Written By Matt Gilbert
Now You See Me has been a guilty pleasure of mine since it first released in 2013. The outlandish character names, the unbelievable plot, the twist that everyone hated. I loved it all. It’s an adventure surrounding magicians and heists, two genres that can always be further explored, with a deck full of actors I never get tired of seeing, and new takes on magic I could never have imagined.
So when the first trailer broke six months ago and everyone wondered aloud who asked for a Now You See Me 2, I was the one slowly raising his hand replying, “I did.”
Lucky for me, Jon M. Chu picked up right where Louis Leterrier left off and delivered a sequel that’s a little rough around the edges, but undeniably recaptures the, *ahem*, magic of the original with a focus on developing its story and its characters.
The strongest aspect of the Four Horsemen is the presence they command onstage during their performances and how the modern crowd can’t get enough of the entertainers/criminals. While this movie delivers surprisingly few magic tricks, the audience can certainly feel the energy the Horsemen get from their adoring public. After all, they are entertainers, not just magical Robin Hoods. It’s the ego this energy drives that gets them both into their current predicament and out of it. Chu understands this and emphasizes it so that every Horseman’s motivation is easily understood, even underneath their own smaller side plots.
Nearly all the actors for the main heroes and villains all return with more of what made them such unpredictable and entertaining people. Daniel Radcliffe takes the stage as the film’s neurotic and homicidal antagonist, and it’s a pleasure to see how much fun he obviously has with the role. Sadly, Isla Fisher could not return and her position has been filled by Lizzy Caplan as a quirky up and coming magician named Lula. She fits in surprisingly well with the other magicians, and their various interactions and character flaws are what give the film its unique spirit and keep the plot a guessing game right up until the end.
The plot of this film is interestingly thought out. As a sequel should, it builds on the themes and developments established in its predecessor. Now You See Me 2 is clearly focused on developing its characters, in particular Daniel Atlas (Eisenberg) struggling with his previously established control issues and wanting to take the role as the Horsemen’s leader away from Dylan (Ruffalo), who is himself working through his previously established fear of abandonment, as well as the realization that the Horsemen might not need him after all. Underneath that, there’s an ongoing goal of the Horsemen improving their skills as a team and working as a single organism instead of any one of them trying to outdo the others.
The stimulating characteristic is where in the first movie every move the Horsemen made was already set out for them by someone else. In this movie, it isn’t. Instead we get to see their unrehearsed, genuine selves. We see them get duped, make mistakes and plan their heists and shows themselves. And therefore we get to see them succeed, or fail, on their own merits as “the world’s greatest magicians.” It culminates in a reveal at the end similar to that of the first movie, but it’s one that even I have trouble accepting and clearly was not the plan from the beginning. It raises more questions than answers, but it’s a minor detail that changes very little of the previous two hours.
I’m one of maybe a handful who liked Now You See Me and yes, asked for a sequel. It understood what I liked and delivered more of it. Those who hated it then won’t have their minds changed now due to another nonsensical and thoroughly confounding ending. But its characters and magic tricks keep it alive to almost the very last abracadabra.