One of Christopher Nolan’s most acclaimed films was only a modest box office success – /Film

It’s worth remembering where Nolan was at during this point in his career. “Batman Begins” just became his biggest hit, grossing $371 million worldwide. A hit, to be sure, but even “Tenet” ($363 million) did more around the world at the height of a global pandemic. The relativity of momentum is very important. This was not yet the reliably profitable blockbuster author we have come to know and love. He was a guy who made some mid-budget hits and a really good superhero movie. But before returning to Batman, he opted to do another smaller-scale original.

“The Prestige” is based on Christopher Priest’s novel and centers on two friends who begin to learn their art as magicians. Rupert Angier (Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Bale) become bitter enemies after tragedy strikes them. They dedicate their lives to a rivalry that plays out in London over the years, and things go progressively awry along the way. It was almost like Nolan with a side of M. Night Shyamalan.

Even with plenty of star power, including Scarlett Johansson in a supporting role and even David Bowie turning up as Nikola Tesla, this wasn’t a movie with an obvious hook as a Batman remake. Although Nolan is now a guy with expensive tastes, it’s also worth noting that he was extremely reasonable in this case, with the film coming in at a relatively modest budget of $40 million. That worked a lot in his favor, as it wasn’t the only twisted magic movie trying to grab the attention of moviegoers that year.

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