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I finally watched The Illusionist (2006). Thoughts and comparisons to The Prestige, plus a question on one of the tricks in the movie


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I remember when The Illusionist and The Prestige came out; it felt strange that two movies, circa late 19th century/early 20th century, came out at the same time as they did. And while a big crime is central to both movies, they're pretty different in themes and feel.

 

First, I'm the kind of guy who falls for just about any plot twist. At the time, The Prestige's twists got me. Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Memento, Usual Suspects, Seven, Fight Club, Gone Girl, etc. all had some kind of twist that I never saw coming. 

Spoiler

For The Illusionist, I roughly figured what the twist was since it was the only thing that made sense. None of this is real magic, so if Sophie is talking, then she must be alive and working with Eisenheim, and the man who did the autopsy must be in cahoots with them, and "I'll make her disappear" seemed like a running theme that would be returned to later in the film. It struck me as strange that the murder took place off-screen where you couldn't see it. So while some of the details were new to me (the Crown Prince being drugged and Eisenheim also being projected on-stage), the twist overall wasn't unexpected, so Paul Giamatti's character's revelation and laughter at the end made it seem like a bigger twist than it was, I guess?

 

However, both movies are more than their twists. Prestige tells a great story even if you see the twist coming. I think the issue I have with The Illusionist is I think it tells a good story worth telling, but it seems a bit dry, lacking emotion in the dialogue/characters. I think part of the issue could be explained 

Spoiler

by the fact that Chief Inspector Uhl seems more the protagonist with the actual character arc, torn between sympathy for Eisenheim and loyalty to the Crown Prince. 

But still, I feel the other characters don't have too much of a personality to them; it seems sterile sometimes.

 

All that said, I did enjoy the atmosphere of the movie, and the tricks seemed to defy reality to the extent that they were actually pretty creepy, especially during the bigger tricks Eisenheim did after a key point in the movie.

 

There's one thing that's bugged me, and that's this trick earlier in the film:

 

 

So this trick 

Spoiler

foreshadows the whole movie -- a death that didn't really happen, an illusion, and Sophie being reunited with Eisenheim.

But it's also part of the ending montage:
 

 

It makes it seem like it had something to do with the twist, but in the carriage ride, they clearly just reunited.

That also makes me wonder: how the hell did he do that trick? It'd have to be timed perfectly if the secret was the use of film projection since she wasn't in on it.

 

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I saw and own both films and I agree they were both good, but The Prestige was the overall better film. I agree with The Illusionist having a good story and the cast to boot as well. Yet, the movie just kept on a slow and steady course of getting from Point A to Point B. Some cool moments, but the story never built up the momentum of said events afterwards. Then you have The Prestige with a competition between 2(3) former friends and wondering who will have the upper hand when all is said and done. The duels from simple dialog, reading from ones notes/diary, magic/science, a phrase behind a phrase to hide/show who they really are. The movie just had layer upon layer of mystery that kept me invested in the movie. Plus the movie just looks gorgeous, especially the lightbulb field. 

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I think it says a lot to me that I have seen both movies, yet I remember almost nothing about The Illusionist, while the plot of the Prestige is still in my brain.

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The Illusionist is a great film. It has nothing on The Prestige, but it's still a great film. I remember liking it overall, just that I found the "magic" to be patently ridiculous (seemed like real magic than anything do-able by an actual person) but otherwise great. 

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2 hours ago, Fizzzzle said:

I think it says a lot to me that I have seen both movies, yet I remember almost nothing about The Illusionist, while the plot of the Prestige is still in my brain.

That's exactly how I feel. This is probably the first time I've thought about The Illusionist since it came out.

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42 minutes ago, Greatoneshere said:

The Illusionist is a great film. It has nothing on The Prestige, but it's still a great film. I remember liking it overall, just that I found the "magic" to be patently ridiculous (seemed like real magic than anything do-able by an actual person) but otherwise great. 


I think they actually had some kind of magician who helped work on the film to make sure all the tricks were historically accurate for that time.

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3 minutes ago, SaysWho? said:


I think they actually had some kind of magician who helped work on the film to make sure all the tricks were historically accurate for that time.

 

Probably true, but it felt like a bridge too far at times when watching the movie. Not a deal breaker though by any means.

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23 minutes ago, SaysWho? said:


I think they actually had some kind of magician who helped work on the film to make sure all the tricks were historically accurate for that time.


The orange tree as portrayed in that movie is historically accurate for no time :p  Per Penn Jillette anyway!

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