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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you remember the original, you will find this one a remake in name
only. None of the sly cat-and-mouse interplay the eponymous character
engaged in can be seen this time. The new Six is much more of a
castaway than a prisoner, not knowing how he got where he is, nor
having any sense for sure that escape is possible. In a bizarre and
inconsistent variation from the source material, Villagers appear to
have had their memories erased, but not completely. The new Six is such
a victim, yet also deliberately tries to get some of his suspected
captors to admit to knowledge of things he himself is supposed to have
The notion that the Villagers mostly don't know they are prisoners robs the entire story of its most poignant element: that everyone's cheerful demeanor is an act of submission to their captors. That was the original's metaphor to describe how many people felt about their relationship to government at that time, so viewers related easily and shared that Six's wish not only to escape, but to best his captors locally when he could not escape. This time, we only have mystery and enigma, with nothing resembling our own experiences or woes.
This is what you would get if you wanted a remake as tied to its source material as the 2009 "Star Trek" was to its progenitor, but your investors said your target audience were the people who liked the first season of "Lost."
1967's Cold War and its counter culture are gone; they've been replaced
by 2009's global village and its consumer culture. So 2009's Prisoner
is no longer an angry young man fighting for his identity against
secret government policies and flagrant brainwashing, he's an
angst-ridden 30-something trying to hang on to his identity in the face
of overwhelming marketing and soothing pharmaceuticals.
2009's The Prisoner takes all the familiar elements of 1967's cult classic and re-interprets them in a relevant way, just like good remakes are supposed to. The psychedelic, lava-lamp surrealism of the sixties may be gone, but, don't worry, they've been replaced by the post-modern, dream-like surrealism of the oughts.
Yes, the Village still needs to assimilate No. 6, but it no longer cares why he would wish to resign from its society, it only wants him to understand that he can't. Instead of foiling No. 6's repeated escape attempts from the superficially charming, but inherently oppressive, Village, this new Village, still just as pleasant-looking, and oppressive, just makes it clear that there is no place else to escape to. The consumer culture and its global village are everywhere now. There is no escape.
So, instead of a government desperately trying Pavlovian conditioning, hypnotic suggestion, and hallucinogens in the water, a corporation tries matching people with their perfect mates, giving them mind-numbing jobs to take their minds off their melancholy, distracting them with melodramatic soap operas, and, maybe, making them feel a little better with some gene-therapy.
Sure, everyone's still under surveillance in this Village, but this time, its not the Village government trying to identify revolutionaries so it can silence them, its the Summakor corporation trying to identify dreamers so it can subject them to a concentrated dose of consumer culture. And if that doesn't work, maybe a few pharmaceuticals and a promotion will co-opt the more troublesome ones.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Mr. Curtis (aka #2) CEO of Summakor, developed a technology to tap into
people's subconscious minds. Somehow, Curtis' wife, M2, placed into an
artificially-induced dream state, controls the world of the
subconscious (called The Village). As M2 awakens from time to time,
reality creeps into the subconscious environment as a number of
bottomless holes that randomly appear in grounds of The Village campus.
Everything in the Village exists in the subconscious minds of M2, Curtis/2 and people/Village residents. The "residents" have been carefully selected by Curtis/2 as subjects in need of mental therapy. Curtis/2 has injected himself into the subconscious Village world to directly try to heal the selected people. If Curtis/2 can control the subconscious of people (i.e. make them happy and peaceful in their subconscious world), he reasons, the people will mimic those feelings and actions in the real world.
Michael (aka #6), a Summakor employee, has worked on the Summakor technology at some level (subject identification?). Suspecting that the technology is being used unwisely, Michael/6 decides to resign from Summakor. Curtis/2, unhappy with this, somehow taps Michael's subconscious and brings him into The Village environment. In doing so Curtis/2 hopes to bring Michael/6 back to Summakor.
(The film uses a plot stunt that initially looks like flashbacks... in reality they are "toggles" between events on-going in the real world and simultaneous events being played out in the subconscious minds of the residents. This is why the plot seems so disjointed. We observe versions of both reality and the subconscious through the eyes of the individuals on-screen at any given moment.) Curtis/2 makes numerous attempts at inducing Michael/6 to rejoin Summakor/The Village by utilizing a broad range of subconscious "Village" tricks. None work. At his wit's end Curtis/2 suddenly has an epiphany (triggered by his subconscious, imaginary son's behaviors) and determines that he and his wife are actually prisoners of Summakor's technology and that Michael/2 may hold the key to their escape.
