By: BabyRuth (Five Beers) –
The magic-themed heist film Now You See Me was a sleeper hit in 2013, grossing $351.7M on its $75M budget. Because the rule of Hollywood is once a movie is successful, a sequel must be made, here we are three years later with Now You See Me 2 (I’m guessing they are saving the title “Now You Don’t” for the third film, which, yes, has already been announced.)
I reviewed the original and had many issues with it, mainly the computer-generated “magic” and the ridiculous final twist. Upon subsequent viewings, I wondered if I was possibly a little too hard on it. Maybe being the cynical daughter of a mentalist clouded my ability to just simply enjoy a fun, original caper flick with a great cast because it really is good, dumb, fun (the ending still bugs, though).
I went into Now You See Me 2 with optimism. Especially upon learning that David Copperfield was a producer/consultant and promised that a lot of the magic would be accomplished without CGI and camera tricks.
Now You See Me 2 picks up a year after the events of the first film. The Horsemen, Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt (Woody Harrelson), and Jack (Dave Franco) are in hiding awaiting their orders from The Eye. There are now only three Horsemen as Henley asked for and was granted a release from the group (Isla Fisher bowed out of the sequel due to her pregnancy), but they are soon joined by a new “girl Horseman” (Horsewoman?), Lula (Lizzy Caplan). Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is still an FBI agent, as well as the undercover leader of the Horsemen.
The group soon gets the go-ahead for their next grand performance – a hijacking of a tech conference releasing the next not-iPhone to expose the corrupt company’s plan to steal users’ private information. The show goes awry with Dylan’s involvement in the Horsemen getting exposed and the magicians being hijacked themselves and transported to China. There, they meet the person responsible and are forced into pulling off their biggest feat yet.
To save them, Dylan must team up with the only person that can help him: his old nemesis Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman).
The reunited cast are just as game in the follow-up as they were in the first film. The new characters fit in nicely and casting Daniel Radcliffe as the billionaire villain who mentions more than once that science is the real magic
(Get it? Get it? Because he was Harry Potter!)
was a nice touch. Though some (Lizzy Caplan, Woody Harrelson) more than others (Jesse Eisenberg), everyone appears to be having a good time. And that’s swell.
The film gets off to a promising start with the reintroduction to the characters and the first (attempted) performance, but soon spirals out of control as it gets more and more convoluted and far-fetched. Double-crosses, triple-crosses, backstories, old characters, new characters – none of it is nearly as clever as the filmmakers think it is. While the original movie was an entertaining cat and mouse chase, upping the ante by adding several more cats and mice, all running in different directions, doesn’t make it twice as entertaining.
It’s not even worth going into all the how did they manage that?, where did they get the money for—?, wouldn’t that take months of extensive planning?’ questions that arise while viewing. It’s just magic, okay? IT’S MAGIC DAMMIT. BECAUSE MAGIC!– seems to be the film’s answer.
Oh yes, the magic.
Despite the promise of more “real” magic this time around, all of the set pieces rely heavily on CG effects and camera cuts even more than the first film.
Thanks a lot Copperfield. You are not my hero.
Director Jon M. Chu is known for his work on the Step Up films (we won’t mention Jem and the Holograms, oops! Just did), but while his flashy and quick style works well with choreographed dancing, it distracts from the action, which is often hard to follow. It also doesn’t complement the magic sequences as, again, quick camera cuts are the last thing a magic sequence needs.
There’s a set piece mid-film that revolves around a playing card containing the McGuffin (a chip that will unlock all the information in all the world or something) being passed and concealed via cardthrowing and palming from one member of the magic troupe to the next. It’s a clever concept that works in actual magic expertise and is cool to watch for a few moments, but all that goodwill is squandered as the sequence goes on and on and on and the use of CGI becomes more and more obvious. It actually gets boring after awhile. We don’t need to track the card traveling through sleeves via an updated version of the old “follow-the-bullet” effect. It would have been far more impressive to see the card getting passed a few times and wondering if it was the actors really doing it (apparently Dave Franco trained hard and became very skilled in card-throwing – not that we get to see it much) or if it was aided with effects rather than seeing what is obviously faked.
The movie goes out of its way to explain how the seemingly impossible tricks were pulled off, likely to keep it grounded in reality (nice try), but fails to explain the most unbelievable one of all (you’ll know it when you see it).
While it’s amusing at first to see Woody Harrelson ham it up in a duel-role as Merritt’s twin brother (this is hardly a spoiler), the character really isn’t necessary and it gets exhausting very quickly.
Not to mention, why have a character have a twin and not use that in the plot with one pretending to be the other at some point? (Again, I’d be willing to bet they are saving this for the next movie.)
If the first film’s groaner of an ending pissed you off, well, you just wait… I’m pretty sure I got a concussion from banging my head against the wall after the big reveal at the end of this one (Shout out to the nice theater employee who offered me a free popcorn if I stopped and left the building immediately).
Don’t even bother thinking back to see if it would be at all plausible. It isn’t. It’s the equivalent of a soap opera running out of ideas and going for the most unbelievably asinine “twist” solely for shock-value. I even re-watched the first film again just in case to see if this could have made sense and been part of the plan from the beginning and it’s a big NOPE.
Now You See Me 2 is a frustrating watch. It makes all the same mistakes as the first film but lacks the charm. But the cast seems to have fun, so there’s that. Hopefully the Horsemen’s third act will be their last.
Now You See Me 2 (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time someone disappears
Take a Drink: whenever “Next Move” is said or shown in writing
Take a Drink: whenever Lula flirts with Jack
Take a Drink: whenever there are two Woodys on-screen
Take a Drink: whenever someone is hypnotized within seconds (NOTE: Hypnotism doesn’t work like that. And they had an actual hypnotism consultant – I just don’t get it!)
Do a Shot: whenever you can’t follow the plot. Repeat as necessary
Finish your Drink and then Pour Another: at the final big reveal