Magicians never reveal their secrets, right? That’s the old code, anyway. Today, secrets behind almost every trick is readily accessible via the internet. But sometimes, it’s still fun to believe. So it’s too bad that in Now You See Me 2, you incorporated a ton of tricks only to be overshadowed by the VFX occurrences that stripped away any sense of magic.
My initial thoughts with Now You See Me 2 were highly cynical. Don’t get me wrong, the movie deserves the ire of my critique, but I was under the impression that I just witnessed two hours of actors waving their hands in front of a green screen and calling it magic. I was upset that a movie about street magicians was actually just another blockbuster filled with VFX that could make any Joe Schmo look like a superhero.
It’s only after further research that I realized that many of the effects found in Now You See Me 2 weren’t the result of a post-production software but rather a series of technical rigs, lights and machines conceived by you and your team of special effects wizards.
Now You See Me 2 follows the Four Horseman, a Robin Hood-inspired crew of magicians as they plan to steal a universal microchip that has the power to access every bit of digital information in the world — a product of Hollywood’s lazy and unintelligent misconceptions about how technology works. The Four Horseman want to keep the chip away from Walter Marby, a technical mastermind who wants the chip for villain-ry purposes.
In order to stop him, The Four Horseman decide to host an extravagant, city-wide magic show in London on New Year’s Eve. One of the most sought after moments of this show was Jesse Eisenberg’s character, Atlas, controlling the rain. As seen in the trailer, Atlas pauses the rain droplets in mid-air and makes them rise back up into the sky. It sounds impressive on paper but it’s nothing that can’t be accomplished with state-of the-art VFX technology — which is what I thought was used.
After sitting through an unnecessarily long sequence earlier in the film where The Four Horseman emphatically hurl a playing card to one another across a security room; rebounding the plastic card off the floor and walls, I was convinced that the VFX exhibited in this scene would the cadence for the entire film.
But that wasn’t the most frustrating part. You and your team used a series of strobe lights and a rain machine to create the raindrop effect. It was creative and original. It was true movie magic. But I guarantee almost everyone watching Now You See Me 2 didn’t know that.
The Four Horsemen do mention that mechanics of the trick in passing, but it’s swept under the rug and treated as a generic explanation that doesn’t require much thinking. Which is ridiculous. If Now You See Me 2 took its time and broke the magician’s code by carefully revealing the secrets behind their tricks, it would’ve elevated the film entirely.
Now You See Me 2 should have focused on the special effects created by you and your team. It would have shown the immense amount of thinking that went into diverting from the status quo.
What you did was magic and it should’ve been treated as such.
I’m sure for everyone involved in production, the special effects were a no-brainer. Since you were so closely involved with the tricks, you could tell they were real, but what of us, the naive viewer? We’re living in a world where bombastic CGI-nightmares are the norm. It’s something that we’re accustomed to and hence, it’s our go-to explanation. To us, movie magic is a dying art – reduced to digital trickery.
I often write about the overuse of CGI in my letters because I strongly believe that authenticity is a rarity in today’s day and age; and even though you worked hard to get some authenticity back, it was almost non-existent in Now You See Me 2.
Seeing is believing in magic and although a good magician never reveals their secret, sometimes the mechanics are most impressive part of all.