Now You See Me was a decent film. Perhaps the second-best Louis Leterrier film behind Transporter, it was also one of the most unique action films of its time, even though it suffered from paper-thin characters and massive plot holes. It successfully won a People’s Choice Award for best thriller movie, so clearly it has its fans. But enough for a sequel? It’d take more than sleight of hand to make that one believable.
I’ll start with the simple fact that Now You See Me 2 is better than the original. By some margin, in fact. Jon M. Chu isn’t anyone’s idea of an auteur, but this is easily his most impressive work to date. Where the original overuses jump cuts to create illusions that feel real only a couple times in the film, Chu manages to take the implausible world he was dealt and make something pretty cool out of it.
For instance, the first film uses a very convenient and bizarre misinterpretation of how hypnosis works, so the second one sets up Dave Franco trying and failing to hypnotize people with relatively normal hypnotic methods. The big reveal of the first one (that Mark Ruffalo’s Dylan was actually working with the Horsemen all along) is absolutely fucking preposterous, which is why in this one it becomes a secret that’s much harder to conceal.
Plus, I feel the cast is generally stronger in this one. Mark Ruffalo makes a better hero than he does a villain, Daniel Radcliffe is phenomenal, Woody Harrelson is good, other Woody Harrelson is even better, and Lizzy Caplan kind of blew me away. She’s one of the best-written female characters in a heist movie I’ve ever seen, and she’s so funny. Based on her, let’s say, poor track record of film roles, I really didn’t know she had it in her. Damn, Lizzy.
But even though they worked with the holes they had from the first one, there’s still a lot of shit that doesn’t make sense. Oh, it turns out that Morgan Freeman is a good guy, too. And he always knew that Ruffalo was a good guy, so now the first one makes even less sense. There’s also a big event at the very beginning that’s revealed to be a set-up, but it’s never revealed how they set it up. The implication is that the chip wasn’t real to begin with, so how did they convince everyone that it was? Is the tech guy working for the Eye? Was any of it real?
On the other hand, perhaps that’s part of the appeal of Now You See Me. You don’t know what’s real and what’s trickery. If I had to predict from clues throughout this one, I’d say we won’t find out what’s really going on until the end of the fourth movie (4Now4You4See4Me). Still, it’s a very entertaining movie, but you can’t throw these huge reveals in our faces and expect us to believe that everything suddenly makes sense now without going back and analyzing it. It really takes away from the overall spectacle of the film.
Still, I’d give it a B. It’s a solid improvement over the first one, and it has a lot of cool moments and great cinematography.