Now You See Me 2

Now You See Me (2013) was a surprise on so many levels. Itwas not part of a well-known franchise; heck, it didn’t even have any superheroes. Yet, director Louis Leterrier’s (The Transporter) little gem about thieving magicians captured the hearts of fans around the world. In fact, it’s still a joy to watch today.

But can its inevitable sequel retain the same magic?

Now You See Me 2 brings back three of the four magicians from the original film — Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco). Also know as “The Horsemen”, these “Robin Hood” magicians have been in hiding for a year since they fleeced insurance magnate Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) and framed Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a TV personality who debunks magic.

FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is working with the current trio — as well as new “girl horseman”, Lula (Lizzy Caplan) — on their comeback onto the world stage. His plan is to utilise their steal-from-the-rich reputation and tactics, to expose the illegal practices of the world’s leading tech guru. During their return “performance”, things go awry and they find themselves the target of law enforcement, as well as under the influence of another tech prodigy, Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe, the boy wizard himself from the Harry Potter franchise). Walter has new plans for the magical foursome which involve an impossible heist. While pulling off this latest stunt, they are confronted with a few of their enemies from the past.

While a sequel to successful Now You See Me was always going to happen — it made $US350 million worldwide at cinemas, proving it has an undeniable global appeal — is it actually necessary? The daunting task for director Jon M. Chu (G.I. Joe: Retaliation) is to find a fresh storyline to rival the original. While Chu has found a different path for the central characters, in the end it only turns out to become a small pile of magic dust.

In an apparent attempt at originality with this sequel, Chu manages to miss the point of what made the first film sparkle. The magnificent original cast of Ruffalo, Eisenberg, Franco, Harrelson and Isla Fisher (who hasn’t returned for this sequel) filled their roles perfectly. They provided the tension and enthusiasm required by their characters. But even with the fresh face and humour of Caplan, this latest instalment of the magical Now You See Me adventures feels tired. The original cast’s familiarity with their roles causes them to be less than enthusiastic with this outing. The confidence they were allowed to portray first time around has been lost, so the cast acts as if it is unsure of each step it takes. When Radcliffe is introduced as the villain, he adds an uncomfortable but convincing atmosphere that shows some promise. Then Chu feels the need to bring in other villains, adding to the overcooked feel of the rest of the film.

The special effects and tricks are fascinating to watch, but they lack the lustre and polish of the first chapter in this potential trilogy (Yes, a third film has already been greenlit). Also, the central element that made Now You See Me work so well was its brilliant twist and ultimate revenge plot. This causes viewers to be looking for something similar within this second magical chapter and, without giving anything away, let’s say that what the sequel’s storyline leaves us with is not the same level of satisfaction.

Now You See Me 2 ultimately leaves the rabbit in the hat and fails to deliver the same magic of the first film. I loved the first one, but the disappointing sequel does not quite have the same magic. The cast seems to be lost or bored throughout Now You See Me 2, the same feelings it left me with, by the end.

What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?

At different times in Jesus’s ministry, he was labelled as a magician and sorcerer. Yet, unlike the magic of this film that is debunked and proven to be mere illusion, Jesus did not utilise magic to preform his miracles. Repeat: Jesus wasn’t a magician. Instead, he proved there was something more powerful behind his signs of wonder. Unlike an illusionist who seeks to entertain and mystify his audience, Jesus preformed His miracles to point to God and, eventually, to the ultimate “reveal” of his purpose of salvation for the world.

  1. Does the Bible have anything to say about magic? (Leviticus 19:21, 1 John 4:1)
  2. What can we learn about miracles from Jesus? (John 6:1-14, Matthew 15:32-39)
  3. Is God a mystery? (Colossians 2:2-3, Ephesians 3:5)

Adrian Drayton

Adrian Drayton is the Director of Reel Dialogue. A film critic and commentator on culture for 20 years, he believes in the power of cinema and the power of God to start conversations about faith and culture. He is also a massive Star Wars nerd.