~ the mystery duology is fairly average but I don’t care at all ~
In 2016, the Now You See Me duology became yet another set of films that caught a bad case of “we-dragged-out-the-plot-and-made-an-unecessary-and-significantly-worse-sequel-just-for-the-cash-dollars.” Not a good move for any story, particularly one that was only alright to begin with. The first film was clever in the way the Sherlock is – only really on the surface – and had some… interesting dialogue choices. The second had so many unexplained events and plot holes that the storyline bordered on ridiculous.
Not a scathing review by any means, but after that paragraph you might be surprised to learn that I absolutely adore the Now You See Me movies. (unless you… read the title) Sure, they’re a little bit cheesy, a little bit messy and get a helluva lot carried away, BUT I DON’T CARE and I love them despite their flaws. Let me explain why.
Firstly, there’s this whole magic thing going on. For those who haven’t seen the films, I’m not talking about spells and potions magic, I mean the real cool stuff: magician magic. Sleight of hand, disappearing objects, card tricks, deception yada yada. (Apologies to any magicians that I offend, I actually know zero about this art form). But I think that that might be exactly why I enjoy this theme so much. Some wonderstruck child deep inside of me delights in the way all the tricks are performed; being drawn in by the act and then completely surprised by the result. Not to mention the pure satisfaction at figuring out exactly how they pulled it off (this is a little bit absent in the second film, I digress). The fact that the movies take it above and beyond your classic kid’s talent show level magic only further enhances the allure. Big stages, spotlights, screaming crowds, and the stunning cinematography that highlights this make it seem all very classy. This gives the movies an often dark type of glamour and it’s just all very cool, okay? It’s cool. It makes me want to be a magician.
Expanding on the cinematography, the DOPs and editors did a great job on this movie. The reason the theme of magic is made out to be so thrilling is because of the gorgeous shooting and editing. While there’s nothing particularly unique about the way the film was shot, and the colouring and cutting does a lot to bring a sense of wonder and excitement to the events happening onscreen. The wide and establishing shots specifically do a lot to not only set up the many soaring city settings in a beautiful way, but often reveal plot details and accentuate overwhelming, tense, or high points in the story. This – coupled with some detailed editing – make the intense sequences (often as they reveal how the trick was performed) an intriguing journey of colour and wit. These big, glitzy shots and fast-paced editing again contribute to that overall vibe of anticipation and glamour that carries throughout the film.
While their talents are often squandered in the face of an average script, the cast of this film contains some true gems. Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, Daniel Radcliffe, Melanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman and Dave Franco among the starring (Now that I’m writing those names out I’m noticing a concerning lack of representation there… another thing to add to the cons list I guess) There’s some big names, and the actors’ skill and experience really shines. The second film even introduced the character of Lula, played by Lizzie Caplan, to whom I spent the entire first act going where is she from?! before I realised that she played none other than early naughties icon Janice Ian, in the 2004 teen hit Mean Girls. Perhaps not as convincing an argument as to the quality of these films but certainly an interesting fact. This ensemble works really well together, and the element of comedy that comes through is often due to their work with the characters (particularly the dynamics with the Horsemen – who would’ve thought Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco would play off each other but there you go), rather than the screenplay itself.
All of these elements make the film a great re-watch: it’s fun, exciting, enthralling beautiful to watch, and offers a good laugh every now and then. The plot holes and slightly unrealistic details of the story are glossed over when you’re not thinking about it as hard. (see a couple of posts back as to why you can sometimes enjoy a film more when you’re not as focused on plot) But this also leads to a bigger idea; and that’s why it actually is okay to enjoy bad movies. As long as you can accept their flaws, and look at them critically, it’s fine to like aspects of films that aren’t that good. There’s a lot of pressure for one’s favourite film to be something perfect (read: pretentious), with many intruistic layers, double meanings and food for thought. And while those films are excellent, realise that it’s definitely acceptable to indulge in some fun, corny movies when you want to. (“FILM IS SUBJECTIVE!!” she screeches into her belt megaphone.) Look at the Fast and Furious franchise. Did we need eight of those movies? Nope. Did they still make a crap ton of money and continue to become global successes because people liked them anyway? You betcha.
Obviously, the Now You See Me movies are flawed. Yes, the magic is kind of unrealistic at times. Yes, it’s convenient and lazy writing to have Morgan Freeman’s character explain everything to the audience. No, they probably didn’t need to make a sequel. Yes, the sequel is pretty freaking ridiculous. But you know what?
They’re still two of my favourite films.
(pls don’t i’m broke)