March 9, 2007
The Long Con: The Prestige vs. The Illusionist
Two movies about magicians coming out at the same time takes me back to the summer of 1998 when Armageddon and Deep Impact both showed us how to avoid the Earth being destroyed by comets, meteors, and asteroids. In the same way that Armageddon and Deep Impact separated themselves despite similar plots and elements, both The Prestige and The Illusionist are both similar and unique. I'll preface this further by saying that I enjoyed both movies, though I would have done something different with each of them. Whereas The Prestige deals with the rivalry between two magicians and the lengths they are willing to go to in an effort to best the other, the rivalry in The Illusionist is between a magician from humble beginnings and the crown prince of Austria. Both movies are period pieces, both movies have a generation's most promising actors (Edward Norton and Christian Bale), both movies have one of the hottest young actresses in Hollywood (Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Beil), and both movies con their audiences in the same way that the characters con each other. I'd heard enough about both movies to know that more was happening than they were willing to give away, but I think both movies could have done better at protecting the reveal yet still keeping true to the con. To protect anyone who hasn't seen them, I won't go into too much detail other than to highlight a couple of performances. Michael Caine, who worked with Christian Bale and director Christopher Nolan on Batman Begins was great in The Prestige. I thought Paul Giamatti and Rufus Sewell did well supporting Norton's performance. I think I liked the Prestige better, but I don't feel as though to like one better is to not like the other.