I have to say, I’ve been excited for this movie ever since the sequel was announced. I thoroughly enjoyed the first one and while it’s not the best movie out there, it’s definitely a thrill ride and an enjoyable experience. If you have seen the movie and agree, please share your thoughts in the comments below, if you don’t agree, please feel free to do the same. Short review, just some thoughts.
Summary: The Four Horsemen return in this sequel with new tricks, new plans, new thrills and reveals. They’ve been in hiding for a year and now a new villain has come to force them to use their “Robin Hood” like tricks to help him get what he wants.
The Cast and Characters. The main characters/cast have some great chemistry. It seems as if they’ve been working together for a time, at least enough to know and understand each other’s tricks. However, there is also plenty about each other they don’t know, they’ve only know each other for maybe three years now. Then you have Dylan who is the “fifth” Horseman who is a leader/father like figure who seems to still be on the outside in a way.
Jesse Eisenberg as J. Daniel Atlas. Atlas is a control freak and arrogant illusionist. In this movie he is searching for validation. In the first movie, he was more or less the “leader” of the Horsemen and now with Dylan in the picture, he struggles with not being the one to lead as well as being kept in the dark. I really like Eisenberg period, and I think his “schtick” works well for this character. The little things he does with his fingers, the eye twitch, it’s almost like if Atlas didn’t find his passion in magic, he would be a crazy person.
Woody Harrelson as Merritt McKinney. A hypnotist, mentalist, and a self-proclaimed psychic. He is also the oldest of the group but he is charismatic, funny. In this film, Merritt doesn’t seem to be as confident as he was in the first. Harrelson also plays the twin brother of Merritt which was still so weird but he definitely made them two different people. I can’t say that Merritt had much of a development here, at least nothing memorable. There is more learned about what happened to him that placed him where he was in the first but I can’t say it did anything for him in the end.
Dave Franco as Jack Wilder. A sleight of hand illusionist, street magician, and a talented impressionist of other people’s voices. He is also a pickpocket, and is able to pick locks. He is my favorite and I feel like his character got the short end of the stick in the first movie, his death was of course faked but still! His part is a bit larger in this movie but still not enough. In my head canon he grew up on the streets, he looked up to Atlas with his magic but once he got to meet him, he still admired him but felt like the little kid and that they treated him like a child. In this movie, he seems to have shifted his admiration to Dylan, who he also seems to view as a “father figure” which infuriates Atlas. Jack still wants to be viewed as an adult and to stop being sidelined (I want that for him too lol) and throughout the movie, it seems like he tries to assert his presence but the script doesn’t let him.
Lizzy Caplan as Lula May. An illusionist, has a thing for Jack. She is funny, often speaks out about being the “female Horseman” and talks a lot. Lula was a nice addition to the movie, she was more developed with a personality than Henley was which is a plus. I enjoyed her but it’s understandable if she’s found annoying.
Mark Ruffalo as Dylan Rhodes. Revealed to be the son of Lionel Shrike from the first film. He is still an FBI agent and uses his resources to throw the FBI off of the Horsemen’s trail even if they have been dark for a year. He is their “leader”, keeps a lot of secrets but is very protective of his group. I loved that we got to see a bit more into his psyche and get a lot more development from him. His unresolved issues with his dad, the way he tries to protect the Horseman from the FBI, how he thinks he’s moved on from Freeman’s character, trying to lead the Horseman knowing they’re restless and his fear of actually finding out the mystery surrounding his father… there’s a lot going on with him and he’s probably the character who gets the most development.
Daniel Radcliffe. Harry Potter!! I support my HP cast and I thoroughly enjoyed him. First, he’s so small it’s so cute watching him be evil but he also did a pretty good job. He’s a standout in the film because he’s fresh, I think his motivations were a bit rocky though only because it was over something so minor and he was trying to accomplish it with something so big. Which I guess made since for his character. However, I wish he was the only villain in the film, there were like three and a half and that was too much. He could have had his personal agendas but it should have only been him.
Simple Story. I think this is also a “con” at least in comparison to the first because this story was a lot simpler, it was all the consequences of what happened from the first but it was very cut throat and dry. It didn’t contain a lot of the mystery surrounding the first one, which I honestly thought was a good thing to an extent. The first one, while intricate, also could get very confusing, whereas this one just kept it moving without trying to force confusion on the audience at every turn. You still have to try and figure certain things out, but it’s not making you scratch your head in annoyance.
