Now You See Me was an unexpectedly decent watch in 2013. A magic based heist thriller with an interesting plot and starring a decent ensemble of not quite A-list cast. It had humour, intrigue and genuine moments of tension.
What it did not have was an urgent need to be followed by a sequel. While there were some questions that were not entirely answered, most of the important ones were. The film left enough intrigue and ambiguity to make it interesting.
But having taken a lot of money at the box office – over $350m worldwide – it was perhaps inevitable that a sequel was going to be made. How does it stack up against the first one…?
Well, most of the old crew are back together with the exception of Isla Fisher who is instead replaced by Lizzy Caplan as the token female in a very male-heavy cast. Once again they are up magical hijinks. Here’s the official synopsis:
THE FOUR HORSEMEN [Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Lizzy Caplan] return for a second mind-bending adventure, elevating the limits of stage illusion to new heights and taking them around the globe. One year after outwitting the FBI and winning the public’s adulation with their Robin Hood-style magic spectacles, the illusionists resurface for a comeback performance in hopes of exposing the unethical practices of a tech magnate. The man behind their vanishing act is none other than WALTER MABRY [Daniel Radcliffe], a tech prodigy who threatens the Horsemen into pulling off their most impossible heist yet. Their only hope is to perform one last unprecedented stunt to clear their names and reveal the mastermind behind it all.
While Now You See Me 2 is not a bad film, it doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor. It certainly has some intrigue, sleight of hand both in terms of on screen action and the plot and some decent performances. However it somehow seems to lack the heart of the first film and really struggles to make some of its elements really fit.
Daniel Radcliffe was a great addition to the cast and plays his role perfectly, despite the potential for slight awkwardness at Harry Potter appearing in a film about magic! And Lizzy Caplan is a great addition adding a verve and humour that Isla Fisher did not. Unfortunately she is still largely a secondary character and it would have been great to have greater gender diversity in the film.
Possibly the only real misstep in terms of personnel for this film is the use of Woody Harrelson in two roles. Without wanting to give away any spoilers, it is a distraction that the film did not need and did very little to progress either the dramatic or comedic elements of the film.
In terms of the plot, where the first film was intriguing and at times unpredictable, Now You See Me 2 is far easier to predict. Perhaps it comes from having far fewer unknowns than the first film, but the big reveal at the end of this film is easily telegraphed from very early on While there are still a couple of neat twists, they are few and far between.
The magic and illusions have also been ramped up for the sequel and while the original obviously depended on GGI for some of the tricks rather than real magic, the sequel seems to take its CGI reliance to another level.
The setting is also somewhat strange. While the first film took place almost exclusively in the US, the sequel is clearly trying to tap into the largest movie market in the world, China, by taking our band of merry magicians on a trip to Macau. It seems like the vast majority of the film is set in China for no apparent reason. It’s followed by an equally inexplicable trip to London, where the FBI seemingly have full authority to act as they please…despite issues of authority and jurisdiction being a – admittedly fairly minor – plot point in the first film. It seems strange and somewhat distracting to take something that worked so well in the original – within the confines of a limited national setting (with the exception of some flashbacks to France) – and transpose that onto an international setting with a heavy focus on China.
Now You See Me 2 isn’t a bad film. It has some good moments, and for the most part, the acting is still good. However it is not without faults, with a slightly too convoluted plot and rather obvious twists that lack the imagination and surprise of the original.
Source: Now You See Me 2