Title: Now You See Me 2
Release Date: June 10, 2016
Director: Jon M. Chu
Release Format: Theatrical
When Now You See Me was released back in 2013, directed by Louis Letterier, I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed it. It was actually interesting to see a movie about magicians on the big screen where the fate of the world wasn’t at stake (Harry Potter). The film starred Isla Fisher, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco as The Four Horsemen, a group of world-renowned magicians, who orchestrate the heist of a greedy old businessman (Michael Caine) in order to retrieve the money he stole from under countless citizens. It was a fun little movie with some unique twists and turns that I didn’t see coming and the magic tricks themselves were very creative.
That being said, when I heard there was going to be a sequel directed by Jon M. Chu, I had no ambition to see it. I won’t take a cheap shot by calling the Chu out on Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. That’s too easy a target. No, I’m gonna call him out on G.I. JOE: Retaliation and his crowning achievement of horridness, Jem & The Holograms. Yeah, needless to say, I wasn’t looking forward to watching another potentially awesome franchise get butchered. However, after having seen the film, it seems like Chu has found his niche. Now You See Me 2 is a sequel that manages to be as fun and entertaining as its predecessor, despite new writers, a new director and one absent cast member in Isla Fisher. It may not be better but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a great time watching it.
Now You See Me 2 takes place 2 years after the events of its predecessor, where we find The Horsemen lying in wait for new orders from The Eye. Henley (Isla Fisher) is absent from the film, apparently fed up with waiting, and has been replaced by Lula (Lizzy Caplan), a talented, up and coming magician who wants to prove herself. However, when their cover is blown upon their return to the spotlight, The Horsemen find themselves on the run again as they become victims of their own tricks. Their journey forces them to confront old enemies as well as new as they use every magic trick in their arsenal to stay alive and uncover the secrets of The Eye.
First off, the acting in Now You See Me 2 is great and probably the biggest surprise to me was Daniel Radcliffe playing business tycoon, Walter Mabry. Yeah, Harry Potter in a movie about magicians; go figure. It was actually very interesting to see Radcliffe play a bad guy for once. He goes for it and it completely works. He revels in playing a villain and some of his scenes are so ridiculously over the top, it’s really hard not to enjoy it. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) is still the cocky smart guy he was in the first film and its good to see Eisenberg back in a comfortable role after his unfortunate train-wreck of a performance in Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice (he tried so hard, it just didn’t work). Atlas also gets some legitimate character development this time around where his ego is taken down a few pegs.
Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), The Horsemen’s connection to The Eye, finds himself having to work with Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), the man he sent to prison in the last film. This leads to some interesting character development but, if I’m being honest, it just wasn’t believable in the end. The lead-up with the development is intriguing but it leads into something so half-baked and ridiculous, I just couldn’t get behind it. It seemed like something that could have just been explained in the last film if these two had just had a two-minute conversation. I’m not gonna spoil it but Bradley and Rhodes made this so much more complicated than it needed to be.
Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) are hilarious together, just like the last film. Harrelson actually gets the chance to play a dual role as Merritt’s twin brother, Chase, makes an appearance, working against The Horsemen to try and best his brother. Lulu is a welcome character and Lizzy Caplan fits perfectly into this cast. She’s witty, she’s funny, her chemistry with the other cast members is undeniable and she proves on more than one occasion that she can hold her own with the rest of the team. Her introduction scene with Eisenberg was hilarious and there’s actually a nice romance that develops between her and Jack. The FBI characters in the film are hardly worth mentioning as the film often forgets that they exist. They’re on the run from the law and yet, the law is barely relevant in the plot.
The magic tricks in the film are often silly and still go unexplained some of the time. I still want to know how Jesse Eisenberg evaporated into water. Yeah, it looks cool, but please explain it. You explained the climax and that trick was beyond obvious. However, every trick is visually stunning and fun to experience and that’s ultimately why I wanted to see this movie. Many of the tricks in the last film were silly and went unexplained as well, but they were so much fun to witness that it didn’t bother me too much. My favorite sequence in the whole film is when they are being patted down and they constantly have to play hot potato with a card. The sequence is incredibly shot. It’s silly but also thrilling in its execution.
Overall, Now You See Me 2 isn’t perfect by any means. The plot is a bit half-baked much of the time, the resolution is fine but a bit weak considering the build-up and the FBI characters feel like an afterthought. However, the actors are clearly having a ball, their characters are fun to have an adventure with and the magic tricks they pull off, while unbelievable, are so awesome on the screen that it’s hard to really care. Now You See Me 2 won’t set the world on fire, nor does it surpass its predecessor, but it works incredibly well as a sequel, advancing the story, while also introducing new elements and upping the wow factor on the effects. It’s a fun ride from start to finish and one that I wouldn’t mind taking again.
- Characters – The main characters are fun and memorable and are given some development in this sequel. Walter Mabry and Lulu are two new standout characters that I hope to see again in part 3. However, the FBI characters on the trail of The Horsemen feel like afterthoughts. I often forgot they were in the movie.
- Cinematography – The film looks great. The magic feats pulled by the characters are a blast to watch unfold.
- Story – The story is half-baked at times but still a ton of fun, with many twists and turns to boot. Now You See Me 2 pushes the series in an interesting direction and I’m excited about the next round.
- Acting – Great acting all around with Daniel Radcliffe, Jesse Eisenberg and Lizzy Caplan being standouts.