9-15 September 2016 #825

Now you see me 2

There is no real story here, just a confused re-hash of plot elements that made the first film memorable.
Sophia Pande

Cinema is about sleight of hand. For those who’ve never been on a set, it’s hard to imagine how much is manipulated, from perspectives and spaces, to the absolute lack of continuity as we imagine it, with scenes shot in order of efficiency with no regard whatsoever to actual story lines.

It is, therefore, always enjoyable to see cinema used to celebrate that inherent magic trick with films like “Now You See Me” (2013) - a delightful, totally tongue in cheek, romp that tips its hat to cinema’s trickery and uses the added dimension to present viewers with illusions that induce shock and awe.

With such a success, a sequel was inevitable but unfortunately, also, a hard act to follow. Even with a cast like Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine, the film falls flat, partly due to the fact that there is no real story here, just a confused re-hash of plot elements that made the first film memorable.

The essence of the story lies in the outrageous antics of the “Horsemen” who are a group of talented magicians bent on exposing the worst criminals around the world, corporate conspirators like Bernie Madoff who have lied and stolen from people without any qualms. In their quest to bring these people down, they often break the law, stealing from banks and other institutions only to give away their booty – a la Robin Hood.

There are many twists in the first film that continue into the second one so I will not provide you with a detailed breakdown of who is who, nor a summary of bad-guys vs. good-guys for fear of giving away the many games at play even in this inferior sequel.

The plot is an utter jumble, and most of the time, you will find yourself rolling your eyes at the utterly inane dialogue. However, for the fans of the first film, and the people who understand the sweat behind the prestidigitation that cinema requires, there are a couple of absolutely fabulous, magical even, set-pieces that are worth watching.

Films are like dreams flattened onto a screen, with a hidden, furious mechanism of editors, cables, grips, electricians, camera people, costume-set designers, and directors that seek to make themselves invisible to serve the spectator. Making a film, even a mediocre one, is hard work, and while this does not excuse the hubris of a bad film-maker, sometimes, very rarely, it is enough that a few scenes can redeem a labour of loss. “Now You Seem Me 2” is a classic example, a film of folly that still succeeded in making $324 million (to date) against a $90 million budget because a few moments of it has the power to hold people rapt.

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