July 21, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Geek Review: Now You See Me 1 & 2

How do these movies work? It's MAGIC!

Ryan, it seems, loves a good magic show.

At the very least, he’s been raving about these movies for a while now.  So, I broke down and watched ’em.  How were they?

Well, they weren’t bad, but neither made me think I needed to see more of them.

Structured for the most part like actual magic tricks, the two movies follow the Robin Hood style magic acts of the Four Horsemen.  Originally played by Jesse Eisenberg, Ilsa Fisher, Woody Harrelson, and Dave Franco, the quartet were chosen by a mysterious organization called The Eye, a group that uses stage magic to bring wrongdoers to justice.  In the course of the first movie, the four work together to rob rich companies and people who did wrong to others.  Michael Caine is an insurance executive who originally funds them, Morgan Freeman is a magic debunker, and Mark Ruffalo is the FBI agent determined to catch them.

There are a couple twists regarding some secrets, but for the most part, the movie runs smoothly.  The sequel, set a year later, finds Fisher out and replaced by Lizzy Caplan while Daniel Radcliffe, in perhaps the best kind of stunt casting, is another rich guy looking to prove science trumps magic.

But it’s the Caplan replacement I would prefer to address.  Now, Caplan herself acquits herself fine in her role as the new Horseman, but the fact that the story would so quickly dispose of one female lead and replace her with a different character shows one of what I perceived as a major weakness for this series, namely that the characters themselves are not very deep.  True, actors as gifted as most of the cast can add dimensions through the script, but the fact was they could toss Fisher out and it doesn’t really change much of anything.  The characters don’t matter here.  All that matters is the spectacle of the magic.

That’s fine if that’s all you want.  The films are basically big heist films, in a world where the general public is way more into stage magic than in the real one.  The gold standard for the modern heist movie is probably Ocean’s Eleven, a movie where the different characters at least had some odd quirks that made them individually feel more like distinct people and not just a bunch of character types.  That movie also went with a cool style to burn, and it would be hard for even another well-made heist movie to live up to that.  I don’t ask for much from a movie like Now You See Me, but then again what struck me was while I did enjoy the movie for what it was, I also didn’t think it needed a sequel.  The sequel itself is OK, not quite as good as the first, but still not necessary.

Eight out of ten planted tarot cards for the first, seven and a half Macguffin chips for the second.