With this thought, Curtis/2 decides to hand over control of both Summakor and The Village technology to Michael/6.
Through a revelation that Michale/6's Village girlfriend (313) is severely mentally ill in the real world and that The Village is her only hope, Curtis/2 convinces Michael/6 to re-join Summakor as head of The Village project. Michael/6 steps up to the challenge in both the real and Village worlds.
Curtis (and his wife), the real prisoners in this tale, are finally freed from the nightmare that both Summakor and The Village have become.
Yikes. I don't know what standards The Prisoner is being compared to by other reviewers (other than obviously the original series, which is completely different). While not absolutely stellar, it certainly is superior to almost everything out there on network TV. While it's sometimes difficult to figure out where the four first hours are going, the last two hours are really delivered with the tone of cerebral and philosophical thriller that chillingly ties the mini-series together. I thought the Prisoner's social commentary on the balance between impersonal technology and personal consciousness which is hammered home in the ending sequences was especially effective. The acting level was also certainly above network TV level -- McKellen giving a creepy performance that ultimately becomes understandable as No. 2, and Cazieval, who likes many of his other roles, brings a humanity to character who doesn't quite understand what is going on to him. There are certainly flaws in the production and scripting, but if you come with an open mind and not prepared to judge the series in the context of the original series, I think it's a worthwhile investment of the viewer's time.
Demonstrating a complete misunderstanding (or hatred) of the original
series, writer Bill Gallagher ends up endorsing the concept of the
Village in this mishmash of The Truman Show and the Matrix. Throw in
the stock evil corporation, a couple of useless explosions and a basket
full of illogical inconsistencies and you get another A&E remake
Regardless of the esteem anyone holds of the original series, in the end, what was this six hour production really about? Like the holes that appear in the ground, nothing at all. It seems that someone in this production realized this at some point and decided to obfuscate it by making a confusing jumble. The whole thing could have been told in two hours by a decent director. And they could have called it something else, like THE RESORT.
People of Britain, respect your heritage, don't watch this garbage when it airs there.
As a fan of the original Prisoner I can't begin to say how incredibly disappointed I am with this "remake". The "plot" is non-existent and makes no sense. It might be good if it had characters that made kept your interest in spite of the unintelligible plot line but sadly there isn't a single character that makes me care about what happens to them. In the original Patrick McGoohan was an excellent actor and portrayed an engaging character. The character of 6 in the original embodied the admirable quality of not giving up in spite of the odds. He was direct, smart and capable. In contrast, this 6 is a confused mamby-pamby guy with the personality of a doorstop. I am especially disappointed that one of my favorite actors, Ian McKellen would agree to appear in this mess. I think Patrick McGoohan is turning over in his grave.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Actual quote from this new version of the old cult classic, The
Prisoner. I have to agree with 16, which says this horribly written
line. It is hard to pinpoint the main reason this is all wrong. I could
be obvious and say, well, it is a remake. Sure, but it doesn't seem to
stop the film empire from spitting out more badly made remakes. So let
me give other reasons.
First, it has none of the charisma or style of the original, all the while espousing that it is "deeper" than the original Prisoner. Upon watching the first two hours, it isn't that much deeper. Long shoots of the desert, lame dialog, lack of mystery and stealing from movies like Dark City isn't deeper by a long shot. Second, it has none of the spy fun of the original. It is just a bunch of tired old clichés and stolen ideas. Obviously, the Number Two will stay the same within the whole series, destroying the idea that Number Two can be taken out at will by the Village. And though I like Ian McKellen, he can't save this project by himself and his comments about the old series being camp and not great, just are laughable in the face of this dog of a show.
The writing is bad (see my headline), the acting is also bad, the plot line isn't like the original Prisoner at all. They might as well wrote a completely new show and made it like Lost instead of this. I don't get why people take an idea and then pick away at it so only 93 in an original black and white Prisoner blazer and Rover remain.
It's original ideas, like incorporating families into the Village, aren't really good. I always thought it was nice not to have kids in the Village as to play up that only spies were there. And Six isn't a spy here, he is an analysis, which I guess is as close to being a spy the new version wanted to touch and it is a shame because it could have had some high tech gadgets in there. Even Number Six's cool car has been replaced by a bus! Super lame! The fun of The Prisoner was spy camp, the Village people acting strangely cheery and things like Number Two's underground viewing chamber, which is missing here, replaced by Number Two looking into a clear glass while his son looks blankly into the camera for the zillionth time downstairs. The clear towers are vaguely like the Twin Tower and yes, there is also a terrorist subplot that reminded me of Brazil.
