Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Tuesday's Reviews - Now You See Me 2 (2016)

I saw Now You See Me with a couple of friends and vividly remember one of them despairing about how much we enjoyed it. She said it was nonsense and the plot didn't make sense. She wasn't wrong, of course, but, as we tried to explain to her, that didn't make it any less exciting. Yes, finishing the film made you realise everything pretty much happened for no reason but it was still fun. I can't even say that I am a massive fan of magic as I'm far too cynical to appreciate it. I'm always looking for the hidden aspects and the slight of hand because that's what adults do. However, films concerning magic are always incredibly exciting. The Prestige is utterly insane when you think about it too much but that doesn't stop it being fucking amazing. So, whilst I won't be shouting it from the hill tops, I was a fan of the first film. Still, I can't say I was exactly thrilled by the idea of a sequel. Especially as it starred Daniel Radcliffe, the least talented actor of the Harry Potter films. At least Mark Ruffalo would be there and I'm sure there's a lot of things I could get through with the help of Mark Ruffalo.

Remember the fun but otherwise forgettable 2013 magic film Now You See Me? Do you remember how it ended? Well you better because the sequel nobody wanted or expected is here. Despite Now You See Me ending on a very final and satisfactory note, the powers that be obviously thought they could squeeze it for more so we're picking up where we left of in Now You See Me 2. For those who haven't spent the last 3 years thinking about this film I'll sum up. The magicians, known as The Four Horsemen, are in hiding and undercover FBI agent/magician Dylan (Mark Ruffalo) is pretending to hunt for them. Meanwhile, angry patsy Thaddeus (Morgan Freeman) is languishing in prison intent of making the Horsemen pay for setting him up for a pretty flimsy reason. He's posting internet videos calling for vengeance and, when the Horsemen are called out of retirement, it looks as though he'll get his chance.

The four magicians, minus the ginger Isla Fisher but with the addition of the more edgy Lizzy Caplan, are called on to reveal the greed of a businessman who possesses software that can steal data from its users. When the plot goes wrong and Dylan is outed as a double agent the group find themselves kidnapped by the supposed dead partner of the businessman, Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe). He forces the magicians to steal the software for him or he'll kill them or something. It doesn't really matter because, as we know by now, the plot really isn't as simple as all that. Everyone is playing games and nobody really knows what's going on.

It basically becomes the same kind of showdown we saw in the original between the corrupt and dangerous Mabry and our Robin Hood-esque magic group. However, this time there's more talking and more exposition to get us to the very obvious ending. Plus, just when you think this film couldn't get more ridiculous than its predecessor, in a weird subplot Dylan works on his continued Daddy issues when he goes to Thaddeus for help in tracking down his magic interns. To any normal person this seems like a fucking stupid idea but Dylan sees no problem with helping his arch-enemy escape from prison.

This film does succeed in providing you with everything you expect, though. There's magic, brooding Mark Ruffalo, zany Woody Harrelson and annoyed Jesse Eisenberg. Although, in Now You See Me 2 there was far too much of the latter two and not enough magic in any sense of the word. Still, I guess these movies aren't really about magic but are more of an Ocean's Eleven meets The Prestige kind of caper. Magi-crime thriller? I dunno. Still, it is fun enough but, you can't help feeling, second time around it just doesn't have the same effect. Mostly because it was a completely unnecessary sequel. The story line is stretched super thin because there was just no place to go at the end of the first one. Whatever you may think of the quality, it was pretty self-contained.

No matter how many quirky new characters, secret identical twins or Chinese magic shops you throw into the mix, this sequel still feels like it fails to lie up to the, not so great, heights of its predecessor. Everything feels desperate and there are so many failed attempts to ramp up the thrills. Take Michael Caine's dramatic reveal, which, thanks to his very obvious appearance in all the marketing, is nowhere near as thrilling as the filmmakers would have liked. The mood is much more bleak and Mark Ruffalo spends most of his time moping around. The rest of the cast seem content to treat the film as the insane story that it is but Ruffalo refuses to take a break. It often feels at odds with the rest of the proceedings.

The first film had no real expectations of itself and was a fun, flashy affair that didn't care how absurd it was. And I liked that about it. This film is a tepid and unimaginative affair that calls on every stupid trick in the book to try and convince its audience that it's relevant. Unfortunately, it's not. I mean there are a couple of stand-out moments but nothing major. The only thing that really got me excited was the moment the group try and hide the stolen chip by slyly chucking a playing card back-and-forth in front of angry security guards. Even that feels half-arsed in the grand scheme of things though. You won't necessarily hate this film but there is no denying it's lost the magic of the original.

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