28 December, 2010

The Prestige

The theme of today is not following your own advice. To best illustrate it I chose the movie The Prestige which I've recently seen and which had some critical acclaim and a high rating on imdb. Btw. everything following is kind of spoilerish.
Last time with Black Swan we looked at how things are supposed to be made. Now the other side of the coin: this movie fails miserably at everything it sets out to do. The title only leads you on in expecting a great Prestige, the final revelation of a magic act that makes you go "Ahhhh!!!". In fact it is a little more than just another step in the conflict between the 2 magicians of creating an ever greater trick and outsmarting the other, although it is well played and creates some dramatic effect. However the writer himself got outsmarted when creating the "Teleported man" trick because while it does seem amazing the explanation is downright stupid. It is a simple Deus Ex Machina, to be used only by the most lacking of writers. SF really had nothing to do in this story, it would have been much better to just leave an explanation out and keep the people wondering (instead of having them frustrated when badly executed) than just disappointing them. Which brings us to the actual hard point of the discussion. Michael Caine's character if I'm not mistaken explains how you must never let them know how you did it. The moment they find out all magic is gone. This movie explains every... single... fucking... trick (yes, I do mean them in the prostitute sense), the little ones too, the insignificant one with the doves and the other one with doves and so on, with the last explanations being more of a "Get out of jail free" card than an explanation. Which makes me believe that the author is retarded. The movie is well executed, as I can only guess was the book, but at a higher level it fails profoundly. It has just one layer and that one lacks in story, so where is the greatness? Wouldn't it have been better to just let the people enjoy the illusions than to ruin them? Showing pigeons die is gross, not atmosphere building.
Oh did I mention the entire conflict of the movie is based on sheer stupidity? Why did he have to tie a knot that was hard to untie? You have a magic trick, an illusion, make believe... and you have a knot that looks complicated but is fairly simple to untie. So why in God's great name would you actually tie a hard one? Moreover why would the person actually risking to die encourage and tease you? You guessed it, a stupid bitch dies... and the whole story is an ever-growing series of revenges.
The only good thing about this movie is the characterization of the 2 magicians and the acting, with the fact that you don't know which of them is actually going to win being a big plus.

A much better movie, although still kind of stupid, meaning the story is supposed to be a mystery and it is clear what is going to happen about ten minutes in, is the Illusionist.
Don't get me wrong this movie fails too, which is quite unexpected from Edward Norton, but at least it has some magic atmosphere in it (yes this one kind of explains illusions too), which is more appropriate than a SF twist belonging in a simple minded comedy.
For more on failing at what you profess, stay tuned.

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