Looks good. This movie looks really good. When it’s dark it doesn’t ever look like you can’t see what’s going on, it’s shot with wide angles, and in the scene with the card (you saw it in the trailer) the camera follows the card and it’s really cool. It’s not as nice looking as the first one but it’s kind of shot like a heist film instead of a film dealing with magicians which I guess was the point.
More fun. While the first one had a different sort of sophistication to it, the sequel is more fun in allowing it’s characters to be people, especially as a group, we didn’t really get to know the Horsemen in the first movie (especially Jack and Henley) but this time around, we get to see more of who they are. It allows the characters to enjoy what they do and have fun doing it, even if it’s nerve-wracking for them and watching them handle it.
The romance development. The romance itself I didn’t have a problem with, it was actually kind of cute because the two characters were very similar and I think it’ll be a nice thing. However, I think it’s kind of obvious that they kind of sped it up due to Henley’s character being gone. In the first movie, Atlas and Henley had a past romance, which didn’t turn out well, throughout we got a hint of why they broke up and the possibility of it happening again due them having to work together. They never actually got together but I’m sure it would have been something continued in this film. However, with Henley gone, Lula’s character replaced her and the romance was shifted to Lula and Jack. Which again, I didn’t mind but it was underdeveloped. She had a thing for him, which is understandable, and while he appreciates the attention, he feels he isn’t ready for a relationship due to his past failure (stealing their stuff lol) and throughout she flirts but he never really reciprocates until a few scenes towards the end. I think if the movie was a little longer, maybe it would have allowed for a few more scenes between Jack and Lula where they can actually… talk. There was only one. I know it’s not a romance but if you’re gonna have it in there, even as a side plot, let it be developed.
Not as “magical” as the first. The magical elements were a bit toned down in this film and it’s a good thing and a bad thing, it’s a good thing because it doesn’t distract from the story HOWEVER it’s a bad thing because it’s a movie about magicians. It should be over the top and as magical as possible. It doesn’t have to be gaudy but it’s using “misdirection” against it’s audience and when you get to the conclusion, you probably already figured it out and kind of wished they didn’t try to hard to get to that moment. This is the flip side of the “simple story”.
Henley’s Absence. It’s kind of talked about but not really and it seems so out of character for what she apparently does to quit. She was underdeveloped in the first film but it didn’t seem like something she would do due to what we saw of her. Henley was shown to butt heads with Atlas, independent and can handle her own but… it just seemed so random.
Merritt’s twin brother. First of all, like I said, he’s funny sometimes but wow totally a useless character. Like I said, Radcliffe’s character should have been the only villain, Chase I think his name was smart in terms of magician stuff and for making his brother uncomfortable but he could have been taken away and it would have been fine.
Morgan Freeman’s Involvement. I wonder if this was the plan with his character from the beginning because if it was, it wasn’t surprising and it seemed forced.
The Name. COME ON! Missed opportunity! Not so much a con but it makes me upset! Not really though. It should have been called “Now You Don’t!”!
The Eye. Okay, so I know it’s a secret organization and what not, but what exactly is it? Is there going to be a third movie explaining the inner workings more? They recruit magicians to do what exactly? Too many questions surrounding The Eye that they weren’t answered here. I read there is going to be a third one so maybe it’ll be answered there but there could have been more given to us then what we got.
Too long. I think if there was more going on, character development, discovery, or using that time to really sit into the movie instead of a lot of exposition or silent spaces, I think the length would have been acceptable.
Overall, I really enjoyed the movie. I have no idea if it’s better than the first, I probably will need to redo this review if I see the movie again because it almost seems like I need to experience it again to make sure my thoughts on it are concrete. I think it could have been better, it takes moments from the first movie and makes them better such as: developing Lula and Jack, having a simpler story that keeps the audience from scratching their heads too much but it also falters in the length that makes it feel stagnant and boring, it’s also predictable. However, the fun and magical elements are objective, it will probably vary from person to person as these tricks are not meant to “trick” but misdirect. It could have been better. Now, I want origin stories for the characters!