The Prestige [retro viewing]

Lissa: So. Duckie and I have gotten together with Drew and Lady Luck several times before without watching a movie, so I guess this is overdue. After eating dinner and putting a protesting Ducklet to bed, we are now sitting in our living room watching The Prestige. Drew and I are handing Lady Luck’s laptop back and forth, trying not to drop it and not realizing that we’re having our own little conversation that we’re totally leaving our spouses out of. For the record, Drew has seen this, I have not.

Drew: That’s right… I thought it’d be fun to do a Mutant Viewing on a film with one or more twists in the plot, where only one of us had already seen it. And since spoilsport Lissa has not only seen The Usual Suspects, but claims to have figured it out halfway through, we decided on The Prestige as a suitable replacement. I’ll say at the outset that I guessed one of the movie’s two secrets before it was revealed (relating to Angier’s use of the machine) but totally missed the other, so I’m dying to see what Lissa makes of it. We’ll try to be as spoiler-free as possible (for your sake, and to not give it away to Lissa), but if you’re set on seeing the film and not knowing any clues ahead of time, you might want to do that first. Fair warning. And now, on with the show…

Lissa: Oooh. Christian Bale. After I’m corrected that that’s NOT Ewan McGregor (the beard makes it hard to tell), Lady Luck and I sigh (echoed when Hugh Jackman appears). Drew reassures Duckie that they can sigh over Scarlett Whatserface.

Definitely a good start. Looking very interesting.

Drew: Here’s how the hardcore comic geek mind works: you see Hugh Jackman walking with a limp and think, “Boy, you’d think his healing factor would take care of that.” On the other hand, drowning is probably the right way to kill Wolverine — try regrowing brain cells, bub.

At this point, I initially thought “Right, because all magician’s assistants dress in Swedish milkmaid outfits”… but then I remembered they actually wear a lot less these days. Whoops. Whatever, nothing we haven’t seen in Coyote Ugly.

“The bullet catch is too dangerous… all it takes is for some smartass to put a button in the barrel.” Foreshadow much?

Lissa: The look on Drew’s face when I mentioned that he was better suited for commenting on the guys tying up Scarlett was pretty funny. But yeah, shirtless Hugh Jackman is a good thing. Lady Luck and I fully support this development.

Drew: Imagine that, and within the first 20 minutes… even for Jackman, that’s got to be a record. I notice drool on Lady Luck’s chin and surreptitiously wipe it away.

Lissa: Oh, YUCK! He DID kill the bird. That was rather gruesome. I feel bad for the poor kid watching. (And oh yeah, Drew talks like he’s not drooling himself. He’s just being more subtle.)

Drew: Can we specify that that’s over Piper, not Hugh? Thanks. (Er, not that there’s anything wrong with that…)

Lissa: Why do I have the feeling Hugh Jackman’s character is still alive? That it’s a trick he’s playing on Christian Bale’s character? Perhaps as revenge for the death of his wife?

Drew: I really do like watching this with someone who’s never seen it before… I’m staying completely tight-lipped, but the urge to comment is maddening.

Meanwhile — Piper, noooooo! Stay alive… I will find you! I WILL FIND YOU!!!!

Lissa: That’s who she is. Oops.

Drew: Apparently you can’t fight the moonlight OR 50 gallons of water.

You notice how for a while there, Lissa thought Piper Perabo was Scarlett Johansson? And yet were I to mix up Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, there’d be no end to the scandal. Women.

Also, “The Professor” does not strike me as the most intimidating of magician nicknames. Though I guess it beats “Mr. Wizard.”

Can’t imagine why missing fingers would interfere with a magician’s livelihood. Still, nice to know Angier doesn’t mind maiming old friends but draws the line at killing doves.

Lissa asks, “Is this the wizarding equivalent of a training montage?” If so, they forgot the bad 80s music.

Lissa: He IS really concerned about the birds. Although it’s nice to see a man wear a corset for once. Eek — these two are nasty to each other. I’m standing by my original premise that Hugh Jackman’s character is alive and this is all a trick. At this rate, I would totally believe he’d put the Christian Bale character in jail for years. Catty catty catty.

Tesla. Hee — “you have a circle of trust with a person whose diary you stole?” Good line. Anyway, as I was saying, Tesla. Ever since I read Spider Robinson’s book Lady Slings the Booze, I sort of have that characterization of Tesla in my head. According to that book, he was exceedingly eccentric and had a fear of spherical objects and was very fond of pigeons. Kind of like Bert from Sesame Street, I suppose. I think he also had an aversion to touching human hair. According to this book, anyway, which I by no means claim is historically accurate.

Heh. Magic tricks in prison are amusing, even if the prison guard doesn’t think so. Oh well. Prison guards were never known for their smarts.

This is driving me nuts. Who is playing Tesla’s assistant?

Drew: I forget, but I can’t believe Lissa hasn’t pegged Tesla himself yet. Why, it’s Mr. Ziggy Stardust! But can he overcome his typecasting as the Goblin King?

Comic geek moment #2 — the longer I watch, the more I think, “Wow, Christian Bale would’ve been a GREAT Cyclops!”

“Sooooo… care to jump through my trapdoor?” Honestly, who knew Victorian clothes could be such a turn-on? [TheTodd]I’d like to petticoat her junction![/TheTodd]

Lissa: Christian Bale would have been a great Cyclops. I can see that, and I’m not even a comic geek. The introduction of a double-slash-near identical twin is definitely interesting. Like, did Angier or whatever the guy’s name is get the double into the tank and have him killed off instead? I’m thinking of several plausible scenarios.

