Now You See Me was hideously bad with how it somehow made magic tricks look so boring. Stage magic in movies rarely works- it’s about seeing the tricks live, and magic in movies already feels like cheating considering all the editing and “movie magic” behind the scenes. The Four Horsemen’s magic tricks feel especially like cheating when literally every trick is explained with either hypnosis or God-tier deception, furthering Now You See Me as one of the laziest franchises in existence. Both movies are draped in plot holes and inconsistencies, side-stories that try to get overly convoluted so people will make Christopher Nolan-like gasps, and stupidly predictable romantic endings that involve a barely developed “couple” smooching under fireworks. Jon Chu replaces Louis Leterrier in the director’s chair but still offers nothing new here.
It’s been a year since the end of Now You See Me, and the Four Horsemen minus Henley have been living in the shadows, waiting to strike with their next “expose the 1%” scheme. Henley’s been replaced with Lulu May (quirky Lizzy Caplan), an equally skilled but more importantly female magician that brings more energy than the rest of her crew. Despite the talent onscreen like Jesse Eisenberg and Dave Franco, the actors themselves are even uninterested in their roles, and it’s pretty amusing when you consider how good they are at digging a rock-bottom movie even deeper. Where the first was more concerned with taking from the rich to give back to poor and pouring money out of every performance, Now You See Me 2 has no focus, constantly jumping to and from Mark Ruffalo’s daddy issues.
The Four Horsemen are soon swept up by a presumed-dead billionaire in Macau named Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe, who delightfully reprises a different kind of “magic” role here) who plans to exploit their hacker skills to steal some cell-phone card technology that will blah blah something. It’s never really clear why he wants it other than that he’s the power-hungry bad guy. A lot of Now You See Me 2 shoos away any substance for more flashiness, and it’s exhausting for the movie’s 2+ hour runtime. They run around Macau, getting into wacky fights (where do these guys get fighting ability from?), and I should add that the action scenes are pretty awful. The camera in Now You See Me kept trying to hype up every scene as a spectacle by dizzyingly spinning around literally everything, and this time the camera gets so overly excited at random fighting in public that it doesn’t spend more than .2 seconds on anything, making me even more confused at how Mark Ruffalo somehow ends up with a knife in a Chinese marketplace.
Sequences where the Four Horsemen work together with less obvious editing are slightly amusing, like when they sneakily toss around a playing card to avoid unnecessary confrontation with security guards and Chu shows off his seductive skills from the Step Up series. Even then, I’m never convinced that any of these magician’s tricks could happen in real life, and their eventual stunts against Walter Marby feel more like Ocean’s Eleven poker-tricks than traditional and actual magic. Despite the star-studded cast and razzle-dazzle marketing, Now You See Me 2 has little to offer up it’s sleeve.