As I feel I may have previously mentioned, there was a period of time between the Oscar season where the cinemas seemed to be running dry of any films worth seeing that weren’t just for petty thrills or to simply past the time. With some of the year’s most anticipated films on their way to or having been released (Man of Steel, World War Z, The World’s End, and most importantly…Monsters University), I really hoped that Now You See Me would have been one of them…unfortunately, it was quite the opposite.
In brief, the film is about a group of street magicians that collaborate to perform under the name of The Four Hoursemen who, with some kind of weird secret that isn’t really clear, even after its supposed to have been explained, are able to rob banks, vaults, and insurance companies of millions of dollars, without taking any for themselves. How good of them. When I first saw the trailer, I was firstly excited by seeing Jesse Eisenberg from being a huge fan of Zombieland and The Social Network, as well as Woody Harrelson, who is just a legend within his own right. With other huge players like Sir Michael Cane, Morgan Freeman and Mark Ruffalo, it was hard to see how it could go wrong. But, I’m afraid to say, such a broad range of talent was wasted on this film. Coming out of the cinema after seeing it, both my friend and I were left thinking ‘What the hell was that?’. The film’s problem is that it’s another case of being too ambitious, punching above its weight with a star studded cast, and great visual effects but faulting when it comes to the actual story line.
My main problem with the film as a whole was that it was unclear as to whose side you are supposed to be on. It could have been the magicians, thus aligning the audience with criminals (which I always find interesting in films), it could have been with Mark Ruffalo and Mélanie Laurent who were hopelessly chasing after the Horsemen’s antics, or it could of been with Morgan Freeman’s pretty much pointless character who was a TV presenter for a show that exposes con artists for who they really are. They didn’t get the balance of exposure between all of the characters to be able to make it clear who the audience were supposed to be rooting for. Talking of exposure of characters, just what even was the point of Morgan Freeman being there? It seemed like he was just cast to slap a big Morgan Freeman shaped seal of approval on the filming, to deem the film worthy of viewing. But I’m not convinced. He just seemed to turn up randomly and constantly look smug about how he knows everything about magicians and how they work and whatever, without actually seeming to do anything to try and expose the Four Horsemen…so…pointless really.
I also had a petty problem with the sound levels. I’ve said before that I don’t know anything about sound engineering or anything in that line of work, and I’m sorry to get technical, but it just seemed very slack. I blame the cinema itself for not making the film louder, which obviously isn’t the film’s fault, but in addition to that, there were points where random sound effects like shoes running, or random shouts were so much louder than the atmospheric chase music that it just ended up sounding like a badly dubbed foreign movie.
To move on quickly to performance, most of the actors were okay at best. Eisenberg was his usual better-than-Michael-Cera-but-equally-awkward self but a lot cooler than his other films. Maybe because he was a magician…The most emphasis was put on Mark Ruffalo who, after deliberation, I have decided was supposed to be the main character, but the emphasis was lost a little due to the lack of his ability to convince me that he wasn’t still The Hulk. There is an interrogation scene, throughout the entirety of which I was just waiting on him to say ‘YOU WON’T LIKE ME WHEN I’M ANGRY BLAHRAHLAHG’, so, I couldn’t really take him seriously from there on in. There’s also another hilarious sequence where he is chasing after Eisenberg and is running through a restaurant and is literally just shoving people out the way, shouting ‘MOVE’ and then not going in the direction of which he shoved the people out of the way to so desperately get to in the first place. He did this about four times. My friend made a point which I agree with after seeing it in that, it seemed like this film was going to be Dave Franco’s ‘big break’, giving him some of the major plot points and impressive fight sequences, but it just faulted slightly. Again, I just felt there wasn’t really enough character development, for any of the characters, to make me feel particularly attached to either one of them. Lastly, some of the extras in the film were just plain unbelievable. Now, I’ve been to magic shows, and although everyone is there and loving it, I know full well that everyone is secretly thinking ‘shit, I really hope I don’t get picked’. But everyone in the audience seemed to be well up for, shouting ‘That’s me!’ or ‘Over here!’ sassily (if that’s even a word…) when their name was called out. Very strange.
Having said all of that, I did really enjoy the look of the film, lots of sweeping camera angles that made the magicians look plain epic, and plenty of special effects that leant to the incomprehensible nature of the Horsemen’s tricks. It did lend the audience the epic atmosphere of what it would be like to attend one of their shows.
I don’t want to leave this review feeling like the only good aspect of this film was some of the performances and the visual and special effects of the film, but the more I dwelled on it after leaving the cinema, the more confused I felt about the film and what on earth I had just seen. It’s a shame because it had the potential to be a really slick and cool film, which it very nearly was, but it was just let down by its lack of attention to narrative and explanation of certain parts of the plot. If you’ve seen Clash Of The Titans, which was also directed by Louis Leterrier, then you might be able to understand some of the problems I mean, because they are quite similar in their delivery or storyline – all about the effects, yet not real substance. Having said that, it was fairly enjoyable to an extent and I can see some people enjoying it, but I guess it just wasn’t my cup of tea.