THE PRISONER REMAKE REVIEWS
A special section of The Unmutual Website containing reviews of the AMC mini-series remake. Do you have any overall thoughts on the series? Contact TUW and see your views also published on this page.
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TUW READERS' THOUGHTS:
"I've now watched the first episode of the new Priz, so I'm now
allowed to slag it off! It's pointless to compare to the original, but as
a stand-alone series it just seemed a bit, for lack of a better word, meh.
I need to agree with the Private Eye article inasmuch as they seem to be using
flashbacks, dream sequences and deliberate confusion to cover up the lack
of anything else. This "cryptic clue dying words"-style doesn't
work for me. This isn't the Crystal Maze! The Village looks nice enough, but
I didn't really get a sense of it. It seemed just to be a few different places
that didn't really look like they were part of the same place. The original
has this label of being the most baffling, confusing, weird, surreal, etc
series of all time, when it isn't. There are no flashbacks, dream sequences
(A, B & C doesn't count), or vague enigmatic dialogue or symbolism. If
you accept the Village exists and that Number 6 is actually there, then each
episode is just good solid storytelling. All the "surreal" stuff
isn't there to cover up a lack of story, or just to be enigmatic. I think
it's there to make the series visually distinctive. So I think the mistake
that's been made here is they've believed that the original was baffling and
enigmatic so they've made something deliberately baffling and enigmatic. The
original had good stories and humour, which seems so far to have been left
David Mackenzie, UK
"I’m getting a little fed up of people implying that if anyone
dislikes the new show, they haven’t let go of the template set by Patrick
McGoohan. This is patronising nonsense. The ‘current’ prisoner
series is an absolute mess consisting of bad writing, horrible camera-work,
and poor drama. It is dreadful faux-enigmatic visual fare, combined with a
cod-philosophical stance that makes ‘The Matrix’ positively intellectual.
No wonder there were director issues. Acting-wise, it is impossible to have
any empathy with any of the main characters at all. Sadly, Sir Ian McKellan
wastes both his time and skills, whilst the audience wastes electricity.The
DVD will be heading to a bargain-bin near you shortly."
Graham High, UK
"I think it totally missed the point! The best 'updates' of the
series' concept are when people use the same themes and make their own story.
e.g. the film "The Truman Show" is far better version of the 'concept'
than the official remake. And, in real-life, what about the success of the
'reality' TV show "Big Brother"? I often wonder what McGoohan thought
of that show!!"
Dave Jones, UK
"I watched 10 minutes of the new series and then turned it off. The
producers had evidently missed the whole point of...well, almost everything.
Remember that number 6 was always referred to as exactly that. "Number
6". Not "Six". He is not a number (etc) however he's now been
provided with a new name....Six. "Hello, Six" we hear. If they couldn't
even that much straight, there was little point in continuing. Why is is that
people who do remakes seem to always miss the very things which made the originals
the icons that they were? I'm thinking of other duds, like the Avengers movie,
and the remake of The Italian Job. Add to that a leading man who's breathtakingly
bland to the point of invisibility, a real lightweight unknown, and you have
a non-starter. Don't even think too long about the village itself. A long
line of Nissan huts is hardly inspiring. Memorable theme music? Non existent.
Even if I'd never seen the original I wouldn't have watched this new rendering
for longer than one episode. Our Ian did his best (that's the only positive
I can think of) but it wasn't enough to salvage the series. Frankly, I'm shocked
that he took the job on, having read the scripts. (Oh, and BTW, one of the
great things about the original series was the continually changing number
2, which gave Patrick a new adversary almost every week. Brilliant.) Marks
out of 10? 1, I think, and that's being generous."
"So bad he should be crucified."
Howard Foy, UK
"I just keep thinking of Christopher Eccleston in the lead role
and wondering what might have been."
Mathew Lock,. UK
"What a load of rubbish! I'll leave any discussion (if I can be bothered)
until everyone's seen it but my final opinion.... it's rubbish. Pity really,
as there were some nice ideas in there and it's filmed beautifully in places.Still
far too much sand too!"
Alan Jones, UK
"I would just like to give my thoughts on the new The Prisoner series.
I am saddened by the negative comments by people who simply compare and contrast
with the original. It is not the original but neither were several episodes
of the original: they were merely 'fillers' to extend P. McGoohan's own incredible
episodes. McGoohan had a concept, an idea, a vision. Portmeirion ISN'T The
Prisoner; it is just the chosen setting for an idea to be filmed in. It is
obvoius that if CWE had said NO to filming in his precious Portmeirion then
PM would have chosen somewhere else..........The Prisoner, and I am a TRUE
fan, is at it's root, a message, a warning, a revelation: it offers to remind
us that we are not free, by any means. Our captor is inside us. This new series
is seriously exploring this and leaves us wondering whether our so-called
reality is any less fantastical than our dreams or the rantings of the insane.
