Now You See Me 2 Review
AN UNDERWHELMING SECOND ACT
Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see” was the famous tagline used in the 2013 movie Now You See Me. Directed by Louis Leterrier, this film followed the exploits of the “Four Horsemen”, four gifted magicians (Atlas, McKinney, Reeves, and Wilder) who pull off large-than-life magic tricks in a “Robin Hood-esque” style against insurance magnate Arthur Tressler, causing ire for him with FBI agent Dylan Rhodes in hot pursuit of the Four Horsemen. While the movie faced mixed reviews from both critics and fans, Now You See Me went on to have box office success, gaining over a little bit over $350 million at worldwide box office. Not bad against its production budget of $75 million. Three years later, the Horsemen are back as Summit Entertainment and director Jon M. Chu present the next act with Now You See Me 2. Does this sequel have enough magic up its sleeve or is it’s a failed movie act of magic and illusions?
Roughly a year after running business tycoon Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) and putting the magician “debunker” Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) behind bars, the foursome magician group “The Horsemen”, consisting of J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), and newcomer Lula (Lizzy Caplan), have been in hiding, trying to keep out of sight, waiting for the omniscient being “The Eye” to set up a new mission for them. Purpose is given to them when Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) appears, gathering up the team to takedown a powerful telecommunications company has perfected a computer program capable of stealing and selling anyone’s information. With a plan set in motion, the Horsemen are sent to disrupt a corporate presentation and take the weapon. However, things don’t go according to plan as secretive tech guru Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) intervenes, throwing a wrench in the Horsemen’s plans with deception, a tempting job heist offer, and help from McKinney’s twin brother Chase (also played by Woody Harrelson). Throw into the mix is Bradley, who returns with the knowledge behind Mabry as well as Rhode’s past as the FBI agent’s dual life of is finally uncovered his superiors. All of this ties together with one last, unprecedented stunt by the Horsemen to clear their names and unveil the mastermind “behind the curtain”.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
For what it was worth, I did like Now You See Me. Sure, it was, at times, a little nonsensical with its magic trickery that doesn’t fully seem believable. But its cast was fun to watch and pull of tricks in a sort of “Ocean’s Eleven” type heist that pulls it altogether in the end. Like I said, for what it was, it was enjoyable for some entertainment thrills in mindless “magical” fun. When I heard that they were going to take a sequel to Now You See Me, I was little bit interested, but kind of leery as the movie didn’t warrant a theatrical follow-up. Still, my interest to see it trumped my doubt as I decided to check Now You See Me 2. What did I think of it? Well….it had some moments, but Now You See Me 2 is, more or less, the same act as the first one, but less exciting and less impressionable on a viewer.
With director Louis Leterrier not returning to the project, the baton is placed onto director Jon. M Chu to helm Now You See Me 2. Chu, most recognizable for directing such movies as G.I. Joe: Retaliation and several of movies of the Step Up franchise, takes this next installment and makes it a little bit more “streamlined” than the first one as the world of magic and mysticism seems to take a little bit of a backseat. Granted, magic and all its tricks are still ever much present, but it’s not as heavily implied in the movie’s narration. Thus, Chu makes the story in Now You See Me 2 a little bit breezier, seeing the return of “The Horsemen” as the superhero champions that are being sent on a heist mission by the illusive organization “The Eye”. Chu also excels at creating several exciting set pieces as well as some fun magic tricks. This is especially seeing in the film’s second act, seeing “The Horsemen” pull off a string of “keep away” with a playing card. To me, probably the best scene in the entire movie.
Coinciding with its set pieces, Now You See Me 2 is still aesthetically pleasing to the eye. With locations (New York, China, and London), set designs, costumes, cinematograhy and musical score (done by Brian Tyler) are done with well. The film usage of CGI is natural one (something that I expected that they would use) and does help the movie’s character pull off something elaborate magic trickery.
