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THE PRESTIGE ON DVD

Shame on me for missing it in theaters, but in many ways The Prestige is the perfect film to enjoy at home on DVD. The entire movie is a gorgeous magic trick that has several wonderful payoffs as the film ends that will most certainly make you want to go back and watch it again. Once you learn the secrets, a second viewing will make for a completely different but equally enjoyable experience.

Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman star as rival illusionists in early 1900s London. This was an era where magicians were the rock stars of the world, with fantastic posters, tricks, and stunts to capture imaginations of people starved for entertainment. In the age before the internet and television, a good magic trick went a long way. Hell, many people were probably convinced it was simply just real magic.

Christopher Nowlan, who previously wrote and directed Bale in Batman Begins gets back to his brilliantly twisted storytelling style that he popularized with the amnesia themed mystery, Memento. We're greeted with an opening image of a wooded field strewn with top hats. The simple but puzzling image is a cypher that's important in unlocking the mysteries of the film.

The storytelling is great, because unlike the M. Night Shyamalan style script that is just slow paced dread building up to a silly twist ending, Nowlan's tale keeps you amazed and guessing all the way through, and even if you figure out where it's going, there's additional tricks and reveals that you never saw coming. All of which contribute to a very satisfying ending that even Christian Bale admits (on one of the DVD extras) made him want to immediately watch it again after seeing it for the first time.

Bale and Jackman work well together. I laughed at the casting at first, thinking it was just a clever ploy to give us Batman vs. Wolverine, but the two play very different characters from their superhero alter egos. The two are competitive partners working with Michael Caine's character, Cutter, who end up becoming obsessed rivals with a near psychotic string of one-upmanship that proves to be catostrophic for both.

David Bowie is fantastic as electrical pioneer Nikolai Tesla, who's inventions are nearly as magic to the people of the time as the illusions. Scarlett Johanssonand Piper Perabo are also swell as the lovely assistants. Though the film is rated PG-13, so you won't be seeing any disappearing acts with their clothing.

The DVD looks and sounds great, and there's just a handful of extras that don't reveal all that much about the film, but are better than nothing. My guess is that there'll be a nice deluxe 2 disc set with deleted scenes, director commentary, and hidden secrets/clues in the film, that will come out in the future. If you're thinking of buying the DVD, I'd hold out for that so you don't have to get it twice. Otherwise, whatever way you rent movies is the perfect way to enjoy the film until that happens.

I'm also disappointed in the ugly artwork on the DVD case. The disembodied heads of Bale and Jackman, with a wispy ghostlike figure of Johansson look just awful, and make you think the movie is about some sort of love triangle. The primary movie poster, shown above on the left, is equally ugly, and doesn't do a good job at all marketing the true spirit of the film. At least the variant on the right (which I never actually saw displayed myself), makes it feel more like a movie about magic. If they would have tried to emulate some of the fantastic magician posters from that era, it would have been more appropriate.

But as far as the film goes, I can't recommend it enough. I'm probably going to watch it again tonight.

-Robert Berry
rberry@retrocrush.com

 

 

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