Now You See Me 2 full movie review - Better than the first, this is an enjoyable film without much substance; it has a weak plot and even weaker villain, but there are some good scenes and better characters.
'Now You See Me 2' is the sequel to the 2013 film about a group of magicians who rob banks during their live stage shows.
I didn't think the first film was all that good, as it had several large issues, but it wasn't terrible either. This film is set two years after the events of the original, and this time involves the 'Horsemen' being brought out of hiding to pull off a new heist. I definitely enjoyed this movie more than it's predecessor, but that by no means implies it's great: it still has it's fair share of problems and is largely uninspired. I did think it was a pretty solid, if a little shallow, action thriller.
The plot of the film is one of it's weakest aspects. It feels very long, even though each individual scene moves along at a brisk pace, and ultimately doesn't amount to much. This time, the story has been scaled down somewhat and streamlined to be a more focused one - which spends a lot more time with the 'Horsemen.' An issue I had with the first was that the perspective shifted from the magicians to the FBI, making it hard to root for and fully understand the motivations of the 'Horsemen.' Thankfully, this was fixed by side-lining the FBI and paying more attention to the main characters; they don't spend as much time on stage and we follow them all the way through the picture. It makes their motivations and character arcs noticeable, allowing us to relate to them and their situation much easier. The flick also didn't feel like it was trying to be too clever for it's own good, like the first did. There are a few twists and turns but they are all predictable and don't feel like the crux of the narrative. They are largely uninspired, don't amount to much and probably could have been omitted but at least the film-makers seem to know this - they don't think that they've pulled one over on us, which was a vibe I got from the first film. The final reveal is also superfluous, and doesn't really make sense - it ripples across both movies, and tries to retcon some motivations. It is unneeded, a twist for a twist's sake, and had no impact. The faux-intelligence isn't as apparent as in the first one though, and thus doesn't feel as pretentious.
The other problem with the plot is that there really isn't all that much magic. The movie doesn't feel like one about magicians, instead making them appear like pseudo-spies, and the whole film feels more similar to a traditional heist picture. One of the best scenes is an extended sequence in which the 'Horsemen' must hide an important playing card on themselves whilst being searched; they employ all sorts of distraction, misdirection and sleight of hand. This sequence is enjoyable and well put together, with the individual character personalities feeding into the action. There is some suspense here, and the scene mixes both action and slapstick together quite well. Most of the magic in the film felt a lot more tangible than in the first, even though there are some impossible vanishes and a sequence involving Jessie Eisenberg manipulating the rain that's ludicrous. There are some sleight of hand sequences which are mostly possible, using several recognisable techniques and real misdirection tactics, though the reliance on CGI is a little much at times - including some digital card doubles. I found the magic to be more realistic this time around, but the tricks performed aren't all that spectacular and the final 'trick' is very weak, with almost no actual 'magic' on display. I found the direction to be better this time as well, as there wasn't any nauseating camera motion and a few longer takes. It didn't cut nearly as much, and the edits weren't as jarring. There were a few continuity errors, though, and places where characters snapped to different positions between shots. There was also a fight scene that was very hard to read visually, due to the heavy amounts of shaky-cam and quick cutting. The action was confusing at times, and the fight as a whole was pretty underwhelming.
The characters this time around are given more to do, and more motivation to do it for. The only real arc belongs to Mark Ruffalo's character though, as he changes throughout the course of the film. He also gives the best performance and is the most interesting screen presence. Jessie Eisenberg has the beginnings of an arc, though it's all but forgotten at the mid-point, and a couple of reveals serve to give new light to some character motivations. There are two major new additions to the cast, that of Lizzy Caplan's fourth 'horseman' - as Isla Fisher was pregnant at the time of filming - and Daniel Radcliffe's villain. Caplan was given more screen-time than Fisher was, and actually has some impact on the plot. She also has a more rounded and unique personality, though she is mainly relegated to being the comic relief, and does a good job making her character believable. I didn't find her funny though, instead she came off as awkward in a talking-too-much kind of way; the character wasn't too annoying, but was given too much dialogue at times. Radcliffe provides a very weak villain, however, coming across as neither threatening nor powerful. His performance is good enough, but it's the material he's given that's lacking; his character is very one dimensional, not given all that much screen-time and hasn't got all that much impact on the plot.
Overall, I found this film to be more enjoyable than the first. It has a weak villain, bland plot and poor magic but is ultimately entertaining with a couple of good scenes and better fleshed out characters. Perhaps it would fall apart on a second viewing, but until then I liked this film: 6/10