Sunday, August 21, 2016

'Now You See Me 2' Does Not Quite Have the Same Hypnotic Sense of Fun That Its Predecessor Has

Back in 2013, critics weren’t too impressed with Now You See Me.  But me?  I loved it!  Thus, I was really looking forward to the sequel.

Now You See Me 2 is set a year after the events of the first movie.  Henley Reeves (played by Isla Fisher in the first movie) has left the Four Horsemen (in real life, Fisher was pregnant during production, so she wasn’t able to participate in this movie), and the remaining members – J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) – are in hiding, restlessly waiting for further instructions from The Eye via their handler, Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo).  But when they’re finally activated for a new mission – with new member Lulu May (Lizzy Caplan) taking Henley’s spot – their much awaited comeback doesn’t turn out as they planned, as they instead find themselves being taken to Macau, China, and coerced by the wily tech genius Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) to steal a rival’s data-mining hardware.
Just the same as the first movie, Now You See Me 2 didn’t get much love from the critics.  I guess those who liked the first one will still like this movie, while those who didn’t like the first one will only find here more things not to like.  I enjoyed this movie, though it didn’t blow me away as the first one.

What probably made me love the first movie was every second of it entertained me.  The execution and eventual reveals of the cons and magic tricks were done in a strongly delightful manner.  Thus, I was sufficiently distracted from any flaws – or forgave them easily when I thought about them retrospectively – because I was having too much fun.  Now You See Me worked liked the best kind of magic show or hypnosis act: it made the audience want to be fooled, thus, it was easy for it to do so.
On the other hand, Now You See Me 2 wasn’t able to sustain the hypnotic sense of fun in every moment.  Yes, it did so in most parts, and it has a couple of fresh exciting stunts and tricks.  But because of those moments in which the movie loses its hold on me, plot holes are easier to spot and be bothered about.  Well, either that, or the plot holes are just too sloppy and significantly hindering.  Thus, those who disliked the first movie for its plot holes will surely dislike the sequel more.

Many of the movie’s worst moments involve the character of Chase McKinney, Merritt’s twin brother (hence, also played by Woody Harrelson), who serves as Mabry’s henchman.  He’s annoying, and there’s really no reason why the character has to be Merritt’s twin.  Maybe Harrelson required it in his contract, that he would only do this movie if he could also play this character.

Meanwhile, the character I was expecting to hate turned out being fantastic: Lulu May.  When I learned Isla Fisher won’t be in this movie and that Henley would be replaced by a new character just so the Horsemen would remain “four” and have a female presence, I thought it was very problematic writing at work.  But Lulu turned out being a welcome, quirky presence.  I enjoyed the humor her character injects to the narrative.  Also, she probably contributed more as a Horseman than Henley ever did.
Lastly, the big twist in the end (SPOILERS) didn’t quite sit well with me.  It’s revealed that Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) – the bad guy in the first movie, the man whom Dylan blames for his father’s death that he schemed for many years in order to exact vengeance – is not a bad guy after all.  He’s actually a high-ranking member of The Eye, and he and Dylan’s father were good friends.  The bitter rivalry that they projected in public was just part of their mutual act.  This means Dylan’s terrific long con in the first movie was all for nothing – there’s actually no satisfying “revenge” or “justice” done.  Also, were the rest of The Eye unaware what Dylan was trying to accomplish against Thaddeus?  If yes, why did they still allow him to carry his con?  Why not just tell him the truth?  But the thing I hated most is that this means Dylan wasn’t quite “inside” The Eye yet as what his characterization implied in the first movie (for if he was, he would have been familiar with its officers).  Because of this, the character kind of lost the coolness factor in this respect (he had some cool fight sequences to somewhat make up for it though).

In the end, Now You See Me 2’s sense of fun is able to overcome its flaws and be a very entertaining movie overall.  I liked it a lot, but didn’t love it as I did the first movie.

No comments: