“The Prestige”: Dicktacular.

Nov 20th, 2006 | By | Category: Columns

DISCLAIMER: Okay, so, The Prestige is the best movie of the year, and everything here is the world’s biggest spoiler. If there were any more spoilers, it would be a road race.

There’s a lot of run-of-the-mill dickery in movies; assfaces have pushes forward movie plots from Birth of a Nation (awkwaaard) to Silence of the Lambs (holla, Feebs!). But of course, fill a movie with jerks and people might not come to see it (Van Wilder). Therefore, moviemakers have kept to the ancient creed of “one dick per movie.”

Not Christopher Nolan! Instead, he chose to adapt the magical-realism tome The Prestige, which is notable less for its winding plot than the fact that its two protagonists are RAGING DICKFACES. The acidity, ruthlessness, and one-upsmanship in this movie is so complex that we here at Defenestration were compelled to go though the movie to devise some algorithm, some formula, to measure such asshattery.

So, armed with a notepad and moral fortitude, I waded into the melee. I have presented all dickery below as chronological, because hopping back and forth in time would lead to a quantum flux of tallies.

The movie’s first turning point comes when Hugh Jackman’s wife is drowned in her Shamu tank because Christian Bale tied a knot that swelled in the water. Awkwaaaaard. Now, for purposes of accuracy is it crucial to note that THIS IS NOT A DICK MOVE. This is a horrific accident caused by someone wanting to use an unorthodox knot and by the wife consenting to it, which we see in close-up to drive home the point that this was a joint decision and not some kind of cattle roping. I believe this was done purposefully to muddy the waters about which of them ““ Bale or his twin, dick!Bale ““ was the one who actually tied the knot. So:

Jackman: 0 dick points
Bale: 0 dick points
dick!Bale: 0 dick points

During the funeral, one of the Bales makes an appearance to pay respects, which seems like a duly repentant gesture, except that when Jackman asks him which knot he died, some!Bale, rather than saying he and Jackman’s wife agreed on the new knot, says he doesn’t know. Now, I understand this is part of the “I’m of two minds” theme Nolan drives home for the next two hours, but I’m sorry, it’s a dick move to come to the funeral and get selective amnesia. You know which knot one of you tied. If you don’t have the balls to tell the truth, lie. He hates you anyway.

Unable to award points with certainty, as we’re never sure which brother went to the funeral. We’ll say Bale, just to give him something to do.

Jackman: 0 dick points
Bale: 1 dick point, for playing the “selective amnesia” card at a funeral
Dick!Bale: 0 dick points

The two magicians part ways, and Bale falls in love with a young lady and uses her place to set up his stuff and practice (it’s Ye Olde Bande Boyfriende!). Eventually, he gets a scrappy little show in a scrappy little theatre, drawing the crowd with the promise of a bullet catch. Dick!Bale, now dressed as the hairy and slightly bloated Fallon, selects a volunteer from the audience; a volunteer who proceeds to shoot two of Bale’s fingers off because it’s JACKMAN, who somehow thinks that his wife’s accidental death is cause for murder. Nice try, dick.

Jackman: 100 dick points, for blowing someone’s fingers off in a drunken hissy
Bale: 1 dick point
Dick!Bale: 5 dick points, for not recognizing Jackman with a Magoo moustache and letting his brother’s fingers get blown off

(You’ll notice, shrewd viewer, that from this point forward in the movie most scenes can be subtitled with the following dialogue:

[Dick move.]

Dickee: Jesus, why do you have to be such a dick?
Dicker: FUCK U NOOB.

Try it and see.)

Moving blithely forward, Jackman rallies and begins a new career. Meanwhile, dick!Bale has to get two of his fingers chopped off so he can still flip with his bro. This might negate a couple of the dick points for picking a clearly recognizable Jackman out of a crowd of twenty, but I don’t care, because seriously, there were twenty people there. Just because you’re bloated is no excuse for bad eyesight.

