Everyone knows that magic doesn't exist, the joy in the magician's art is how well they can trick an audience into believing for that brief moment that it does. Films share a connection with magic, after all, one of the first masters of cinema was a magician, George Melies. Movies use tricks to make an audience believe that the world within the film exists, just for the run of the picture. Making a movie about magicians then seems entirely logical and there have been plenty. Now You See Me was one of the most recent ones, released in 2013 to average reviews. It spawned a sequel that was released in 2015 and Now You See Me 2 comes to DVD and Blu-Ray released by Entertainment One. With new director Jon M Chu, is this new outing worth bringing home to the small screen or is it best left performing magic out on the street for pennies?
Now You See Me 2 kicks off a year after the events of the first film. The quartet of magicians known as The Horsemen, J Daniel Atlas (Jessie Eisenberg) Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) (Isla Fisher's Henley Reeves did not return for this project) have been in hiding awaiting instructions about their next show from their leader Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and The Eye, a secretive magic society with the goal of revealing corruption in the real world through magic. However, during their latest escapade trying to expose a phone company’s plan to sell users’ information to the black market. With new member geek magician Lula May (Lizzy Caplan) their show is hijacked by a reclusive tech mogul Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) and they are forced to steal a computer chip that can hack into any other computer. The question then becomes how will the Horsemen turn the tables and escape from this seemingly perilous position.
The Now You See Me films are some of the hardest to talk about. The film is neither very good nor very bad: it is just sort of alright. The problem with it is that it is a very confused movie; there is a lack of focus that is evident in the construction of the characters. The film cannot decide who the main character is. Is it Eisenberg's Atlas, who has to come to deal with his ego and to rely on the other Horsemen and their real leader, Dylan Rhodes? Or is it Rhodes himself, who must figure out who he is after completing his lifelong vendetta against the man who goaded his magician father into killing himself, Thaddeus Bradley? The film never seems to make up its mind in this regard, and the lack of focus affects the plot and story.
Like its indecision over the main character, the film has far too many things going on; there is a heist, a revenge plot, and the mystery surrounding The Eye. There are also new characters and new character relations we must get used to and all of the jet setting magical action set pieces that must be put in place. While there is always the need to go bigger for the sequel, there can be too much of a good thing. Similarly depending on who the film follows The Horsemen or Rhodes, the film feels different, as the Horsemen try a heist film in a similar vein to Oceans 12, but Rhodes has more of a mystery, detective type story where he must find out where his crew have disappeared to after their failed attempt to take down a technology company that leads to a revelation about the shadowy and mysterious Eye. My philosophy is always do something simple well and completely rather than a lot of things too quickly, and Now You See Me 2 has bitten off more than it can chew. Because the film tries to do so much in such a short amount of time it feels rushed, flat and incomplete. Aside from the more subjective qualities of the movie, there are also glaring editing mistakes and a few strange plot holes that fall apart under the shallowest of examination, like a shoddy street magicians act. Similarly the cinematography and editing is incredibly hyperactive, especially in the opening prologue where there was a strange speed up effect that was very intrusive.
That is not to say that the film is all negatives, there are some set pieces that are creative and well executed. For example, the section of the movie where The Horsemen tries to pass a security chip around a room undetected through sleight of hand is an entertaining and somewhat grounded sequence in a film of strange over technical nonsense. Similarly, the addition of Lizzie Caplan and Daniel Radcliff inject some much-needed chemistry and energy into a rather tired looking cast. Caplan's Lula runs circles around her co-stars with a wit and charm that is so refreshing, and her refusal to succumb to stereotypes is another tick in her favour. Meanwhile, Radcliff's psychopathic Walter Mabry is a joy to watch, even if one of his character reveals is a little cheap
Entertainment One is releasing both Blu-Ray and DVD, plus a DVD double pack of both Now You See Me 1 and 2 with more bonus features. I got my hands on the DVD copy, and from that experience I can say that the DVD is well made. I had no real visual or audio issues when watching the film or any of the bonus features. The picture was clear and the sound was easy to follow, with a mix that never placed the sound effects and music over dialogue. A serviceable product for a serviceable film.
While you can get more extras on the Blu-Ray and the double pack, the DVD comes with two glimpses behind the curtain in the form of commentary by Jon M Chu and You Can't Look Away, a making-of documentary. Both these extras like the film itself, are okay; the commentary provides some interesting on set stories and goes deeper into how they made the film and made certain creative choices. However what they do is act more like a promotion for the movie, or the locations, both cast and crew talking about the incredible sets and amazing set pieces without providing any personal attachment to either. This apparent self-promotion seems entirely unnecessary, because if you are watching the commentary you have presumably bought the film.
Again when watching the extras I was left disappointed; I had some interesting or funny stories in the director's commentary, but apart from that there is nothing really to write home about.
There are some great ideas in Now You See Me 2, it is unfortunate that only in practice that the film falls flat; the franchise feels tired and bloated, with no idea of what it wants to be. The few set pieces and interesting new characters do provide marginal entertainment while you watch it, but whether it is worth spending money on is purely up to you. Personally, I would watch it on TV if nothing else was on, but I wouldn't pay for it.