Sunday, June 12, 2016

Now You See Me 2 Review

Three years ago I was blown away by the surprise summer hit Now You See Me. If you haven't seen that movie, close this review now. If I'm to talk about this sequel, I need to tell you why I loved the first movie, which requires some mild spoilers. First off, the magic sequences in the movie was a ton of fun. Far-fetched and unrealistic? Perhaps. But still a ton of fun. And our group of magicians were fantastic. They had such great chemistry as a group and you could tell they had a ton of fun making the movie. But all that was the icing on the cake. The real reason why I loved the movie is that the movie itself was a magic trick. The theme of the movie was that magic was all about misdirection and slight of hand. The whole time you are focused on the group of magicians when the movie was really all about Mark Ruffalo's character. His story isn't hidden. In fact, it's right in front of your face. But you're so focused on the group of magicians that you don't pay attention to Mark Ruffalo's story. Misdirection. Slight of hand. The second time around the movie is a completely different film because you know where to focus on. Genius. But could they do it again with the sequel? This seemed like a standalone film that got a sequel because it made money. Thus I was skeptic. But to my great surprise, they did! They captured the magic once again!

First things first, we need to address the Rotten Tomatoes score for both of these movies. I honestly believe the first movie should be in the 80's or 90's. This sequel should be in the 70's or 80's. Both should be certified fresh. But the first one has a score of 49 percent and this sequel is in the 30's. Ouch! Like seriously. What the freaking heck is wrong here? I try not to dwell too much on the Rotten Tomatoes scores for movies I review, but this just appalls me. These professional, Rotten Tomatoes certified critics got this franchise dead wrong. And this is also more than just dumb fun. These aren't guilty pleasure movies for me. These are fantastic films that I will passionately defend here. And I feel I have a lot of support because both movies got a Cinemascore of A-. Both movies are in the 7-range on IMDb. Both movies have positive audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes. The financial future of the sequel is TBD, but the first movie scored an impressive $351.7 million worldwide total, $117.7 million of that coming domestically. The fans have spoken. We like these movies! Now if you are on the side of the professional critics and you hated the first movie, I don't know why you would bother with this sequel. But if you are one of the many that loved that movie like I did, this is a must-see summer film.

That's a long introduction, but a necessary one in this case. The story of this movie is one that I was concerned about. The first movie did such a great job of wrapping things up in a big beautiful bow, that I didn't think this movie was necessary at all. Turns out this is a Star Wars type of situation and Now You See Me 2 is The Empire Strikes Back. Now if you walk out of this review thinking that I just said this movie is as good as The Empire Strikes Back, I'm going to slap you in the face. That's not what I'm going for with this comparison. But in terms of the story, Star Wars does very well as a stand-alone film. They didn't need a sequel. But we got one, and aren't you glad we did? In terms of story, The Empire Strikes Back is a pure revenge film. Darth Vader and company are out for blood after good owned by Luke and company in the first film. Plot-wise, that is the direction this franchise goes. In Now You See Me, this group of magicians, along with Mark Ruffalo, completely own Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine. In Now You See Me 2, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are out for revenge against the group of magicians, who are now officially called the Horsemen. The Four Horsemen, plus Mark Ruffalo and maybe some others. So I'll just go with the Horsemen. This revenge plot I immediately bought. Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are out for blood and thus our Horsemen need to step up their game.

Let's talk about the magic in this movie. Personally I'm a complete sucker for magic. No, I'm not good at performing magic tricks. But sitting down and watching a good magician perform is one of my personal favorite things. Thus a movie centered around magic usually will suck me in every time. Is the magic in these movies completely realistic and believable? Eh. Not really. And it's certainly not the actors themselves doing the tricks. It's of course complete CGI for at least most of it. But if your hold up with these movies is how believable the magic tricks are, then I'm going to give you a huge eye roll right now. That's like watching an action movie and complaining about the legitimacy of the stunts or hating Star Wars because they don't always follow the laws of physics or have faulty astronomy. These magic scenes are an absolute blast! Just like the first one, half of the magic is explained and half of it isn't. The scenes that are explained are believable enough and the scenes that aren't are just so freaking entertaining that I don't care how believable they are. What really carries that is our Horsemen carry themselves very well as magicians. Does it feel like sometimes they are actual magicians pulling off real magic? Maybe. But that didn't bother me at all. It didn't bother me in the first and it didn't bother me in this.

