Posted by: Jack | January 27, 2007

The Illusionist and The Prestige

In the past couple weeks I watched both of these recently released movies and found both to be of very high caliber. But on top of that I noticed a long list of similarities between the two. Both:

  • Are set near the beginning of the 20th century somewhere in Europe
  • Involve a performing magician who develops a seemingly impossible trick
  • Have two lead male roles who are in a competition of sorts involving their careers and a woman
  • Bounce the audience back and forth between believing the tricks are true magic or merely elaborate illusion
  • Rely on a bit of science fiction to make the plot come together correctly
  • Star either Jessica Biel or Scarlett Johansson…similarity being that they look a lot like eachother
  • Have a major downfall which I’ll describe below

There are numerous additional similarities but most of them may spoil the plot for anyone who intends to yet see either movie.

In The Illusionist, the major downfall comes near the end when everything is conveniently explained in a concise sequence of revealing scenes. While this explanation brings the plot to an acceptable end, the true mysteries of the movie are left untouched yet claim to have non-mysterious explanations and are therefore just unbelievable.

The fault in the prestige also lies in a director who lacks faith in the audiences ability to figure anything out for themselves. I won’t argue that this is a poor decision on the part of the director because it would seem that a majority of movie-goers don’t enjoy a mentally stimulating plot. But for the sake of quality film I really hope that more directors choose to value their product more than their income. But anyway, in the very last seconds of this movie we are presented with a brief scene in which the music and filmography make it obvious that the director is revealing the secret that is supposed to be the big twist. However, any viewer who hadn’t already figured out that secret about a half hour earlier would also not have been able to watch the movie anyway because the process of purchasing a ticket at the theatre or renting the movie at a store is far more complex.

Do not let my tendency to seek out flaws prevent you from seeing these movies. They are far better than much that has recently been presented. They lack the comic relief, out-of-character writing, and flat out bad acting that plague so many almost-good movies of the past 10 years (Broken Arrow, Gone In 60 Seconds, Mission Impossible 2 and 3, the last few Bond movies, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Star Wars I, II and III and so on).

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