April 23, 2007
Rated: PG-13 Runtime: 128 min Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Director Christopher Nolan put together some very fine ingredients, stirred them up a bit, and has now presented us with a delicious looking movie called “The Prestige”. On paper, this should be a slam dunk of a film. Firstly, you take two popular movie stars that are beginning to show the world that, yes, they can act, too (Jackman & Bale); add in a hot babe (Johansson); mix in some salty old veteran performers (Caine, William Morgan Sheppard); toss them all into a story involving magic, murder, science, and science fiction…and you’d have a movie that should suck in just about every demographic you can name.
But…while it’s not a bad movie, it’s not great. Indeed, here’s a prime example of a movie that is way less than the sum of its parts. It works on some levels quite well, but fails miserably on others.
The story, as we see it unfolding in some jarring flash-back and flash-forward scenes, involves two young magicians: Rupert Angiers (Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Bale). They are friends but after a tragic accident resulting in the death of Rupert’s wife, the friendship is over and a rivalry begins. Both men obsess over the other one’s magic tricks as well as their own.
The rivalry escalates over time and becomes reasonably violent until…until Rupert witnesses a new trick performed by Alfred that, as he describes it, is the greatest magic trick ever performed. From then on, the race for supremacy becomes total and all-consuming. Some of the most wicked, dirty tricks ever conceived are then brought to bear. As for what happens then, you’ll just have to see it for yourself.
On the plus side, the casting was about as good as you could ask for and everyone involved turned in some nice performances. Most notable in my eyes were Michael Caine, who nearly steals every scene he’s in, and David Bowie who turns in a surprisingly good job as famous (and infamous) scientific maverick Nikola Tesla.
The visual effects were quite good as well. The use of some of Tesla’s monster machines was a very nice touch and I can only imagine that the production crews were just a bit intimidated while trying to work nearby while they crackled and spat lightning bolts all around.
Nolan’s directing, however, is where I start to have a couple of problems. Or, more specifically, his editting (or lack thereof). This movie DRAGS in more than a few places. It is eight minutes over two hours long but it feels closer to two and half hours or more. Several scenes could have been (and should have been) cut down or cut entirely and it would have made for a much better flow.
Additionally, there is a major plot point that will, if you’re not ready for it, cause you to sit up in your seat and yell, “Aw, that’s HORSESHIT!” at the screen. I’m all about suspending belief, but one of the major points of the movie at the end requires you to completely throw any science you know out the window and accept something that makes about as much sense as claiming that pouring water over someone’s head will cause them to sprout extra arms.
These very bad areas balance out a lot that is good in the movie and, as such, I can only say that I marginally enjoyed watching it. Thankfully, there’s not much room for a sequel, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a spin-off movie wherein Bowie reprises his role as Tesla and builds some more amazing machines. In the mean time, don’t go out of your way to see this one and just wait for the DVD.
Popularity: 19% [?]
Seen it? How many stars do you give it?