The re-imagining has included many snippets of detail from the 'original':
"Be seeing you!", No.6 walking a shadowy corridor, Rover - less
balloony and seriously more threatening and mysterious!: what would the so-called
'real fans' have - a white balloon with string showing? Come on people, it
doesn't take Portmeirion, balloons on string, stripy long-sleeved tops, spinning
umbrellas and rocking-horse surveillance equipment to make The Prisoner, merely
one's imagination, a grasp of the whole 'what-is-reality?, what-is-freedom?,
Big-Brother' idea, and remember when Number 2 asks "Who is Number 1?"
the answer He receives is "You are Number 2" OR is it "You
are, Number 2" - Number 2 IS Number 1 - we are the prisoners, we are
the captors......etc. So, The Prisoner (re-imagined or whatever) - is not
the original but no less detracts from what PM wanted to say. In fact Ian
McKellen said of PM "He was asked to be in the first episode, there being
a part that would have been very ironically fitting, but apparently he said
that he didn't want to do it unless he was offered the part of Number Two."
So, to all you real 'fans' - loosen up a bit and remember that anoraks can
be taken off now and then........"
"One of my friends is from Namibia, and after learning this new version of The Prisoner was shot there, I had intrigued hopes for the re-imagined Village, and the cinematography. - However, I was skeptical of how the story concept would be reworked. Sometimes its a crushing disappointment to be proved right.
Setting aside Sir Ian McKellan acting his socks off as the singular No 2,
- this is utter Crap!! It reminds me of The Avengers movie that had Uma Thurman
and Ralf Finnes in back in 1998. - It tries to be too weird and lacks the
genuine subtle surreal quality of the original show. The acting feels laboured.
Caviezel's version of No 6 is as charismatic as a block of wood. This is not
the actors fault. - Patrick McGoohan's character was written as angry and
defiant, a character who was fiercely searching for answers along with his
freedom. This made you want to follow him and see him get somewhere. Equally,
you feel his abject frustration every time he is thwarted.
Jim Caviezel's version lacks direction, the writing makes the character too easily manipulated, and he lacks passion, which gives him no physical menace. All this makes it easy for the audience to be apathetic towards him, and everyone else around him. There is no conviction or suspense to draw us in.
The original series often doesn't make sense, and Mr McGoohan was openly delighted with that, esp the final two episodes. But this is just a shambles! I also hate disjointed flashbacks, and here unlike Lost or perhaps 24, they do not help, simply making it more of a chore to follow the storyline (such as it is). - I hope producers and writers get fed up with that somewhat tired plot / structure device, it is destroying decent drama. At least they didn't mess about with the concept of Rover! Finally, a cardinal narrative sin is made in the final episode. - The nature of The Village and what it is all about is clarified. I won't say what, I hate spoilers. However, be warned, it's not satisfying, is somewhat predictable, and highly disappointing. - The audience was respected in the original series because they were left to draw their own conclusions.
This series is, unfortunately, the latest example of a popular classic re
imagined badly, so it simply does not work."
Andy K, UK
Giles Kendrick, UK
Simon Wells, UK
"I am watching the "new" Prisoner on ITV where we are
at episode 2.....I am prepared to give it a go, and am pleased when I read
a review that calls it a "re-visioning rather than a remake". OK,
sounds promising. Let's put any pre-conceptions to one side and give it a
go. But half way through Saturday's (2nd) episode I am nodding off at the
point where a bus is being driven endlessly around dunes, and my wife who
has an affection for the things '60's but without the same "baggage"
that I have for the Prisoner, sums it up: it's too slow; Jim Whatist is completely
anonymous; and (dare we say it)....Ian McKellen is actually not very sinister...?
I shall persist to the end but so far I am very dissapointed. There may be
some deep and meaningful stuff going on but it's not very entertaining (dare
I say it - unlike the orginal!). Have cancelled my Amazon order for the DVD!"
Phil Lamdin, UK
"I was really impressed with the new series and pleasently surprised by many of the references to the original Prisoner. It contains humour and menace and appears well acted and well produced. Thumbs up."
