3 years ago, magic-heist-thriller Now You See Me came out of nowhere and was a huge, instantaneous hit. Of course, a follow-up was inevitable, and one of 2016's many sequels is the second act: Now You See Me 2.

Back in 2013, Louis Leterrier's magic-thriller Now You See Me was a grandiose, larger-than-life concoction with a preposterously intricate, elaborate premise and even more preposterous tricks and sequences and such larger-than-life, charismatic characters heading up these antics. It was a big, fun and shiny blockbuster that was so unexpected, and surprising, coming out of nowhere and taking the box-office by storm. The film set out merely to have a good time and it did exactly that, with such ease and whimsicality, nothing more and nothing less. After the film hauled in truckloads of cash and popularity, a sequel was inevitable, and Now You See Me 2 is the perfect follow-up to the 2013 flick: it's just as entertaining and crazy, if not more so. We're reunited with these likable leads doing more insane tricks in another film that is just as fun and inconsequential - in a good way - as the original that we loved for those exact reasons.

One year since their disappearance at the end of the first film, The Four Horsemen - Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) and new recruit, Lula (Lizzy Caplan) - resurface with a show to expose an unethical, thieving tech CEO. Things are going well until the show is hijacked and The Horsemen are forced to flee the scene; with FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) being exposed to the world as working with the group. When our magicians end up in Macau, China, they meet Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), the tech genius responsible for their show going awry earlier. Now living off the grid, Mabry recruits The Horsemen to pull off what is their biggest heist yet; either that or die. Meanwhile, back in New York, Rhodes sets about trying to rescue his friends from the megalomaniac that is Mabry but, in order to do, he will require the assistance of the man he imprisoned, Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman).

Ed Solomon returned to write this film, whilst Jon M. Chu took over directing duties from Leterrier this time around. Yet, the franchise is still very much in capable hands because it's still a very well-made, slickly directed film; Chu directs this with assurance and confidence and brings a light touch and whimsicality to the proceedings too. The screenplay is just as insane and over-the-top as it was last time around, if not more so; as grandiose as the first film was, the tricks were grounded and believable to an extent but that's all tossed out the window here as our returning larger-than-life characters that made the original so great are back basically become superheroes, pulling off tricks which are so clearly contrived; however, being reunited with the charismatic, likable Horsemen and watching them do what they do best is tons of fun. Solomon even manages to bring a lot more humour and warmth into the proceedings here too, compared to the first act. Visually, this film is a treat. The special effects are all so great and slick and the tricks and sequences are all so stylish and beautifully shot and they're just so grandiose and colourful and fun to watch - a sequence involving a card trick to steal a chip halfway through the film is a highlight; just so energetic and fun!
The acting is great too, all across the board, from everyone. After his annoying turn in Batman v Superman earlier this year, Jesse Eisenberg works as the confident, reserved Atlas here - exuding a kind of swagger as the group's temperamental leader in Macau, whilst Rhodes tries to find out just what has happened to his group of magicians. Dave Franco and Woody Harrelson are both great too, with the latter taking on a double role this time around too, playing Merritt's evil twin brother too (although he begins to really grate on your nerves with his presence because of how annoying he is after awhile - whether it's purposeful or not is the question). Lizzy Caplan is a standout as newcomer Lula too, taking over from Isla Fisher as the group's female member. She brings warmth and energy and loads of heart to the role and her presence is so great and hilarious - the actress fits into this franchise so well right from her introductory scene. Ruffalo is the standout again, however, as Rhodes. Yet again, his character is given the most to work with, with a fascinating backstory, and the actor brings the right level of wit and intelligence to the character. Morgan Freeman is fine too, as is Michael Caine but the disappointment is perhaps Daniel Radcliffe; the actor is decent in the role but plays a very generic, one-note antagonist and has hardly any screen time so it's hard to invest in his character's motives. However, if one things a certainty, it's that this cast has some great camaraderie and chemistry that is so great to watch.

The flaws with this film come mainly in the screenplay. As glamorous and mindlessly entertaining as it may be, the script is too contrived, even for such an already over-the-top film, and the cleverness that somewhat grounded the first film is glaringly absent here, to the extent that sometimes the film goes noticeably and a bit unbearably overboard and too far - suspending disbelief is one thing; going too over-the-top is another. Again, the antagonist feels very one-dimensional and generic and their motives aren't clear either. Also, Now You See Me had a fairly preposterous and complex premise but it's all the messier and convoluted here too. With all the characters and the subplots sharing the 129-minute runtime, the film can lose its footing and become a little convoluted and jumbled and it can take you out of the moment a little because it gets all too difficult to follow along.

It seems like I'm really hating on the film when, in all honesty, Now You See Me 2 is great fun. This a sequel that is just as slick and entertaining and solid as its predecessor; it has its fair share of flaws but it's tons of fun to watch and that's all that matters because that's all we want from this film. A literal popcorn flick and blockbuster in every sense of the word, this film is enjoyable and just mindlessly entertaining. The magic and fun is aplenty here and, in a disappointing Summer so over-saturated with really poor, unnecessary sequels (we're looking at you Alice) and big, bloated blockbusters that just aren't quite landing either (Warcraft as an example this time), Now You See Me 2 is a throwback to the good old cinematic days of cheesy, corny, dumb fun where films didn't need to be superhero giants or pointless reboots or adaptations to win hearts and make it big and please moviegoers, but more so just charming and crowd-pleasing movies of sheer joy and fun, nothing more and nothing less. That's just what this film is and it's just what we need right now.

Whilst it may be even more over-the-top and convoluted than its predecessor, Now You See Me 2 is still just as slick, shiny and mindlessly entertaining as it is too; well-made and light and whimsical in its approach, this is a solid, fun sequel.

About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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