Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunday Similar Subjects

Welcome to a new weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. After spending a number of weeks looking at actors who tend to play the same characters, it’s time to spotlight two films with eerily similar plots that came out at roughly the same time. There are surprisingly more examples than might be obvious, and this series will examine the similarities and differences between the two, and how their simultaneous releases affected each other.

The Illusionist / The Prestige

Release dates: August 18, 2006 / October 20, 2006

The similarities: Both films featured high-profile actors starring as magicians in non-American countries in the past. The central point of each film involved the performance of a trick that defied explanation.

The differences: The former film was from director Neil Burger, who had only one feature film to his credit, while the latter was Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to “Batman Begins.” The former film, set in Vienna, featured just one magician (Edward Norton) lusting after a noble woman (Jessica Biel) and being pursued by both an agent of the law (Paul Giamatti) and a regal figure (Rufus Sewell). The latter starred Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as rival magicians bitterly determined to outwit the other.

The releases: “The Illusionist” was released in limited theatres two months ahead of “The Prestige,” and so their similar debut dates weren’t destructively close together. The former film made less than the latter, though its budget was nearly a third of that of “The Prestige.” Both received technical Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography, and the latter was also nominated for Best Art Direction. Neither took home any awards.

Which one is more likely to be remembered? This reviewer didn’t particularly like other one, but the answer to public recollection is obvious. If only because of its director’s subsequent fame, “The Prestige” is the only one of these films that a casual moviegoer will remember. It’s also Christopher Nolan’s non-Batman collaboration with Christian Bale, which makes it even more noteworthy. The subsequent release of an Oscar-nominated French animated film called “The Illusionist” only made people vaguely recall a film by the same name, but likely nothing else about it.

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