Speaking of the Horsemen, this group is just fantastic. Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, and Dave Franco are back from the first movie. The three of them have so much chemistry. They all bring their different personalities to group that meshes perfectly together to create this fantastic group. Isla Fisher was the final member of the group in the last movie, but she is not back in this. She got pregnant or something like that and wasn't able to return. That happens in this business. When an actor from a franchise dies, is going through personal issues, decides to stay home and be a parent, or something else along those lines, you just have to move forward. Now You See Me 2 does not miss a beat with Isla Fisher's replacement as Lizzy Caplan is our new female Horsemen. Did I like Isla Fisher. Absolutely. Do I miss her in this movie? Absolutely not. Lizzy Caplan is a brand new character who joins the team, it's not Isla Fisher's character re-cast, and she fits in perfectly. She adds a spice and an energy to this team that Isla Fisher couldn't add. Thus it doesn't take you long at all to completely forget that Isla Fisher ever existed in this franchise. Also with this group, in addition to having great chemistry and pulling off the magician facade super well, they are also hilarious. Their comedic timing was perfect and it caused several moments of gut-busting laughter for me.

Supporting cast. There's a lot of them. We have Mark Ruffalo as the leader of the Horsemen. As I said, the first movie was secretly all about him. Now that the secret is out, his story continues on the forefront as it's partially his story once again. There was a lot of tension between him and Morgan Freeman in the first movie and that continues here. In those scenes with Mark Ruffalo and Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo really shines. Ever since he took over as the Hulk in The Avengers, Mark Ruffalo has evolved into one of my favorite actors, both in the big blockbusters as well as in the smaller indie/art house films. And of course I don't need to tell you that Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are fantastic. Those two are in like every movie and even in cases where the movie they are isn't fantastic, you know you are going to get an A+ performance out of them and that's of course the case here. Joining the club this time around is everyone's favorite wizard back in another magic movie, Harry Potter himself, aka Daniel Radcliffe. I don't want to say too much about his role, but I really loved him in this movie. We all watched Daniel Radcliffe grow up on screen and I've got to give it up to him. He's turned into a dang good actor. It took a while, but I've finally been able to see him as Daniel Radcliffe instead of just Harry Potter.

There's a few more characters here, but I've covered the main ones. We do have Chinese superstar Jay Chou in the movie. I'll leave him a secret, though. We also have plenty of FBI characters. Not going to lie, the FBI in this movie was a lot less interesting in this movie than the first one. Speaking of Jay Chou, the movie smartly panders to the Chinese audience as in addition to having him in the movie, at least half of our movie is over in Macau. If you haven't got the message, them Chinese people love their movies. There's a lot of movies nowadays that will actually make more money in China than in the United States. Furious 7 is a great example of that as it earned a whopping $390 million over there compared to its very good $353 million in the states. In terms of the plot of the movie, I'm going to push on the brakes a bit. I didn't give you that much of a premise and there's a reason for that. You need to experience this plot yourself. I do have to admit that there are times in this movie where the plot did drag a bit and some scenes didn't connect too well to the overall plot. For a little while, it almost seemed like they were wandering a bit through their plot and despite some very entertaining scenes and great characters around the board, I wasn't completely sold on this the entire time despite the fact that I was very much entertained.

But it came around. As I've mentioned several times with the first movie, the plot of that movie was its strength. Those who said the plot was weak and all over the place really should be slapped. The theme here was magic and the movie pulled off an actual magic trick with its plot. So genius. The big thing I was looking for with this movie is what are they doing next with the plot. Is this just a cash grab or is there an actual purpose here? There definitely is purpose here. The revenge aspect of this movie that I've talked about was pretty good. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman did a great job of building off the events of the first movie and made this movie seem like a natural and necessary progression of the plot. But this is more than just your typical revenge plot. It's a continuation of certain things that happened in the first movie and without giving away anything, it takes things deeper. Part of the genius of the first movie was that there was a huge shock value at the end of the movie that made for a completely new movie the second time through. That's not quite the case here. I didn't have a jaw-dropping experience in the final act of the movie, but I did really appreciate what they did with it. It made for a very believable and natural sequel, which is often hard to pull off.

In the end, I was very skeptic at the idea of sequel to Now You See Me. Not only did I think they tied a very nice bow on the end of the movie, but I didn't think that they could replicate the joy that I had with that first movie. I got the magic trick, but can you pull off another magic trick? The answer is yes. The film does drag at times, but there were so many scenes that I found super entertaining. Our group of Horsemen are fantastic. Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, and Dave Franco capture the same great chemistry that made them a great group in the first movie and Lizzy Caplan is a perfect new addition. I had a blast with the movie and I laughed a lot. I also loved the continued story of Mark Ruffalo and especially loved the scenes with him and Morgan Freeman where he totally shined. Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine were back for blood and they were great as always. Daniel Radcliffe joins the club and does an excellent job. I didn't experience the same wow factor here that I did with the end of the first movie, but at the same time I was very pleased with what they did. If you loved Now You See Me like I did, you need to see this sequel because it does the first justice. My grade for Now You See Me 2 is a 9/10.

No comments:

Post a Comment