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Movie: The Illusionist vs The Prestige

May 27, 2007

I watched DVDs of these two movies sometime in May, and made this comparison

The Illusionist (I) vs The Prestige (P)

the-illusionist_f Prestige_f

Theatrical Release: 9/1/2006 (I) vs 10/20/2006 (P)
Budget: 16.5 million (I) vs 40 million (P)
Gross in US: 39.8 million (I) vs 53 million (P)

Theme: magician; one magician fighting for his love one (I) vs two magicians competing with each other, initiated by the loss of a love one (P)

Rating: (05/20/2007)

IMDB: 7.7 (32,510 votes) (I) vs 8.4 (59,357 votes) (P)
Tomatometer: 75% in critics 87% in users (I) vs 74% in critics 92% in users (P)

Story Structure:

Both starts the story at one essential stage performance with some involvement of the police or the court. Then the story go back to the earlier days till that important show. From there the story continues and unfold the mystery.

However in The Prestige, it is presented more in the form of flashbacks, while The Illusionist is more linear in time.

What do we learn from these facts?

  • Profit margin is higher in The Illusionist, because of the lower budget (because of the movie stars or the filming location?) . But I guess the DVD sales in The Prestige would be higher than The Illusionist due to its higher user rating. This implies that for a high-budget movie the movie company can only hope the DVD sales can really make money for them (that is, to release as many editions of DVD as possible, e. g. the theatrical version, special edition, extended cut and/or the director cut etc).
  • According to Tomatometer, both films received about the same responses from the critics, but for general moviegoers, they like The Prestige more than The illusionist. What’s the important factor causing this difference? Actors? Story? Director? For the latter, it affects how the story is told (Story Structure). Or, just the marketing?

I don’t have enough information to make the conclusion. But do the movie companies pay enough attention to what moviegoers like? This reminds me of the article I read, “The Greatest Mystery: Making a Best Seller” (New York Times, May 16, 2007). It’s not the book from a well-known author that can make lots of money for the publisher, but the surprise bestseller from a little-known or even a debut author. Well, probably the movie industry isn’t so much like a casino as publishing is (Why? Do they listen to the moviegoers more than the publishers to the readers?), but it may be a gambling when making a big-budget film.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. anthony permalink
    June 30, 2008 3:07 pm

    I saw the illusionist, and thought it was reasonable until the ending, which I rate as one of the top twist endings ever – I didn’t pick it. The prestige ending I did pick however. The prestige was probably more enjoyable to watch, but the ending was a bit cold. And I thought it was a bit of a coincidence that the technology that bale was ‘pretending’ could do teleportation, actually ended up doing teleportation – especially considering there was no hint of it diong such a thing when both magicians saw it at the trade show. Persitge – more enjoyable throughout, Illusionist = better ending.

    But it’s wonderful when two excellent films come out at the same time. Its ont of the nicest and unexpected gifts the movie world has given us in a while.

  2. June 30, 2008 4:24 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Anthony. Yes, I agree with your point regarding the endings of these two movies.

  3. 1107 permalink
    July 6, 2008 4:11 pm

    i agree with anthony 2 but i prefer the prestige cheifly because they explained the trick so u know it isnt any hocus pocus or a mystery….the ghost act in the illusionist wasnt explained very properly because they thought it was a projection…..prestige was better by a shade

  4. Anon permalink
    June 11, 2009 11:20 am

    I think The Prestige was a better movie by far. The ending of The Illusionist was just too obvious. *Spoilers*

    Turns out she’s not dead and they “disappear”, boring. Prestige was just plain better throughout the story, interesting things happened all the time. Then the ending turns into this moral choice the main guy makes, sacrificing himself night after night, inorder to do the ultimate trick. It shows the lengths he was willing to go. Then the other main guy, him and the other guy were living each other’s double life for years, again just to pull off the best trick possible and even let one of ‘himself’ die to keep the secret. Edward Norton just ran away with some chick. It was basically a rehash of the same crappy romance movie, but about a magician. Honestly, it would have been better if she had been dead and he did something cool to get even. That’s what I was hoping for…

    If you think otherwise I’d like to hear a decent reason.

    • June 11, 2009 1:48 pm

      Anon, you already said it: “That’s what I was hoping for…”

      It’s been a long time since I saw these two movies, so I couldn’t remember them well. As I recall, it’s the Illusionist’s ending that kind of surprised me when I saw it for the first time. I didn’t expect that and I like surprise.

      Maybe I should go back and watch them again. However, sometimes that cannot give me the same feelings as for the first time.

  5. July 3, 2010 1:47 pm

    I have to agree with anonymous above. I just watched both movies one after the other. In my opinion: Illusionist = boring and predictable. Prestige = challenging film with meaningful story.

    The Illusionist’s ending was precisely why I didn’t like that film. It was trying to be The Usual Suspects after everyone and their uncle had already seen The Usual Suspects 10 years earlier. Completely unoriginal and COMPLETELY predictable. The entire story is pretty ho hum stuff: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy must overcome villain to win girl back, they live happily ever after. Borrrring. Seen it a thousand times.

    It’s a story that jerks you around: you see what the film wants you to see, when it wants you to see it, until at the end there is the big reveal. In other words, it’s all one big gimmick (just like a M. Shaymalan film). I am thoroughly unimpressed.

