Now You See Me 2 (2016)

The media response to Now You See Me 2 expresses the typical disappointment for the typical sequel. I agree that this one made less sense than Now You See Me. (It was still fun to watch.)

I think part of why it’s difficult to make a good sequel is that you have to use characters in a way that introduces them to new viewers while not boring those who already know them. Another part of why they’re hard is that, since they’re heroes in the first film, sometime near the beginning of the second film, you have to take something away from them. The second quest is more dire… they’re not underdogs anymore; they run the risk of being completely destroyed and they’re fighting not to win but merely to survive. Otherwise you just have a stale repeat of the original, and obviously that’s no good.

More on the plot and what I thought of it below, including SPOILERS.

So basically the head of the horsemen is under suspicion at work, the most egotistical of his minions wants to overthrow him, there’s a new female horsemen, and the Eye has a new stunt planned (exposing a tech CEO for planning to exploit users’ private data). I think maybe the best part of the whole movie (fun and also scary and dramatic) was the sequence where the horsemen successfully infiltrate the product launch. Then, everything goes horribly wrong and they magically wind up in Macau (where, mysteriously, grandmothers speak Mandarin and not Cantonese… and, unsurprisingly, since this is Hollywood, English). Of course, it’s not really magic, only an illusion; they are in the lair of the evil Daniel Radcliffe, who gives them another task.

Seeing them pull off the new task is less fun somehow… it’s a bunch of weird camera shots of them passing a playing card around during an unrealistically long security search in a Mission Impossible ish room.

The big reveal at the end is kinda fun. You can see it coming; it looks like they’ve lost everything, but of course you know they haven’t. So if you like happy endings, it’s gratifying to get that smug feeling again.

I was genuinely confused about when and whether they had the real chip that they stole. Just before they trap the bad guys, they realize it’s not real, but they don’t figure out where the real one is. Then something that is proclaimed as real resurfaces, and there’s not really any explanation. Maybe I just missed it. I didn’t really care. There’s a lot you have to overlook to believe in this plot anyway.

I think what bothered me most about the film (other than the near-drowning scene) was feeling like the head horseman was in the wrong. Is he a hero or isn’t he? I guess he’s just human. But how can he win in the end, after the movie convinces us he’s done wrong (by seeking revenge and misassigning blame)? Is the villain of the first movie really a villain or a victim?

I don’t think the movie had a theme. That’s annoying. It should have had a theme, and there were several to pick from. Was it about justice? Or revenge? No, not really. Teamwork? Identity? Um… hard to say.