Elaine Sutton, UK
"Last night, I managed 30 minutes of this tosh then turned it off
it was so painful. I won't watch it again. The new Number 6 is as characterful
as brown paper, the script is dodgy, the music unimaginative. Ian McKellen
carried every scene I watched. He is a true Number 2. The black taxi driver
was also fabulous. Poor old Paddy Fitz would have felt really let down by
Brad Bennett, UK
"Being a huge prisoner fan, talking and explaining it to any that is
interested, I convinced a group of 14 to get together for the unveiling of
the new one. After several repeats of "It'll get better, just wait."
I woke up after dozing off to find everyone else a sleep as well. This show
would have never been watched after the first episode if it were not for the
title. I was able to convince 9 to watch the next episode. What a mistake.
Maybe if we were still in our twenties, we could have gotten drunk and enjoyed
it, not sure. Anyway it was a repeat and off to sleep we all went again. My
three sons are the only ones that endured the rest of the episodes and the
repeat, desperatly trying to find any redeeming qualities. The consensus is
clear, this was a flop! The only thing it is worth is a treasure hunt of looking
for Prisoner similarities. However it is not enough to keep one awake without
some sort of external assitance. Rest in peace, Patrick McGoohan, it is probably
a good thing that you missed it."
Gary Pike, USA
"Recently I viewed all six hours of The Prisoner remake, two hours a day over three days, just as it was aired. Being totally familiar with the original series, first viewed in 1968 when I was 17 years old, I knew the premise of what I was about to see…or so I thought. Adjectives that describe my first impression: convoluted, sluggish, confusing, dark and puzzling. In short, “W-H-Y-?”
After the first two episodes, I had to re-watch the first ten minutes of Arrival, just to be sure I hadn’t missed something…like an opening sequence that would set the stage for the story. Right…there was none. So for anyone unfamiliar with the original series, one probably spent the first hour totally puzzled and confused as the story is just too complex or intricate to understand easily.
Occasional visual references to the original series were easily recognizable, such as the pennyfarthing bicycle in the seedy night club. The ever-present (desert) sands could represent Portmeirion’s waterless estuary so familiar in the original series. With several more viewings, one might even draw new allegorical parallels to the original series and to life in the 21st century.
The redeeming factor of the first two episodes, and actually, the entire series, was the brilliant performance of Sir Ian McKellen as Number Two, who could easily hold his own with the likes of Leo McKern from the original series. From start to finish, the New Number Two’s performance was spellbinding, which could not be said for James Caviezel’s Number Six.
The new Number Six lacked the charisma and dry wit of Patrick McGoohan’s character. True, in 1968 I was a teen smitten with a handsome, underdog hero. Being just a few years older and much wiser now, age might be why I was more taken with Ian McKellen’s character. It was absolutely essential to remain totally focused on the action and dialog when trying to follow the confusing thread of a story line. The rapid and too-frequent switch between The Village and New York City, between dreams and reality, was annoying and confusing. At the end of two hours, I was completely baffled about many things I had seen. The Towers (9-11?)…I never figured out what they had to do with anything, except to represent Number Six’s thoughts about “the other place” and his previous life. The Statue of Liberty might have been a better choice. References to Michael’s/Number Six’s previous employer, Summakor, was also puzzling since I had never heard of this company (and it does exist!), or what they do. (Note: at www.amctv.com they actually provide a link to that company, and suddenly, things made a lot more sense. Check it out!)
Six long hours later, with several characters murdered or otherwise dead by accident or suicide, I was still completely puzzled as to “what’s it all about”. Thankfully, at www.amctv.com I could read complete episode recaps, each with a most thoughtful disclaimer at the top warning that the write-up contained spoilers for specific episodes, in case one didn’t want to know the outcome. Amazingly enough, as puzzled as I was, I realized I wasn’t crazy, and that I had actually absorbed most of what I had seen in each episode. The recaps were great, with links to each character, with further insight as to who they were within the story. After reading the recaps, viewing the photos and learning more about the new remake, I found myself with a desire to re-watch the new Prisoner to see what I missed the first time through. That second viewing was slightly more interesting.
Certainly there was no joy in the New Village and absolutely nothing charming or appealing about the cookie-cutter type homes and hostile desert surroundings. The original idyllic (Portmeirion) Village disguised its dark side beneath beautiful flowers and fountains whereas the new Village looked just as ominous as it really was, full of black holes, murder, homosexuality, drug abuse and suicide.
