*Warning: major spoilers for both Now You See Me movies
For starters, let’s recap the first movie. Now You See Me, directed by Louis Leterrier, was a surprise hit of 2013, reminding us that magicians are kinda cool I guess, and hey, isn’t that the Hulk? The first film followed four individual magicians who are brought together by something called The Eye, a mysterious magician organization that directs them to do three big magic shows and act as robin-hood characters, giving rich people’s money to the poor. Trying to track them down is FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), who has enough time in his busy schedule of being a magician mastermind/FBI agent/The Eye correspondent/Avenger/sad little orphan to have an annoying little romance with another FBI agent (Melanie Laurent). Along for the ride is narrator extraordinaire Morgan Freeman playing himself and Michael Caine, who is there to make me think for eight seconds that this is a Christopher Nolan movie.
I despised this first movie. I hated all the “protagonists” and their gimmicks and general mean personas. I hated the plot, which relied on someone being able to plan every move the other characters were going to make- I haven’t seen that in a movie before (sarcasm alert)! I hated magic tricks that were obviously made with special effects- anyone can do card tricks with jump cuts! I wasn’t impressed with anything.
But my friend sure was, and she took me to see Now You See Me 2 (which really should have been called, Now You Don’t). Now You See Me 2 takes place a year after the first film. The Four Horseman are now a bonafide group, with a new lady magician, Lulu (Lizzy Caplan, a million times more interesting and funnier than Isla Fisher), and their own group dynamics. They have been waiting around in secret as fugitives, waiting for their ringleader Dylan Rhodes to give them instruction on their next move. He’s getting his plans from The Eye, who we still don’t know anything about.
Finally Dylan has their next mission. They are going to hijack a big company announcement and exploit the con CEO and tell the audience about how their privacy is being sold. All is going well until the lights suddenly switch off. A distorted face appears on screen, revealing Dylan’s true identity. The FBI start to chase the group down. The magicians jump into a chute that is supposed to get them to safety…
But they wake up instead to find themselves in Macau.
I made a handy little cheat sheet to understanding this movie. I’m pretty sure this cheat sheet was what the writer used to create every scene in the film.
Go to… hell
In that order, in every scene.
As I was watching the film, I started to feel confused. Wait, I was laughing? No! I’m against this movie! Hold on…I have to admit, that was pretty cool. And man, I love that actor. Lizzy Caplan is great! That joke was perfect. What’s happening?!
NYSM2 does the incredible feat of fixing everything I hated about the first movie, and still making a bad movie. This time around, there is no exhausting setup. The film assumes you remembered everything from the first movie. In this film, the characters are more interesting, but there are way too many of them. The first film had a boring finale, this film has a finale that makes no sense. The first film was slick and empty, this film tries way too hard to have an emotional core and dramatic backstory to give it umph. In this film, Mark Ruffalo and Jesse Eisenberg get worse lines but better hair.
Now You See Me 2 is sloppy. The plot revolves around a mumbo-jumbo plot MacGuffin and absurd tricks that are clearly CGI and movie-magic. There are some truly cringe-inducing lines. All the characters are given long, drafty monologues about what is going on and what is going to happen in future movies. And the film obviously caters to Chinese audiences, giving us a promising young Chinese character who doesn’t get to do anything in the movie except be available for the press tour.
But despite all this, I was enchanted. I liked the location change, even if I know it’s just for the box-office numbers. The tricks are cool, even though it’s not real magic. The actors have such good chemistry the dialogue is easy to ignore. Having all the characters be unified as a team creates a lot more on-screen interest and development. There are some fantastic jokes that had me in stitches. Once again, Daniel Radcliffe proves his best roles are magic ones.
Now You See Me 2 is not a great film. I cannot recommend you go see it if you didn’t have interest in it already. However, for what it’s worth, I had a smile on my face the entire time. The ensemble factor was wonderful. There were some incredible jokes that landed perfectly. I was in suspense. I wanted this little gang of magician vigilantes to be best friends and conquer the world. And for the movie that it is, I’ll take that.