Anyway, it isn't anything I haven't seen before that was done better. I doubt I'll watch the rest of this. I gave it a shot because I didn't want to denounce it only because I love the original Prisoner. I tried to watch it like it wasn't a remake to be neutral, but it didn't work.
I won't be seeing you, bad Prisoner remake. I won't be seeing you.
I've only watched the first 5 parts so far, but I have to say I am very impressed!
The people who are complaining loudly while comparing this to the 60's Prisoner are perhaps missing the point, possibly even missing the point of the whole original series.
This new version of the story is *very* clever.
The humans in the Village are no different than the people living in our real world, but with this show, the control mechanisms are right there in the viewer's face. The episodes dealing with family and love are particularly insightful. It's amazing how our emotions can be so easily used to control us and to throw us off our path, even when we are entirely cognisant of our being manipulated.
Even the myth of "evil" tobacco drifted into focus in episode #5. Ian McKellen's #2 tells us, "I used to smoke in order to think." --This is, of course, true; nicotine is one of the only two drugs which enhance awareness without affecting judgement. (The other is caffeine). Smoking is naturally not allowed in the village; same as out here in the 'real' world.
In the original series, #6 was the super-man. He chewed through #2's every second episode because he was smarter and stronger than the system trying to contain him. It felt good to cheer him on. And while the fantasy of the emotionally stunted super-spy fit well into the cultural head-space of the 60's, and while I still have warm place in my heart for that series, it was largely escapist fantasy with little to say about our actual day-to-day reality. By contrast, the #6 in this series I find much easier to relate to. He is not a pretend super-man; but rather he is faulty, but dogged and persistent. He has made his choice and no matter what obstacles they throw in his way, he struggles toward full awareness. This show is relevant to where we are now as a culture.
I definitely recommend this series, but I really don't think it's for everybody.
And bearing in mind, I say all of this not having seen the 6th part yet. . .
Have now watched all six parts. It's brilliant! I didn't think they'd go there. 6 becomes 2. --And this is the uncomfortable truth of conspiracy; Those who have the strength and courage to seek all the way through without falling into a submissive role within some other agency, those who grow are no longer are able to fit into the same level of awareness as their peers. In a closed system, such people *by default* become the caretakers and keepers of those who are still growing. 6 became the master and the rest of the people his kennel. Upsetting, but very, very accurate.
But he'll learn. The cycle doesn't end, and he's coming from a place of compassion. I think he'll make a better 2 than the creepy version of Gandalf.
An excellent series, but only for those with eyes to see.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In general, I was enjoying this; yet, every now and again my brain warned me, "this better have a resolution that works." It doesn't. I began to have more serious concerns tonight as we learned what the Village is (and isn't). They spent all that time building up the intrigue and suspense, all to have it vaporized by (summarizing / paraphrasing here) "well, that's certainly thoughtful, let's continue the work then, shall we?" The final scene with 313 didn't really make sense -- is she the replacement for Mrs. 2? And how did Mrs. 2 bring people "into" the Village anyway? Through the Matrix, perhaps? Had the ending actually worked, I could have given the series an overall 7 or 8, or perhaps even higher. I was thoroughly pleased with McKellan's performance, and Caviezel was at least satisfactory (IMHO, writing, rather than acting, was the weakness of his version of 6). They should have started wrapping things a littler earlier, to allow time to actually flesh out the reveal and explain things more clearly. Instead, the build-up to 6's resolution simply came off as rushed. Ah, well; at least they -finally- threw in a Penny-Farthing for us to "A-ha!" at before turning off the lights.
Too much dialog written in the most obvious fashion. Too little
mystery. Too little tension. The essential drama and motivation of the
story missing as much as No. 6's mind.
The issues with this series have less to do with its similarity or non-similarity to its source material than it has with the tenor of contemporary film-making and writing. Classicism and all its artistic forms have all but disappeared from education, so it is not surprising that what passes off as entertainment today is hardly groundbreaking or even interesting. There are exceptions to the rule, of course, but by and large episodic television is at a low point.
It isn't even so much that Prisoner 2.0 differs from the original (in itself not necessarily a bad thing if handled properly) but the fact there is little personality to the proceedings is its major weakness.
Film-making, collaborative or auteur, rely on the singular voice of its many artists ringing out in concert, guided by the deliberate hand of a producer or director who sees the forest for the trees. Film-making is about style as much as about content and the two have to cohere meaningfully. When it doesn't, as in this new reboot, the results are muddled.
The presence of Ian McKellen isn't enough to elevate it and Caviezel simply miscast.
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