Louis Leterrier’s heist thriller Now You See Me looked like it had a lot of potential. Not only was it put together by a director who seemed to have a penchant for making on screen action sing, but it boasted an ensemble cast of actors so talented, and so varied in their talents, that the chance to see them working together seemed like a can’t miss prospect.
But, in practice, the film had a whole lot of problems. Leterrier’s flare for action was undermined by the fact that the script made us sit through lengthy, boring presentations of magic tricks that wouldn’t be possible outside of the context of a movie. The heist element of the film was undermined because, instead of being tense sequences where you knew the plan and you waited for everything to either come together or fall apart, the robberies were fantasy nonsense that relied on CG trickery, impossible physics, and flat-out cheating in the writing in order to be pulled off. Plus, the characters couldn’t even get developed properly, because to focus too much on the ones who were most interesting would have ruined the obvious, unsatisfying plot twists the third act thought were so important. The screenplay for Now You See Me was so bad, in fact, that our own Rob Hunter went as far as to refer to it as, “shameless, lazy stupidity.”
There is one big thing that the movie managed to do right though. It made so much of our money disappear out of our wallets, that now it’s going to get a sequel.
The news comes from THR, who report that, to date, Now You See Me has pulled in $115.6 million domestically and $119.3 million overseas, and that’s keeping in mind that it’s still yet to debut in a couple of bigger markets, like China, Australia, and Japan. Given the fact that the film, in stark contrast to many of the other bombastic, destructive summer movies that were released this year, only cost $75 million to make, that should be seen as a huge success for the studio that produced it, Lionsgate, and maybe a huge indictment of the other studios’ current belief that you have to spend at least $200 million on a movie to draw enough eyes to it to make it profitable.
Given all of the problems the film had and the lukewarm at best reviews that it earned, one has to wonder why exactly so many people from around the world came out to see Now You See Me though. Was this one of those cases where the public’s opinion and critics’ opinion of a movie were really so divided? Or was it more a case where moviegoers were drawn in by an amazing ensemble and a promising premise, and then walked away from the film less than impressed, but still not so negatively engaged that they bothered to give it bad word of mouth? It’s that second possibility that just kind of feels right, doesn’t it? So, despite the fact that a Now You See Me sequel seems like a no-brainer on the surface, one has to wonder if the amount of people who saw the first one and were impressed enough to come back to see a sequel will be large enough to make a Now You See Me 2 a hit on par with the first.
Maybe there is, and maybe there isn’t. And maybe magic is just one of those things that’s universal enough that it does well internationally, because it’s able to cross language barriers. One thing is certain though: it’s time we all start hoping that the script Lionsgate puts together for Now You See Me 2 is a whole lot better than the one they used for the first film. If they waste the likes of Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Mélanie Laurent, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman a second time, it’s not very likely anyone will be asking them back for a third.