Yes! Drew just identified the assistant as Andy Serkis. I knew it was someone I should recognize. That was kind of embarrassing. I’m actually really enjoying Michael Caine in this. Comparing this to his performance as Jasper in Children of Men… that’s range. Ooooh, I like that the Professor set him up to get him out of… ow, that was nasty! These two just amaze me how terrible they are to each other. Wow. They are not nice people. I’d probably use a stronger word, but this is a PG-13 site.

One of the things Drew commented on was that we’ve [Lissa and Duckie] seen The Illusionist. You know, for all the surface similarities between the two movies, they aren’t very similar at all. The Illusionist is more a story of a hero and a villain. There’s a very clear good guy and bad guy. The Prestige revels in its shades of grey here — I’m not rooting for one guy over the other, but I’m finding the story of their rivalry fascinating. But both characters are really interesting, which makes it so much harder to sympathize with one character over the other, whereas with The Illusionist, it was a no-brainer.

Drew: Yeah, Lissa hit on one of the things I think they did really well in this movie — show, in a very logical progression, the gradual corruption of two relatively decent men. Each started out as a driven, competitive, but essentially good person, and the lengths they’ve already gone to in their rivalry with each other… well, let’s just say the movie’s not over yet. Whoops, giving it back to Lissa to see what she thinks of this part.

Lissa: Edison vs. Tesla. It’s like West Side Story with scientists. Geek warfare.

Kitty barbeque! There’s got to be a joke in there about Schrodinger’s cat.

So, the machine duplicates and transports the duplicate simultaneously? That’s just rather alarming. (If it’s true.) If it IS true, maybe Hugh Jackman’s character cloned himself and then got killed? I am so stuck on the idea that that guy is still alive.

Schrodinger just has to play into this somehow. The box?

Drew: Hmmm. Lissa’s smart, but I don’t know if she’s quite there yet…

As I watch it again, this film really IS like a great magic trick. It amazes you, but when you see it after knowing the secret, the clues are all there. And yet, you’re no less impressed by the incredible craftsmanship that goes into the deception.

For all the nasty, violent things Angier and Borden do to each other, I really think the worst of all is their respective diary tricks. Can you imagine knowing for a fact that you have the upper hand… and then having it pulled out from under you just like that?

Lissa: The diaries are some of the truly cruelest, meanest things I’ve seen in a long time. I feel like I’m so close to figuring it out, but I’m missing one piece. It’s a fantastic feeling — I love it when a movie makes me feel like this. It’s challenging and frustrating in a very great way. I think the best mysteries are the ones where, like Drew said, all the clues were there — you just didn’t know what to give significance to. Like who is Keyser Soze, or who was really the Secret Keeper. I’m getting anxious for the end of the movie, not because I’m not enjoying it, but because I’m dying to know what exactly happened.

Drew: At this point, Lissa may have figured out the first of the film’s two secrets. It had kind of been building in my mind when I first saw the movie, but seeing it confirmed is something else. But let’s not give it all away…

Also, kudos to Borden on fooling a blind man. He really IS a magician.

Interesting how, for all their rivalry and hatred, Borden does seem to be trying as hard as he can to save his former colleague. Unless, of course, that’s simply part of the act. What do YOU think, Lissa?

Lissa: I was thinking that. Just two minutes ago, I was thinking that. Not what Drew was saying, per se — but the bit about the lord guy and how we’ve never seen him and there must be something more there. Not saying much more just in case people haven’t seen it, but yeah, I got that part just a minute before the reveal. But I know there’s still more to it. (But I KNEW the guy was still alive!)

Drew: We’ll let Nancy Drew get back to her speculation in a second, but let me just say this: if I’m ever sentenced to hang, I’d like my final words to be something poignant yet inscrutable too. Feel free to email suggestions.

Now, back to Lissa’s musings…

Lissa: Oh, the bit with the little girl… Now Angier’s been shot and I feel like he’s totally faking and caught the bullet…. HA! I KNEW he kept cloning himself. I got that part. Now, the only question is… did he catch the bullet?

Incidentally, I really liked The Illusionist, but this is the better movie overall. That reveal was awesome. Wow.

Drew: Even if you’ve already figured out what happened, the last image of the movie just drives home the horror of what… well, what one of the characters did. I’ll echo Lissa’s sentiment — wow. At least as good the second time around.

One final geek moment: on our way home (after a quick trip back to make Lady Luck return the Ducklet… too cute for his own good), I started to wonder [SPOILERS]whether Lissa (Harry Potter fan that she is) had drawn any connections between what Angier was doing with the machine and Voldemort’s horcruxes. I remember in our Prestige thread on the forum, his Head Mutantness pointed out that Angier essentially killed himself the very first time he did the trick — the clone was created elsewhere, while he drowned in the tank. And that’s true, but I think the film encourages us to think of it less as cloning, more as actually splitting one life among two bodies… just as Borden and Fallon had done, in their own way. And if Angier is sacrificing half of himself every time he performs the trick, how much of his soul does he really have left by the end? Just a thought.

Lissa: Actually, I didn’t really draw a connection between Voldie and Angier. Voldemort split his soul into pieces and preserved the pieces — he treated it like a finite commodity. Angier didn’t — he treated it like he had an infinite soul that could be split as many times as he pleased… or only 100, I guess. He also didn’t preserve the piece he split away — he let it die. So yeah, no connection in my head between Voldemort and Angier, but I think it’s a very interesting question regardless. (I didn’t read the Forum thread because I wanted to see the movie and knew reading the thread would be very detrimental.)[End spoilers]

Drew: Well, that’s all she wrote. On behalf of Lissa and myself, we’d like to thank everyone who got to the end of our increasingly nonsensical series of ravings. We hope you enjoyed this movie as much as we did, and we promise — next time, Drew will be the one who hasn’t seen the movie ahead of time. Till then!

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