a thing about water and electricity and a certain spot that was going to blow up Gotham and take out half of Metropolis, I dunno. Been a year since I saw it. I just remember being a little befuddled."

I'll try to explain. The villains had contaminated Gotham's entire water supply with the fear toxin that was only harmful when ingested through the lungs. Therefore, they had one of those machines, can't remember quite what, that was going to evaporate all the water in the city's reservoirs. That's why, at the end, fear toxin was being released and there was madness and mayhem in the streets.

The machine was the thing the thugs stole from the ship. That scene kind of confused me, too, the first time I saw BB. Not BATTLE BOY, the other one, BATMAN BEGINS. For BATTLE BOY BB, go to

Anonymous said...

Well, the batman toxin in the water plot was just that THE THING THAT THE BAD GUYS HAD TO DO SO THAT THE GOOD GUY CAN THRASH THE BAD GUY and give us the kick ass action ending. Its like the letters of transit in casablanca.

But the movie was really not about that. I thought batman had a terrific origin story and the characterization was excellent. But the action bits were edited way too fast and wasn't as thrilling as say, Blade action set pieces. Or the fight sequences in the Bourne Identity.

Memento, i thought, was brillant in that the structure of telling it backwards suited the premise of the story, which was about a guy with short term memory. So he is an unreliable narrator. I thought the ending was pretty clear. He was the killer.

I actually could follow the Prestige and I enjoyed it for the daring way it tried to tell its tale. Even incorporating a bit of scifi in the tesla subplot. Tesla invented a cloning machine! But nowhere in the movie, was the word clone, or replicate, or duplicate, mentioned.

You had to watch and think as well when the movie was playing and i think that is good. it may have been confusing but not in a bad way, it was intriguing. Sometimes its nice not to lay every card on the table. The Guardian, on the other hand, was a bore. Everything was laid out. No subtlety. nothing.

And yes, the early chris nolan movie, Following was brillant. I read the script. It was very well structured. And what chris said about storytelling was interesting. There is a reason why he structures his movies like that. He likes the use of suspense. You just want to find out what, and why. And that is what telling a story non linearly can do. Of course it takes a certain amount of balancing skill but that's where the fun lies, isn't it?

K.Leigh said...

I always enjoy Nolan's movies, but they remind me of...well, of when I was in elementary school and I thought I was really, really, really clever for writing that story (you all know the one) with the--shocking!--twist ending that I was actually sleeping through the whole thing. It just seems that he's trying a bit too hard to turn everythign on its ear.

I guess at least he's doing something different, though.

Anonymous said...

It was the sci-fi angle that bothered me. When I thought I'd figured it out (sort of) and was pretty much right, I was disappointed -- struck me as sort of a cheat.

I hate it when you have to see a picture a second time to figure it out; not just because you really enjoyed it.

On the other hand, I "got" The Sixth Sense as soon as Willis woke up; I'd gone in knowing there was a twist, and spotted it right away. And it was fun to watch what was going on. Same as if I'd figured out The Prestige early enough, I guess.

I'd love to see Ricky Jay interviewed on this one and the other recent "magic" movies.