the film snob

A cyberspace journal about my experiences as an NYU film school grad student, reviews of current and classic films, film and TV news, and the rants and raves of an admitted (and unapologetic) film snob.

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Esse Quam Videri -- To be, rather than to appear

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Prestige

Now that I've finally finished my midterms and handed in my final paper last night, it's time to catch up on my blogging, like this mini-review for The Prestige which I saw going on two weeks ago now.

There is a moment in the film, following a puzzling trick when, after it is reluctantly explained, a character says something to the effect of, "Once you figure the trick out it ceases to be interesting anymore."


The Prestige tells the story of two dueling magicians who are constantly trying to outdo each other and steal each other's latest tricks. When Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) invents a trick that astonishes the world, bitter rival Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) makes it his life's crusade to figure out how he does it.

Don't worry, I won't give anything away here.

I am not sure I disliked The Prestige because it is a poor film or because I figured it all out about half way through. Perhaps it's not the The Prestige's fault. So many people told me that I had to be hyper-vigilant when watching the film that I treated the viewing like a forensic investigation, drawing clues out of the most absurd of impressions until I worked out the truth. Even then, I thought that surely another twist was right around the corner and would start me guessing all over again. When that didn't occur and the absurdity of my conclusions proved true, I did not congratulate myself on my skills of deduction--I simply gave up on liking the film altogether.

In a movie about people who make their livings on misdirection, The Prestige utterly forgets to employ its own.

Occam's razor states that all things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one. But with The Prestige, the simplest solution is not the best one because all things are certainly not equal. The Prestige doesn't even try to resolve itself elegantly. The entire film is one gigantic "deus ex machina," a latin phrase used to describe an unexpected, artificial, or improbable device introduced suddenly to resolve a situation or untangle a muddled plot.

The answer will be staring you in the face the whole time but your brain will refuse to even acknowledge the possibility because your brain will assume the filmmakers had a bit more creative grace than to essentially turn their film into an episode of Star Trek. But they don't.

What you're left with is a tiny dog and an old man yelling, "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"


Blogger Warren Epstein said...

Brandon, I saw this with the family and we enjoyed it.

In many ways, because it clumsily strays into sci-fi, the story falls behind its rival (irony there?), The Illusionist.

But I loved the setting, the performances, the sense of bitterness in the rivalry. The critic in me didn't like it all that much, but the dad out with the family thoroughly enjoyed it.

3:18 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

I probably won't see this film. And they came blame the trailer. Because I can't be the only one who caught the reference to the new guy being able to do "real magic."

I might have gone to see it, but Brandon, you've confirmed what my sci-fi/fantasy/star trek background prepared me just won't be a fun surprise...The curtain was "raised" before I ever got to the theater.

3:42 PM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Actually, the "real magic" refers to yet another character and was used misleadingly in that trailer.

5:53 PM  

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