Edited review published and written for Film Inquiry
2016 is already shaping up to become the year of reboots and sequels, whether or not they are deemed desirable or not is a different matter. Now You See Me indeed worked as a solo endeavour back when the magic was introduced three years previous. The existence of the sequel may come as a surprise to some, due to the mixed responses circling the first instalment. Yet, the success that followed in the box office did prove enough to induce the development of the second act.
Personally, I’m a firm believer that the first film holds a successful level of magical display, coupled alongside humour to create an enjoyable spectacle. When viewing the complex scenes of deception, I’m consistently left in awe of the construction and fabrication of card wizardry. all of which ultimately exposes the lies of influential individuals. Due to these previous endeavours, I must admit, I held high hopes for the sequel.
Magic in films can be rather hit or miss, depending on how it is perceived. When fiction is involved, the fantasy of outlandish tricks and performances can be a contributor for entertainment, as long as they aren’t given too much thought. The magic of Now You See Me is one that could be considered plausible during most of the time (there are a couple of exceptions to this, that can be later explored). It is because of these impressive feats that makes this instalment equally as enjoyable.
The Magical Foursome
The cast is almost indistinguishable from the previous feature, with only a couple of additions to the central circle of characters. With the familiar faces of Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco remerging in their accustomed magical glory, they are joined by newbie horseman Lizzy Caplan who is quick to establish her up-front and self-assertive character amongst the existing deviants. The acting from these four is brilliant throughout. They display the ability to work in alliance as an operating unit, while still being able to maintain levels of playful competition between each other.
Whether or not her entry into the group is commended can be debated thoroughly. Theres no doubt that her entrance alone was impressive, demonstrating a bold beheading illusion to compliment her striking speech that follows. It’s difficult not to compare her female predecessor portrayed by Isla Fisher, nevertheless, she achieves somewhat of a successful attempt at getting up on the same level as her new comrades. The exit of Fisher is accounted for directly, thanks to the script explaining it through dialogue between two protagonists.
My only doubt with Caplan was her display of street magic. When comparing her choice of illusion to that of Eisenberg and Franco, there is a evident lack of excitement or audience thrill in the female crusade’s performance. This may, in some cases, come down to the script that was provided. For the most part, new levels of charisma are provided from this new character that are welcomed amongst the crew, although some dialogue did clash at times (she really didn’t need to break the ice in the elevator).
Contrasting the uncertain judgement of Caplan’s character is the supplements provided by star Daniel Radcliffe. Standing in as what can been seen as the predominant antagonist opposing the horsemen, Radcliffe does fail to contribute much towards plot developments. Put in the role as the dominant ‘bad guy’, his character – a power driven youngster who strives to take control of individuals – lacks any tangible status against the well established foursome. His persona established in the wizarding moral world of Harry Potter does falter his capabilities to come across as the bad guy.
My main query is what this new addition was intended to contribute, as he is soon overshadowed by Michael Caine, who already holds some history with the vigilante protagonists. Yet, despite that slight weak spot, the associated stars continue to shine brilliantly just as they did previously.
Crossing the Borders of Realism
This is a film of magic, no doubt about it. The spectacular exhibits of illusion are demonstrated through sequences of vast sleight of hand that repeatedly stimulates questions. The plot can be considered to have over-complicated stunts, but it is because of these extravagant endeavours that allows the feature to become so entertaining to view and relish in the idealistic scenes. The tricks and twists may sometimes cross the line of reality, which then raises questions regarding the fundamental actuality of the events. As the film is based in a real and non-fictitious environment, there is reason to believe that the tricks performed on screen are to be plausible in this seemingly ordinary surrounding.
All in all, there are still questions left unanswered. Was the computer chip a hoax all along? What lies next for the horsemen? Who really is Morgan Freeman? After having viewed the two hours of deception, I do begin to wonder more about the production behind the impressive feats and conjurations. One main reason for my interest is the lab scene, a scene is able to grab everyones attention. In said scene, a single card is wondrously manoeuvred around the room between the foursome in seemingly unimaginable ways. In the duration of this marvellous performance, the men investigating their possessions are blissfully unaware of the ongoings. It’s spellbinding to contemplate the production levels that are put forward in order to create such flawless imagery. Yet, I also begin to wonder if such a trick could be pulled off in real life, without the magic of cameras and video manipulation.
This second act for the four horsemen proves to supply more entertaining displays of magic and impressive scenes of whit and humour. It gives a new perspective from what we saw previously – with the control taken away from protagonists, and thus forces them to find a way to turn the tables in their favour. The introduction of different environments, such as China, brings forwards alternative places for the magicians to explore. All of which can provide extra elements to build on from the previous instalment.
Despite coming across masses of contradictory reviews slating the sequel, I can’t help but thoroughly enjoy the endeavours. The tricks are flawless and the blend of characters are diverse and engaging to follow. Just need to enjoy the magic for what it is – a deceiving and enjoyable source of entertainment.