The original Now You See Me was a great “watch in the middle of the day” kind of movie. All I really wanted from the sequel was to be just as good at being that kind of movie and, I think, they succeeded.
It’s been roughly a year since the events of the first movie. Since that time, The Horsemen have been living in hiding while Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is continuing his shtick as a hapless FBI agent who can’t quite catch the elusive magicians. Meanwhile, Danny Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) is getting tired of living in hiding and thinks it would be better for him to lead the group. The Horsemen have also lost Henley (Isla Fisher in the previous film), who’s departure is shrouded in mystery. In order to replace her, Dylan brings in Lula (Lizzy Caplan). Lula seems to specialize in shock magic, or things that appear gross or horrifying, but are really just tricks. However, she’s clearly very accomplished at other kinds of magic as well. She’s also a big dorky fangirl when it comes to The Horesmen and The Eye.
When Dylan plans the group’s next big act of magical vigilante justice, things go sideways. They’re show is ruined by a mysterious figure. A distorted reveals that Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) faked his death and that Dylan, an FBI agent, has been the mastermind behind The Horsemen. When they try to flee the scene, they’re kidnapped and taken to China. Their captor is Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), an unimaginably rich tech mogul who faked his own death and lives completely off the grid. With the help of Merrit’s (Woody Harrelson) twin brother, who’s also a mentalist, Mabry was able to plant the seeds to bring The Horesmen to him. He sets them on a hunt for a card sized computer chip that he claims his old partner sold the design for. While the Horsemen are in China, Dylan turns to his old nemesis Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) for help in recovering his team. The Horsemen are able to complete the task after getting supplies from an old magic shop in China.
Eventually, it’s revealed that everything that’s going on is actually a trap set by Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) as revenge for what Dylan and The Horsemen did to him. It turns out that Mabry is his illegitimate son as well as a psychopath. They reveal all of this to Dylan before leaving him to die in the same safe that killed his father. Dylan is saved and the team regroups at the magic shop which, of course, is home to two old members of The Eye. Together they come up with a plan to take down Tressler and Mabry using some more spectacular magic. At the end of the film, the team is also let in on the big secret of The Eye.
I really enjoyed the first movie in this series and this one picks up right where it left off. There were some things that didn’t quite work or weren’t as good, but I don’t think they ruined the movie. The most notable/disappointing change for me was the absence of Isla Fisher. Now, you can’t really hold that against anyone because it was due to a pregnancy, but I did miss the movie having the feeling of the entire gang getting back together. I also thought that the movie didn’t really handle dismissing her very well. The explanation felt kind of shoe horned in. That was actually a problem with a lot of the plot. It felt like the movie was trying to cram a lot of story elements in and ended up leaving things feeling a little underdeveloped. They were also a lot more obvious about setting up elements of the tricks that were going to be used in the big set pieces of the movie, which took some of the mystery out of it.
This movie really was more about demonstrating some big magical stunts, or at least the idea of them. There were some impressive displays of manipulation and dexterity. One seen saw The Horsemen collectively manipulating a single card throughout a room in order to hide it from security. Yes, the scene used more CGI than I would’ve liked. Yes, the set-up for that sequence felt contrived. Even so, it was a really fun scene to watch. Similarly, I really loved the scene of Dylan fighting of Mabry’s henchmen using different deception and dexterity techniques. I absorbed the movie almost the same way I would a martial arts movie. There’s a point where you just have to go with some things the movie is doing in order to get to the fight pieces. It’s just that, in this case, the fighting is magic.
I also love the cast of this movie. I thought Lizzy Caplan’s Lola character was annoying at first, but even she grew on me throughout the movie. I also liked that the movie played a little more with the dynamic between the different members of The Horsemen. Specifically, the leader and ambitious understudy thing that Dylan and Danny had going on and the big brother, little brother dynamic between Jack and Merrit. The movie’s full of solid performances all the way around. However, the big surprise for me was Danielle Radcliffe. When you introduce Harry Potter into a movie about magicians, there’s a certain expectation of what he’s going to be doing, even if it’s only subconscious. However, I didn’t expect him to be the movie’s antagonist, let alone one who was so unhinged. I expected even less that I’d like it, but I really did. There was a moment where he was threatening Dylan that I thought to myself, “I really like evil Radcliffe”.
I really liked this entire movie. While I am under no delusion that the movie is great or even as good as its predecessor I do think that it’s a perfectly fitting sequel. They did try to do some bigger things with the magic, and continue the story of The Horsemen. More importantly, they made another fun summer movie. I don’t know how the box office did for this film, but I do hope that it did well enough for them to make the 3rd movie that the ending of this one hinted towards.
Now you See Me 2 (2016)
- They tried to make the magic tricks bigger and longer set pieces
- Danielle Radcliffe makes a great bad guy
- Keeps the feeling that you love from the first movie
- Story gets a little muddled/rushed
- No Isla Fisher (pregnancy)
- Some of the tricks are more obvious or suffer from too much setup