“Now You See Me” represents a scenario that we have all seen far too often in Hollywood.
I can picture someone coming up with an interesting idea, putting time and effort into writing a script with an intelligent plot twist and a beautiful bit of world building. I can then see them taking this script to some producers in Hollywood, getting the okay to have that script made into a film, and then as they see what is being done to their baby, powerless to stop it. “Now You See Me” feels like such a film.
Though the film is littered with plot holes, casting mistakes and bad CGI, I will try to narrow down my gripes to a few of the bigger issues at play.
First off, if you’re making a movie about magic tricks… then use magic tricks! The movie spends a lot of time discussing how magic is done, complete with constant exposition about misdirection and people wanting to be tricked. What the film uses in lieu of magic tricks is over-done and yet cheap-looking CGI and special effects. For the first big “performance,” I was left wondering whether the movie was actually a Gabriel Garcia Marquez-style “magical reality” world in which elements of fantasy existed in a real world scenario. That concept would have added a wonderful bit of depth to the movie. The film itself is quick to put this idea to rest, however, with a lengthy explanation of the “trick” to drive home the fact that all those terrible looking post-production special effects were meant to be large scale sleight-of-hand.
The second complaint is in the characters. Why have “Four Horsemen” when only two are doing anything? During a scene at the beginning of the film when all four horsemen are in custody and being interrogated, J. Daniel Atlas (played by Jesse Eisenberg, showcasing another portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg but with magic) and Merritt McKinney (played by Woody Harrelson) are the only two with any lines. Meanwhile, the other two horsemen seem to be written into the film to be “the woman” and a plot device for the other two. On top of that, the inclusion of the entirely pointless love interest on the side of the FBI is so out of place throughout the film that it is rather jarring.
The third point requires a bit of a spoiler.
One of the greatest crimes of the movie is the inclusion of a “secret society” of magicians. At first, I thought this was an interesting idea (the kind someone writing a script may have had great plans for), but, as the movie progressed, the society became simply an excuse for them to use a kind of magical catch-all for the explanation of every silly thing happening in the film. In terms of story-telling, the use of a secret society like this is the equivalent of saying “God did it” and forcing people to simply accept what the writers or directors did not feel like figuring out.
“Now You See Me” is a mess of bad execution and pointless story elements. However, the movie does manage to be fun for those who feel like turning their minds off. It certainly never gives you time to be bored or confused. Just try not to think too hard about it.