Review: Louis Leterrier’s Now You See Me pointed out that there’s a world where CGI-laden magic show could be amalgamated with Ocean Eleven-esque heist and micro-conspiracy into making the year’s sleeper-hit. It takes 3 years for Lionsgate to bring back that world – where magicians create more hypes than any bands ever existed – into a bigger, darker sequel, Now You See Me 2.
Remember, Now You See Me is never a film where magic becomes its ‘journey.’ The magic tricks are only used as ‘vehicle’ to a bigger heist scheme, and that’s where it’s gonna be again in the sequel.
Taking place a year following the first film, Now You See Me 2 brings back the Four Horsemen, which now consist of Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), the recently-‘resurrected’ Jake Wilder (Dave Franco), and newcomer, Lula May (Lizzy Caplan) who replaces Henley (previously portrayed by Isla Fisher, who left the production). As orchestrated by Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffallo) on behalf of The Eye, the Four Horsemen attempts to make a comeback by unraveling an evil plan by a techno-geek; only to be interrupted by Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), a rich young egghead who has a hidden agenda for the Horsemen.
As per unwritten standard in Hollywood sequel rules, Now You See Me 2 also goes double size. It ticks the entire sequel to-do list: bigger set-pieces, bigger ensemble of cast (reuniting the old gangs with additional bigger names like Radcliffe, Jay Chou and… one more Woody Harrelson), longer duration, and further geographical scopes – from U.S. to Macau to London. All the ‘popcorn’ fun parts from the first film – minus some complexities – are pumped all the way up resulting in a more explosive feature… with less density.
If you remember, Now You See Me were really having fun with its dumb complexity and piles of coming-from-nowhere twists… and it’s all okay. Apparently, Now You See Me 2 attempts to use the same formula by twisting what’s left of the first film with less wits. However, its attempt falls short in one basic principle: lack of creativity.
Even the title reflects the sequel’s lack of imagination. Why adding only a gimmicky ‘2’ in the title if you could take it to the next level with ‘Now You Don’t’ which feels more trivial and, possibly, more creative. Same goes with the script; instead of exploring more possibilities, Ed Solomon and Peter Chiarelli as the writers only repeat what’s been successful and add a little more stake, just like putting ‘2’ behind Now You See Me.
Lucky, Now You See Me 2 could still manage to maintain the over-the-top-ness of the predecessor. Substituting director Louis Leterrier to Jon M. Chu might slightly change the basic. Leterrier makes the first film flashy, blatant and heist-focused; yet, M. Chu is a completely different kind of director. The latter is truly a choreographer – helming two sequels of Step Up and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never; he’s way slicker and more elegant in choreograph the magic tricks, which is a plus point.
Chu is lucky to have all committed casts blending in veterans with promising young ones. Woody Harrelson portrays two characters at once; Jesse Eisenberg plays his traditional uncompromising character; or Daniel Radcliffe portrays a sloppy villain are never a problem. Isla Fisher’s departure is compensated perfectly with Lizzy Caplan’s explosive performance; while addition of Jay Chou doesn’t make any difference.
Whatever committed the casts are and however talented the new director is, the weak script is taking its toll. With more of everything but creativity, Now You See Me 2 can still appear fun and fierce; but it just can’t really deliver its full potential if it refuses to accept its dumbness and keeps playing smart, while we know it is not.
Now You See Me 2 (2016)
Action, Comedy, Thriller Directed by: Jon M. Chu Written by: Ed Solomon, Pete Chiarelli Starred by: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Caine, Lizzy Caplan, Jay Chou Runtime: 129 mins Rated PG-13