The first film, for me, was one of those surprises you get every once in a while that keeps you going back to the movies. I was blown away by how much I loved it. At the end of 2013, it sat atop my list of favorite movies of the year.
I only found out about the sequel a few months ago. Naturally, I was excited when I did. I knew I was going to go see it as soon as I could. That's why on Thursday evening, June 9, at about 6:45pm Paula and I were sitting in the theater waiting for the first showing.
Now here's my spoiler free review of the movie.
All the original cast members are back except for Isla Fisher who played Henley the only female member of "The Four Horsemen". She bowed out of this one due to her pregnancy.
This sequel is essentially a heist film that revolves around the world of magic. It takes place 18 months after the Horsemen's rooftop disappearance.
During their time being out of the public the Horseman both as a group and individually begin to believe their own publicity. They get a bit too sure of themselves. This is a key elements in the trouble they get into.
Just like the first film, from the beginning you know there is something going on but you can't explain how it's happening, are amazed that it is, and don't really know who's behind the curtain pulling the levers. But in this one it is done with a lot less clarity or sense of mystery.
The plot zig zags more than a Florida resident trying to out run an alligator. Most of the twists are meant to be misdirections but there are so many of them they're annoying.
Magic is used in a much different way in this one. There is not as much "hocus pocus" pull a rabbit from the hat type magic. The Horseman's specific skill sets are used as a means to an end and in ways other than in front of an audience.
There is a lot of action, in fact at times it felt like I was watching an action movie or an Ocean's Eleven type film.
Mark Ruffalo's character is totally turned around from the way he was at first. He's a man whose feelings and fears are being used to manipulate him. The issue of his father's death is still very relevant. His emotional connections bind him and forces his hand.
As a matter of fact, Agent Rhodes and the other magicians seem are the ones trapped in the very large magic box this time.
There are also supporting characters returning for this sequel. Morgan Freeman as the still imprisoned Thaddeus Bradley and Michael Caine as millionaire Arthur Tressler. Both play key parts in the plot. However, they are not as confident and compelling this time around.
The absence of Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) is explained at the start of the film. But one blatant unexplained absence from the first movie, at least for me, is that of French Interpol agent Alma Dray. Rhode's partner; an important character. She isn't even mentioned this time and it really bothered me.
The new characters, some played by some pretty well known actors, are not up to the same level as those who they join.
Daniel Radcliffe's villain character is very hard to take seriously. Radcliffe is just not convincing as a villain. But you judge for yourself.
The new member of the Horseman, Lula, played by Lizzy Caplan, appeals to the millennials and Comic-Con type fans. She comes to the Horseman as a fan but quickly becomes part of the team.
I can't reveal who plays yet another important new character (let's just call him "Chase") because it could be a spoiler for some. But in my opinion the casting was all wrong. It took away from the enjoyment of the film.
Now from an article I read online, I know what the director was going for with this character.
But to me the choice for who should play this role was something out of "Gilligian's Island" and was a just a distraction.
I'm not going to give away anything specific about the ending. But it seemed to me it was more about movie special effects than anything else. Although it was set up by some street magic; something that helped make the Horseman who they are.
Okay, what did I like about this movie?
Well, let's start with the cast. I really like Mark Ruffalo. I'd go and watch him read the phone book.
Jessie Eisenberg is likable given the right role. Same thing is true when it comes to Woody Harrelson. Dave Franco is a much better actor and more likable than his older brother, James.
Oscar winners Caine and Freeman are movie stars of the highest magnitude.They always have great screen presence and always will.
I like that the Horseman and Rhodes had the tables turned on them. The fact that they weren't in control most of the time and things didn't always go exactly as they had planned helped make things a bit more realistic.
The secret society of magicians, aka "The Eye", has more of a presence in this film, especially in the last 10 minutes or so. As someone who tends to believe in conspiracy theories the idea of secret societies appeals to me.
Now that I know that there's plans for a 3rd installment in this franchise (it was announced more than a year ago and is still in development) I can put this 2nd film in perspective. I liked this movie, I didn't love it like I did the original. However, now, I do like the characters just as much if not more.
In the end I do recommend you go see this film.
Make sure you have watched the first one before you do. This will not only get you up to speed on The Four Horsemen but you will appreciate the contrast between the two.
Now I know I have written a lot more negative than positive stuff; but with movies I am excited about seeing I have a tendency to set expectations a bit high.
I will most likely go see it a 2nd time, just to try and see some important things I missed. Perhaps then I can judge it in a more objective way. If I get a different perspective I will make sure I share it with you.
Feedback Welcome: Did you see this movie too? What did you think of it? Let me know. I may share what you say on a future "feedback" post.