Sorry this was late. I’ve been busy moving into a new apartment. Two posts this week.
I love magic. I love magicians. I love magic tricks and illusions. Always have, ever since I was a kid. My folks don’t like going to places with magicians much. I think it has something to do with a fear of con artists and robbery. Understandable, but it means I have to take what I can get when it comes to magic tricks. This mainly comes in the form of documentaries and specials about magic tricks and illusions. Or in my love of behind the scenes material for movie magic. I just find it fun. So, naturally, I enjoyed the hell out of Now You See Me and now its sequel Now You See Me 2.
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE ENDING OF NOW YOU SEE ME
Firstly, my quick thoughts on the first film: Like I said, I enjoyed the hell out of it. I liked the actors and their characters. The action was solid, it combined one of my favourite genres, crime drama thriller, with magic artistry and one of my favourite sub genres, the heist movie, I found the plot interesting, and Jesse Eisenberg hadn’t played Lex Luthor yet. It’s not my favourite film, and not even my favourite heist movie, but I consider it a good one and is probably one of my favourites of 2013. Top 5, easy and considering things like Frozen, Gravity, Iron Man 3 and Catching Fire came out that year, that’s saying something. I liked the twist with Mark Ruffalo’s character Dylan and his revenge plot at the end and was always hoping for a sequel.
Now we have one.
18 months after the events of the first film, with Isla Fisher’s character Henley having left the group in between movies, the Horsemen have been in hiding waiting for instructions from the secret society of magicians called The Eye while their leader FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes keeps the authorities off their scent by acting as a disgruntled agent obsessed with their case. Finally, they have a new job with newcomer Lula May, played by Lizzy Caplan, to complete their foursome. However, something goes wrong and the Horsemen suddenly find themselves halfway across the world and pawns in a larger scheme while Dylan struggles to bring them home. Even if it means working with his greatest enemy.
First off, the casting change. Yes, I’m sad they replaced the only female in the group and we don’t really know what happened to Henley in story, the actress was pregnant at the time, but Lula’s a good addition. Not really necessary, but I liked her just fine. Her personality was different enough from the others’ and she added a fresh pair of eyes.
The other characters are like you remember them, Danny is arrogant, which ends up getting them into trouble, Merritt is the hypnotist, and Jack is the slight of hand guy. They’re not totally complex, though Danny does get some growth and Merritt gets more of a backstory, But that’s because this isn’t the Horsemen’s story. It’s Dylan’s.
Like the last movie, the story is part of a long game. That game is the story of Dylan getting closure after his father’s death. In the last movie, he got revenge. He punished the people responsible. Here, he gets to achieve true closure. He faces his past and gets to finally move on with his life. He’s a Horseman like the others, but he and the others use their skills as vigilantes. They’re not criminals. He may be on the other side of the law in these situations, but he’s still a cop. He still believes in justice.
Let’s talk about the villain for a second: Daniel Radcliffe. …God, this was surreal. I’m pretty sure this is the first thing I’ve seen him in post Harry Potter and while at first I was like “Bearded Harry Potter is the bad guy” eventually I got past that. It just took me a bit to look past my Harry Potter nostalgia. Kinda hard when so much Harry Potter stuff is coming out this year. …Can you tell I like Harry Potter? Anyway, he’s still a good actor and I enjoyed hating him here.
And of course, there’s Morgan Freeman….Nuff said.
The setting change to China for half the film is welcome as the first film took place mainly in America and Europe. I think there’s some old wise Asian stereotypes, but it does ultimately contribute to plot and it’s cool to see an old Chinese lady burn a guy over the old ‘If I talk slow and use sound effects, the person whose language I haven’t bothered to learn will understand me’ thing I’ve seen in a few other movies. There’s less action in this than the first film, but Dylan does have one or two good fight scenes that stand out. Most other big scenes as mostly tension with magic tricks, but they’re fun. Plus, the film avoids a gender stereotype in heist films. Kudos. However, there’s also some gay jokes…Imma maybe take that kudos back.
This is not the greatest film in the world. It’s not gonna change your life if you don’t see it. It’s probably not even as good as the first (I need to rewatch the first to make that assessment), but what sequel is? It’s just a good popcorn flick. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, and at the end of the day it’s nice to just watch a fun movie every now and again. It’s not entirely like the first one to call it a ’rehash of the first film’ type of sequel like so many others. It’s definitely its own story while evolving the B plot of the first. Like I said, it’s a long game. Not bad, for the director of Jem and the Holograms.
A sequel is in the planning stages and, while I’m not sure where they’re gonna go with it now that Dylan’s story seems to be wrapped up, I’m still looking forward to it.
(Photo via Summit Entertainment)