It is definitely NOT Patrick McGoohan’s “Prisoner”. It IS TV viewing designed for the thinking person and NOT mindless fluff where everything is cut and dried, black and white, with a happily-ever-after ending. After six hours I was left with more questions than answers (sound familiar?). Much of the new Prisoner was confusing, lacked dialog and was reliant upon rapid-fire visual effects. I expect anyone without knowledge of the original series would have switched off before the end of the first episode. While sometimes boring, I did find it challenging to pick out links to the original, and that’s what kept me tuned in. However, I was not left with the same burning desire to see the “next episode” as I once experienced so many years ago.
I doubt there will be a huge rush of Prisoner fans booking a holiday
to the filming location of the New Village in the Namibian desert, South Africa.
Jean M Orcutt, USA
"I was disappointed with the new 'Prisoner' TV series; we were told it is a 'reimagining' of the series, in that case why have they used a character so clearly intended to be that of the old Number Six (complete with piped blazer and an apartment hardly changed since the Sixties!) and copied at least two scenes almost verbatim from the original series (the taxi ride and the map-buying scene)?
Comparisons with the classic series are discouraged; but having used the title, and quite a lot of the imagery from the original programme (including 'Rover') whether they like it or not, the makers will have to accept this will be held up against McGoohan's original. They should have made something else if they were not keen on comparisons.
I found the series tough going throughout; the pacing is slow, you're not
given a reason to care about this man ('6') since you don't really know why
he is in this situation or what he is doing there, until much later in the
series. On top of that, he (Jim Caviezel) lacks the dynamic screen presence
of a McGoohan, and the constant use of flashbacks to New York (where he lived
previously) are just annoying. His character is actually somewhat 'emo' -
you don't believe in his ability to stand up to whatever is thrown at him.
The real star is Ian McKellen as '2'; he alone has the screen presence lacking
in just about everyone else in the
cast and it is easy to see why they kept the same man as '2' throughout. But the programme is supposed to be called 'The Prisoner', not 'The Jailer'; in keeping one man as the main adversary the producers have thrown away the main concept of the old series: not knowing exactly who you're up against. The other big problem is the unrelenting darkness of the series; there is very little comic relief here and that makes for difficult viewing. You endure it, you do not enjoy it.
The original had much that stuck in the mind, a truly iconic series. Think
of The Village (the real one, Green Dome and all), Rover, the mini-mokes,
the Lotus, the coloured capes and even the modified Albertus lettering seen
throughout. Not to mention the music and those penny-farthings, when you think
of that programme so much springs to mind. Not so this one, its Village is
bland with identikit houses, dull Morris Minors and other old vehicles, people
dressed relatively conservatively and the Village logo has swapped the penny-farthing
for what looks like a blancmange! The use of Rover appears contrived, as though
they had to include it just to remind viewers 'hey, this is The Prisoner'.
All in all a fan of the old series will probably feel used, having watched
this series as they've taken a few elements of the old series and cobbled
it into a plot which, without the use of that title
and those elements, would not stand up on its own.
McGoohan, had he lived to see it, would certainly have hated the way the producers had introduced an apparent gay affair between 11-12 (the son of '2') and another Villager. He would definitely have hated the seedy-looking nightclub which 11-12 frequented, and he'd not have approved of the behaviour of '6' around two of the women in the series either (!)
The original was a product of its time, which was carried along by the irresistible
driving force that was McGoohan. This series has tried to recreate the same
magic in a different era, but by committee. There's no single driving force
pulling it along and so the experience was always going to be a let-down.
Ultimately it's just another mildly interesting mini-series, once you strip
away all the Prisoner imagery. Watch only if you must see how they've reimagined
the Village and the concept, but don't expect to be riveted."
"I spent the last three nights at my home in Canada watching the remake. I am going to give it passing grade. Is it the original. No way. But having watched most of it a 2nd time (AMC has already started repeating it), I have gained a respect for what they’ve done with the new mini-series. Of course, insider jokes helped soothe over some of slower parts. My favorite was Number 2 letting out a small chuckle when he sees the Penny fathering hanging from the ceiling of a Village club.
The new Prisoner is not the rebel of old. Even when the old Number Six was drugged up, hypnotized, punched in the face…he always had that “…I’m a free man, you S.O.B.” thing still going for him. Want to know why I resigned? Blow me!! That’s not what the new Number Six is about…and this is where I congratulate the producers on deciding to take a different approach. There’s part of me that want to see a Patrick McGoohan clone….but I know that would ultimately be unsatisfying. I don’t want to go into the plot just in case people are reading this who haven’t watched it yet. However, I was satisfied with the answers about the The Village. In fact, I even felt that the answer tied in some manner to the theories about what was going through the original Prisoner’s head in Fall Out.