    The Prestige, on the other hand, had a theme about obsession and sacrifice and really challenged the viewer. The film didn’t rely on CGI and inscrutable magic tricks. I found it more enjoyable that the film revealed the tricks, whereas Illusionist never explained how its character pulled off his magic. His tricks became just a leap of faith on the part of the viewer to advance the plot, whereas the Prestige challenged the viewer throughout the film to look beyond the trick, stating time and again how the audience is fooled only when it wants to be fooled. It also had a better structure, building the film around the same three-part structure as a magic trick.

    That said, I did have a problem with the Prestige’s artifice of cloning as a plot point. It introduced science fiction whereas the story up to that point had not billed itself as such.

    Both had great actors. I prefer the director of the Prestige. In the end, it is the stronger story that wins out for me.

  6. Ben permalink
    July 25, 2010 8:13 am

    I must agree with all that’s said above.
    I found the Prestige to be by far a stronger film (Christopher Nolan is a fantastic director)
    The story is extremely engaging. I’m told by others that have seen the movie that the ending was predicatable, but I didn’t see it coming myself (I never think about where a movie is going I just WATCH and enjoy it).

    As said above, the Illusionist seemed to be a lot more cliché with its structure. It still had moments of excitement, however I feel one of the main reasons I enjoyed the Prestige so much, as with all Nolan movies (I saw Inception yesterday it was brilliant), is because it presented so many different ideas, and the fact that it was so foreign to me made it so awesome.

    The Illusionist’s casting was good; the Prestige’s casting was better.

    TY I needed somewhere to vent my frustration. My friend thought the Illusionist was fantastic and the Prestige was cliché and predictable…

    • July 25, 2010 8:41 pm

      Well, I was with your friend. At least when I first saw these two movies. I had thought that people would like Prestige more than The Illusionist, so I am not surprised to get these comments.

      However, it’s been a long time since I watched them. Maybe I should watch them again… 😐 though I probably won’t get the same feelings as before (mainly because I already know the stories)

  7. anton permalink
    July 28, 2011 9:28 am

    The Illusionist was much better paced and a much more interesting and plausible ending. I love Christopher Nolan but i just couldn’t bring myself to enjoy the Prestige. It was just too sci-fi and I still could not understand Hugh Jackman’s motives. Plus the ending of the illusionist is much more satisfying whereas the Prestige ending was just dark and emotionless

  8. viral permalink
    August 11, 2011 3:01 pm

    I guess i liked both movies and I will go with the Ratings which are given on IMDB.

    Apart from the End which is really good in both the movies , Its the treatment of the script.
    Where Illusionist is told in a simpler Way compare to Prestige where viewer has to be on edge of their sit to know what will happen next.
    And I would agree that I liked those magicians who can go beyond their limits to compete with each other in “prestige” than a lover who do all this things just to get back his love in illusionist.

    Illusionist : 8/10 , Prestige 9/10.

  9. Ilyas permalink
    March 10, 2012 7:24 am

    The prestige confused me a lot – how could a movie that appeared to be ‘real’ turn supernatural? In contrast to a lot of reviews and thoughts I discussed with friends and read online, I wasn’t comfortable with the machine working and Angier supposedly cloning himself. After a lot of research I finally found a couple of people who thought the same!
    The machine never worked; there is no real magic!!
    The whole point of a magic trick was the other person not discovering it. That is why Angier died happy. He did not reveal his trick – he made Borden believe it was ‘real magic’.
    Tesla finally made Angier realise that he could fool the audience with a double. There were many hats and cats placed to initially trick Angier, but ultimately the audience.
    Angier used this idea, sobered up his double (can’t remember his name) and used him for the opening of his acts, who dropped safely under the stage , before revealing himself to the audience. When Burden came to visit, if you re-watch the scene, he does not pay attention to Angier on stage (who really is the double which he doesn’t realise). Angier knows Burden is there so kills off the double in an effort to keep the secret and win the battle of the ‘finest magician’!
    The whole moving the glass tank every night etc was to make everyone believe that he did infact kill his clone every act. The scene where he supposedly shoots his clone is a flashback from when he’s retelling the story to Burden before his death. It is a lie and thus still part of his magic trick! When Burden exits the place he kills Angier, there are heaps of tanks but he doesn’t look around. There is only one body and that is the drunk double Angier killed off in his final act.
    The movie is genius as it made practically everyone believe the machine actually worked! The whole point of the movie, and hence the title ‘The Prestige’.

    • d-love permalink
      July 9, 2012 11:53 am

      look closer everyone of the tanks has a body double. And the double that was declared dead on the autopsy table earlier in the film was not put back into the tanl to be the double we see at the end. The machine worked. Which was brilliant, because it makes the counter argument that Angier was willing to sacrifice even more than Borden was by sharing one life with his twin. Angier was dying for his art everytime he performed his trick…..and it was WORTH it to him.

    • Damian permalink
      July 16, 2012 9:27 pm

      Ilyas, The machine did work. It showed Angier’s clone when he first used it. And like d-love said he had to die each night, Thats why only 100 shows, he mentally wouldn’t be able to do more than that. The blind stage hands took the tanks each night and didnt know they were disposing of the bodyinside.

  10. Fotis V. permalink
    May 3, 2012 5:45 am

    Both epic movies.. I prefer The Prestige because of the ending. Although The illusionist had one of the best twists in the end I’d still keep the Prestige first in my list. Could you please suggest me another movie similar to those two please?

    • May 3, 2012 6:41 am

      I’m not sure what you meant, the theme of using magic or two movies with similar topics.
      Anywaym, at this moment, can’t think of any movie similar to these two.

  11. taiwo permalink
    June 8, 2013 4:43 am

    Ftotis V, The Raven is another movie to watch, though not really about magic.

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