Despite the great cast and fun magic tricks, this lackluster sequel lacks the smarts and intrigue of its predecessor.
I want to start by saying that I wanted to like this film. I really wanted to like this film. In fact, I’ve been waiting for it eagerly since its announcement. This is why I was so disappointed when it just didn’t live up to the hype and spectacle of its predecessor. I absolutely adored Now You See Me when it came out; it was a completely fresh story with wonderful actors, brilliant twists and just such incredibly cool magic trick sequences. Now You See Me 2… not so much. Unless I am seriously mis-remembering the first film, or 15 year old me was a complete idiot, this was a serious step down.
After an initial flashback scene in 1984, which shows the death of Lionel Shriek and his young son Dylan on the sidelines, the story kicks off 18 months after the first film, and the Horsemen have been in hiding since the last film’s events. They are waiting for instructions from their leader, Dylan (Mark Ruffalo), the FBI agent who revealed himself to be a part of ‘the eye’. We learn that Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) is anxious under the new leadership, and wants to take control, ignoring Dylan’s constant reminder to the Horsemen that they need to “work as if they are a single organism”. However, when their first public trick sees them coming under attack, they end up as part of a plot that they are unwilling to be a part of- stealing the computer chip created by entrepreneur/tech genius Walter Maybry (Daniel Radcliffe).
The plot isn’t necessarily what’s wrong with this film- it’s a pretty standard sequel type narrative. It’s everything else that causes problems. Mark Ruffalo (apologies me for saying this dear Hulk), just wasn’t believable. Having now been revealed to the audience as working alongside the Horsemen, the scenes where he’s in the FBI just feel like the fakeness of his character is dripping off him- it’s a tangible presence in the room and it made me cringe. He’s a pretty crap double agent. Admittedly, as the film goes on, his acting does pick up slightly, but I just didn’t quite believe it.
Actually, the characters are a big reason as to why the film falls short of its potential. NYSM2 introduces quite a few new characters. The most important of these are Lula (Lizzy Caplan), Walter Maybry, and Chase McKinney (Woody Harrelson playing his own twin). Lula, although providing comic relief, is very clearly there just because the producers knew they need a woman in the main cast to avoid controversy, and Isla Fisher didn’t return. She appears from nowhere, and suddenly she just seems to be part of the gang and knows exactly how to fit in in the exact same way that Henley (Isla Fisher) did in the first one. Lizzy Caplan is charming and funny in the role, but it feels like that’s all she is. And don’t even get me started on how forced and unnecessary the romantic dynamic between her and Jack (Dave Franco) was.
Radcliffe, (yes as in everyone’s fave boy-wizard) plays the main antagonist of the movie, and he’s not a very interesting one. The reveal that he was the son of Michael Caine’s character from the first film felt weak and convoluted, and if anything, just lessened his credibility. His motives were weak, especially when he was meant to be the main opposition to the Horsemen. Also, his character is just a spoilt, rich brat and even Daniel Radcliffe, as good as an actor he is, can’t bring interest to a character so stereotypical and unexciting. Chase McKinney, admittedly, gives Woody Harrelson the opportunity to be his hilarious self. Apart from that, he adds nothing. It’s tacky, poorly played and a little bit weird.
As well as this, the narrative just got a bit too predictable. My brother pointed out to me as we were leaving the cinema that that’s the attraction of the Horsemen though- they do the most obvious thing and still get away with it. However, I would have at least liked some plot twists that weren’t so anti-climatic. Also, the ending seemed to be a neat, Disney-esque resolution, where everything ties together perfectly and all the good guys are happy and the bad guys are put away, and that just felt like lazy writing.
Don’t get me wrong, this film isn’t all bad. It’s an entertaining watch, especially when it comes to all the scenes where you actually get to watch magic tricks, which all made me smile like a child. As well as this, the original cast still have great chemistry, even with Caplan replacing Fisher. Also, Dave Franco is in it and he smiles- that’s enough to light up the world, is it not?
Unfortunately, this sequel was just not what it could (and should) have been, and I really rather wish that they left Now You See Me alone. A surprisingly perfect and magical film was followed up by the type of magic show you see at a school- you desperately try to pick out all the good bits, but at the end of the day, you’re not sure if it’s enough to redeem it.
Now You See Me 2, directed by Jon M. Chu, is distributed by Entertainment One,certificate 12A.