Love >>> petty white male fragility.
It’s been nearly 15 years since these films came out, and I finally feel comfortable speaking my truth: I, Ehis Osifo, believe that The Illusionist is superior to The Prestige.
Now, before I dive deep into this hot take that no one asked for, I gotta provide a little background on me and the films in question. Firstly, me. I FRIGGIN’ LOVE MAGIC. I love being bamboozled and hoodwinked, but also, I don’t need to know the mechanics of the trick, ya know? I just love being awestruck.
That being said, back in 2006, two films with similar premises hit theaters: The Prestige and The Illusionist. Below is the log line for The Prestige:
After a tragic accident, two stage magicians engage in a battle to create the ultimate illusion while sacrificing everything they have to outwit each other.
And this is the log line for The Illusionist:
In turn-of-the-century Vienna, a magician uses his abilities to secure the love of a woman far above his social standing.
I’m sure you can spot the similarities.
So, now that we have some background on these acclaimed magician films, lemme dive into why I think The Illusionist is the superior movie:
First of all, let’s talk about the use of magic in these films. In The Illusionist, Eisenheim uses his gifts to be with Sophie, the woman he’s loved since he was a boy. Meanwhile, in The Prestige, Angier and Borden use their magic to sabotage one another.
Eisenheim uses magic mostly to mystify and entertain…
…whereas Angier and Borden use their magic to one-up each other, usually with innocent bystanders as collateral damage:
Now, Eisenhiem also uses his magic to get a lil’ political, like when he performed his “sword in the stone” illusion to prove that Crown Prince Leopold wasn’t fit to rule Vienna:
Angier and Borden? While their illusions were cool, they were marred by their bitter rivalry:
Angier and Borden’s foray into illusions didn’t start because of their love for magic, but rather because Angier blamed Borden for the death of his wife and swore to take his revenge:
I wish I could say that this was the only death that came from Borden and Angier’s feud. Sarah — Borden’s wife — hung herself for reasons I’ll explain later:
In The Illusionist, the only person who died was Leopold. He committed suicide after the Vienna police were on their way to apprehend him for the murder of Sophie. (Remember her? She’s important):
In case it wasn’t already clear, I think Angier and Borden are awful fucking people. Borden lied for his entire life — his so-called “ingenieur” was actually his twin brother in disguise, who he shared a life with. That’s how he was able to do the transporting man trick — because he had an identical twin. HOWEVER, he told NO ONE this, which drove Sarah to insanity — which led to her suicide — because she didn’t know who she was getting in bed with every night.
Now, Angier is ass too! He framed Borden for his death and then adopted his daughter under a false name:
Meanwhile, Eisenheim is just a man who loves a woman and loves to bring wonder into people’s lives:
At the end of the day, however, my number one bone to pick was with the magic in The Prestige. Everything was explained, everything had a reason, so the magic of it all was just…lost.
In The Illusionist, however? I’M STILL THINKING ABOUT THOSE ILLUSIONS. Sure, a couple tricks were revealed — like “The Orange Tree,” which was really used as a message to Inspector Uhl about how Eisenheim and Sophie hoodwinked all of Vienna to be with one another — but the apparitions? The sword in the stone? The brushstroke-less painting? Ah, we have no choice but to wonder.
So, if you want to watch a movie about two men who can’t get over their rivalries, which results in the death of two innocent and two not-so innocent people, BE MY GUEST. But if you want a story about not only the magic of love, but also the love of magic…well, your choice is quite simple, isn’t it?
Take a trip down memory lane that’ll make you feel nostalgia AF