If I have one complaint, it has to do with some of the camera work. Don’t
get me wrong. The Prisoner (original) was always at its best visually when
we were looking at Portmerion in the daylight (the famous human chess match
comes to mind). But there are way too many lingering shots. I started to lose
count how many times the camera would swoop around Number Two’s comatose
bed-riden wife. She’s asleep. Got something to do with the pills. There’s
more to her then meets the eye. OK…got that after the 2nd swoop. Knowing
how it all ends, my favorite scene was slightly twisted in its meaning…but
two thumbs way up for the scene with Number Six, Sixteen and the Tour Bus
Woman running towards the beach."
"The PRISONER remake is far from brilliant, but not horrible either.
I'd give it two stars out of four -- average and so-so all the way through.
While it comes nowhere near the brilliance of the original, it's not a total
disaster either. Making this version vastly different was the best route the
creators could have taken. It exists completely separate from the original,
and therefore doesn't ruin or diminish what came before. The producers' respect
for McGoohan was evident -- they obviously didn't want to tamper with his
vision of the premise.
There are many slow spots throughout the six hours where I found my interest slipping. "Dense and murky" were two phrases I read in various reviews elsewhere that I agree with completely. At times, the remake is a chore to get through. With some careful editing, it would have made a much better two-hour film. The disjointed flashbacks to Six's post-resignation/pre-Village life are a bit annoying (but thankfully tie together in the end). Likewise, the script could have used more humor -- everybody seemed so serious or depressed. The acting is forgettable; most of the cast doesn't stand out. Ian McKellen was good, but Jim Caviezel barely registers. His yell of "I Am Not A Number!" just doesn't cut it.
There's not much of a title sequence nor much of a theme either -- just some generic-sounding suspense music. And apart from sepia-tinted silent films of the 1920s, it's probably the brownest, tannest production ever made. They should have splashed more color throughout the Village. Likewise, the characters clothes were dull; they had no particular "Village style" like the original costumes did.
But the new story did keep me interested enough to follow it through. The finale answers a lot of questions, yet still keeps much obscure. There are also some nice subtle references to the original scattered throughout the episodes. And let's be grateful that McGoohan turned down the producers' request for a cameo. If he had agreed, it would have been a depressing final screen appearance. Perhaps a better role for him would have been as a "former No.2" who occasionally shows up to advise McKellen.
But one has to ask: did the world need another version of THE PRISONER? Definitely not. New viewers will find the premise redundant in today's post-MATRIX/LOST pop culture landscape (two productions that were strongly influenced by the original to begin with). In fact, the remake seems to be a combination of THE MATRIX and that other "Prisoner-esque" production of recent years, THE TRUMAN SHOW. New viewers seeing this version first, will probably end up liking the original better should they ever see it. Meanwhile, admirers of the original are automatically condemning the remake just on the basis of its existence alone.
After viewing the final episode, the entire production seemed fade from my mind almost immediately. It doesn't have the staying-power of the original, and is ultimately forgettable. So, after all these years of wondering about what a PRISONER remake would be like, we can now relax. Our beloved original is in no danger of being displaced from its throne..."
Tom Mayer, USA
"I lived in London up untill 5 years ago, I now live in Canada.
Saw the original many times, have it on DVD. Miniseries was shown last week
here. The remake must be thought of not as a remake, but as a continuation.
Then as the it unfolds it makes sense and is not a dissapointment. Nuff said?"
"This "reimagining" is heavy on style but light on substance:
the most (and only) fun this series offers is spotting references to the original
series in the sets. Three hours into this six-hour mess, we finally get clues
about who Six is, and hints at why he might be important -- facts that the
original series tidily handled within the first fifteen minutes of "Arrival"
-- but by then it's too little, too late. Caviezel's Six is thuddingly dull,
and McKellen's Two is toothless and harmless as he dodders around tending
to domestic affairs. Do yourself a favor and watch your favorite six episodes
of the original series instead of this jerky, discontinuous mess."
"Initially I hated the Prisoner miniseries. Now, in many respects,
I feel it's far superior to the original, because it deals with human values
in a way that reflects humanity, as opposed to the values conjured by our
cultural iconistic mind set, geared to the dumbest kid in the class... In
the old series, the Village is believable, but McGoohan, the character known
as The Prisoner, is not. While it still remains entertaining, the psychological
holes in the plot are something Rommel could drive the Afrika Corps through."