Unfortunately, Now You See Me 2 stumbles in its magical presentation. The biggest trouble comes in the form of the entire movie. I mean, the first movie was good (like I said I liked It), but it really didn’t warrant a sequel film to be made. Thus, I kind of feel that Now You See Me 2 (as a whole) is completely superfluous as a movie. In addition, the film’s plot gets somewhat convoluted. It has a main plot thread of a common heist thriller, with “The Horsemen” pulling it off to clear their names, but it all gets bogged down with betrayals, the return of familiar faces, and a big show-stopper comeback.
Speaking of that, the third act plays out similar to the ending of the first movie and sort of “diminishes” the whole effective of what the Chu and his crew. Because of this, the tricks “The Horsemen” pull off (in the big finale) sometimes can be obvious. There’s even one scene that’s presented illogically wrong (where one character is one place and then reappears in another place and then cuts back to the character in the first place). That’s just bad editing right there. Lastly, the first movie had a fresh and new fascination about the magic, magicians, and pull off some elaborate tricks. Unfortunately, familiarity creeps into this sequel as has a great sense of “déjà vu”.
The cast of Now You See Me 2 is a great one, collective group of recognizable Hollywood actors that bring their charisma to the proceedings, which does help as the movie doesn’t devote time to create great characterizations for its characters, causing them to be a little shallow. This can be seeing in the return of “The Horsemen”. Actors Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, and Dave Franco all return to their post as Mckinney, Atlas, Wilder (and do good work in their roles), but that’s thanks to likeability and acting talents to the actors and not to their characters, which are, more or less, the same from the first one with little to no growth. Harrelson does get too have more fun and more screen time than his co-stars as he plays his character (Merritt) from the first film, but also Merritt’s twin brother (Chase), who Harrelson plays with a goofy and playful manner. With actress Isla Fisher not returning for this sequel, her character of Henley Reeves is written out and see the newest addition to “The Horsemen” come forth with actress Lizzy Caplan playing Lula. Being a new character, Caplan’s Lula is afforded more time in this movie and she does a pretty good job, bringing her comedy angst with the rest of her Horsemen co-stars, but (again) her character isn’t well-drawn out. They even try to do a little romance between her and Dave Franco’s Wilder, but it falls flat and doesn’t pan out.
Free from the surprise twist that the first film placed on him, actor Mark Ruffalo is given more time to create a tad bit more well-rounded with his character of Dylan Rhodes. In truth, the character of Rhodes is the only one in the story (both in this movie and its predecessor) that has a complete story arc as Now You See Me 2 present him more in the central spotlight and Ruffalo does a great job as Rhodes. Also, Ruffalo spend most of the film alongside returning character Thaddeus Bradley, played by Morgan Freeman as the two actors use their talents to drum up some great dynamics scenes between both characters.
Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter himself!) joins the cast of Now You See Me 2 as the film’s antagonist Walter Mabry. The first scene with Radcliffe’s Mabry is a great one and shows a great presence for him and his character. However, after that, his character becomes a tad bit annoying and underwhelming; a thinly sketched villain. To me, it’s kind of hard to see Radcliffe as anything else other than “the boy who lived”. In more supporting roles are Sanaa Lathan as Deputy Director Natalie Austin, Jay Chou as Li, and Tsai Chin as Li’s grandmother Bu Bu. Other characters from the first film return, including David Warshofsky as FBI agent Cowan and another character who I can’t mention because it might spoil the movie (it rhymes with Fichael Baine)
The Horsemen are back with their second magic act in Now You See Me 2. Director Jon M. Chu follow-up sequel to the original 2013 movie has its moments of shining, offering up a breezy feature of magical tricks a plenty and a great cast. Unfortunately, while entertaining, the film is a shallow endeavor, playing with the “same old tricks” as the first installment with a befuddled plot, thinly cutout caricatures, and a sort of “deja vu” premise. Personally, the movie was just okay (a bit predictable and formulaic) and didn’t really warrant a theatrical sequel. Unless you were a die-hard fan of the first movie, Now You See Me 2 is best viewed as a rental. With tricks, magic, and a heist plot device returning again with a shell of a script, this second go-round with “The Horsemen” is underwhelming and unnecessary.
2.9 Out of 5 (Rent It)
Released On: June 10th, 2016
Reviewed On: June 12th, 2016
Now You See Me 2 is rated PG-13 for language, some violence, and sexual content