Jackman’s new show does tolerably well, enough for him to start macking with his new assistant, the snoretastic Scarlett Borehansson. Things seem to be going well for Jackman until he finds out that Bale is doing his Transported Man gig that’s too good to be true. This would be intriguing except we totally already know it’s twins. Jackman, however, refuses to believe it’s twins, mostly because Scarlett Johansson says so. However, he decides to do the trick with a double just to steal Bale’s thunder. This doesn’t qualify as a big dick move, in my opinion, since wholesale stealing someone else’s trick is so lame and transparent that I’m just surprised anyone fell for it.

Best part; while he puts on the inferior trick he orders Scarlett Johansson to go join Bale’s team to find out his secret, which is of course rational and sane and won’t backfire on him at all.

So, the trick goes on and on, dick!Bale mentions to Jackman’s double that maybe he could start asking for more money (shrewd business dealing, not a dick move, sorry), and then one night when Jackman drops below stage he BREAKS HIS DAMN LEG on the hardwood because dick!Bale has pulled out his padding, trussed up his double, and arranged to make himself the prestige of the trick, where he uses the platform to humiliate Jackman and plug Bale’s own show.

Jackman: 105 dick points, for being lame enough to steal a good trick while knowingly using inferior tactics
Bale: 1 dick point. He’s off with a kid and a wife. He’s boring.
Dick!Bale 45 dick points, all 40 for breaking Jackman’s leg. Showing up Jackman’s trick is totally fair, since it was lame and desperate to begin with.

Jackman, angry, goes to Scarlett’s place and demands she prove that she’s been paying attention (what is this, a Calculus exam?). She hands him Bale’s diary and asks him when it will finally be enough to atone for a dead wife.

He says, “I don’t care about my wife, I care about his trick.”

Jackman: 1,000,105 dick points
Bale: 1 dick point
Dick!Bale: 45 dick points

Also, best example in the whole movie of the “Why do you have to be such a dick?”/ “FUK U NOOB” archetype.

Of course, Jackman can’t figure out the secret code to the diary, which is driving him insane(er), so he traps Fallon and buries him alive and demands the secret word as ransom. This is so dick I can’t even comment, so we’ll go right to the scoreboard.

Jackman: 1,001,105 dick points, for burying someone alive in the full knowledge they might suffocate and still thinking this is atonement for dead wife
Bale: 1 dick point
Dick!Bale: 45 dick points

Having obtained the secret word through dick means, Jackman is off in search of Nicola Tesla, whose electric genius Jackman thinks Bale is using to create the double. Tesla, played by my boyfriend David Bowie, agrees to make a transport machine for Jackman, and after a few false starts actually delivers, even though it’s obvious to everyone including Gollum’s cat that Jackman is nuttier than a box of acorns and should not be given access to anything powerful, ever. Maybe not even can openers. He’s that level of batshit.

Turns out the machine creates two exact doubles, an awkward situation that Jackman remedies by drowning one of himself every night.

Jackman: 2,501,105 dick points, for knowingly killing a living person ONE HUNDRED TIMES YOU TOTALL ASSFACE
Bale: 1 dick point
Dick!Bale: 50 dick points, a surprise 5 for being kind of a jerkwad to his bro’s wife

Dick!Bale, led backstage by curiosity to investigate the trick, ends up getting blamed for murder, and when it becomes clear that Jackman is willingly letting him hang just to satisfy himself the Dickometer broke and we were forced to extrapolate by hand how dick he was until the numbers ran off the page and we had to stop.

Suffice it to say that when Bale shoots Jackman fatally in the gut, we cheered.

Based on our flawed, by-hand calculations, the formula for dickery as function of plot is below.

Plot = [dick (pompous:batshit)]/[dick2 (family man) (jerkface)] + (David Bowie* 1/judge of character)  accidental death of wife]

Apply it where you can, fair viewer. Best of luck!


Genevieve is a prolific writer of speculative fiction living in New York, but you’ll never find her there because millions of people live there and Genevieve likes her privacy. Examples of her fiction can be found in Strange Horizons, Fantasy Magazine, Federations, and numerous other magazines and anthologies. Her first novel is forthcoming in 2011. Also? She has terrible taste in movies.

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