Release Date(s)2006 (December 19, 2017)
Studio(s)Touchstone/New Market Films/Syncopy/Buena Vista (Warner Bros.)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: C-
The Prestige represents Christopher Nolan’s first bigger-budget original feature, after his superhero franchise debut with Batman Begins. In some ways, it seems like a call back to his smaller, more personal works like Memento and Following. In others, it presages his future original science fiction works, Inception and Interstellar.
It tells the story of two rival magicians (played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale) near the turn of the 20th Century, who engage in a deadly game of one-upsmanship and misdirection as they try to perfect a mind-bending illusion, “The Transported Man.” I won’t spoil it if you haven’t yet seen it, but the metaphysical questions it raises were very pleasing to this old retired philosophy teacher. The mysterious subject matter and the somewhat slow and dialogue-driven pacing would probably not be a good bet for someone looking for action fare.
The film was shot with the Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2 camera on Kodak Vision 2 film stock, which should ideally lend itself to a very tight grain structure and good dynamic range. The color grading of the fresh 4K scan of the original 35mm film elements is quite a bit different than the older Blu-ray, veering much warmer. It is not, however, overly hot or red in the faces, and it appears to reflect Nolan’s preferences, since he supervised the new transfer. Due to the encoding for High Dynamic Range (HDR10), the image is less contrasty than the BD, with a greater dynamic range and more detail near black, but less “pop” in spots. As far as detail goes, the image does certainly improve upon the BD, with tighter grain, and greater definition in things like cheek stubble and grime or rust textures on the sets. It is not night and day by any means, with the color temperature and saturation being the most obvious difference. I do happen to like the new, warmer cast to the image, as it lends itself to the period nature of the movie.
The lossless audio mix from the Blu-ray has been re-encoded in DTS-HD MA here, but sounds completely identical to the BD mix in every respect. The movie suffers a bit from the “quiet/LOUD” syndrome, frequently necessitating volume adjustments on the part of the viewer to amp up spoken dialogue while toning down booming sound effects.
The 4K package includes the previous Blu-ray edition of the film,, which is a 2-disc set, with special features that remain confined to the BD extras disc. They are the same as the prior release, with a spate of mini-documentaries totaling a scant 34 minutes. They are of relatively good quality, and are presented in 1080p with subtitles, but overall they are unsatisfying. Nolan continues his practice of not recording feature commentaries. A smattering of production photos fills out the paltry offering.
Note that The Prestige is currently only available in the States in the Christopher Nolan 4K Collection box set (pictured at left), though it will likely be available by itself at a later date.
Ultimately, anyone who enjoys Nolan’s oeuvre owes it to themselves to pick this one up. It is as brain-bending as his best think pieces, and features both beautiful cinematography as well as excellent performances (including a stacked supporting cast featuring the likes of Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine, Andy Serkis, and David Bowie). This film will also appeal to fans of think-piece sci-fi such as Her or Ex Machina.
- Matthew Weflen