If he is indeed ushering in a new era of magic, Criss Angel is doing no-one a favor. His style of magic is everything I hate about the world of magic shows: big special effects, ornate misdirection and very little actual skill.
When I was growing up, magic was synonymous with David Copperfield, the guy who not only got to screw Claudia Schiffer but also was the epitomy of 80’s magic. I remember being dazzled as a young boy watching him walk through the Great Wall Of China. What is more obvious to me now is that Copperfield relied on a heavy arsenal of TV special effects to do anything. The actual illusionist skill involved was at best mediocre, even if Steinmeyer and others had some clever ideas.
That’s why I love David Blaine as a magician (even though he’s a bit of a jerk as a person) because he did to magic shows what Steve Irwin did to wildlife programs: changed the rules and made them fresh and appealing again. Blaine is a skilled prestidigitarian (word of the day calendar…) and performed his tricks right in front of real people. Their reactions made the tricks much more real to us, the audience. And they were actual tricks that anyone could do with enough practice.
Now, enter Criss Angel. He takes the gigantic set-ups of the Copperfield Era and places them inside an environment that looks exactly like David Blaine’s reality. But it’s all smoke and mirrors, right down to the stunned reactions and the bleeps from his stooges. It may look amazing to the untrained eye, but to me it’s just a rather sad mockumentary-style version of a special-effects movie.
The way he bamboozles viewers is new and interesting, but I hope that actual, really talented magicians who don’t feel the need to win cheap approval with such easy trickery will still always find a way on to my TV screen.