Penn Jillette is an opinionated fellow. He’s taken many strong stances on magic, from how performers present their work to how secretive the field can be. The Washington Post reached out to the legend to ask his opinion about Hollywood’s best portrayal of a magician. Given his distaste for those who tinker with claims of supernatural powers, it shouldn’t be a surprise that his choice isn’t Harry Potter or The Illusionist. But his pick does seem a little unconventional: The Dark Knight.
“The ultimate American magician is Batman,” Jillette told the Post, explaining his pick of Christopher Nolan’s 2008 take on the iconic comic book character. “When you talk about modern American magic, it’s not supernatural, it’s the playful study of epistemology. It’s how we attain information, and how we attain what is true.”
Sure, at first glance, that seems like a strange answer given that Batman has no superpower (other than vast amounts of money). But maybe that makes it all the more impressive when he, like a magician, is able to pull off a feat that seems like it should be impossible. He’s saving lives and stopping villains rather than picking cards, but the principles behind both acts are in fact pretty well aligned. Besides, even though Batman’s not making rabbits appear, magic and comic books do in fact have a long shared history. Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend Zatanna actually grows up to be both a stage magician and a Justice League member.
The newspaper actually conducted a series of bite-sized interviews with experts about what they consider the best depictions of their field. The whole list is a fun read with plenty of good fodder for your Netflix queue.