Magicians and illusionists can get away with a lot if the use enough smoke and mirrors. With the assistance of some editing and special effects, they can pull off even more in movies like Now You See Me 2. Considering most tricks are all really just a big cheat, it comes as no surprise that a film based around magicians would be anything less. As if that isn’t lazy enough, director Jon M. Chu and screenwriter Ed Solomon have gone even lazier by pulling the oldest sequel rabbit out of their hat: the twin brother! Not even two Woody Harrelsons and one Harry Potter can clean up the mess audiences are left with. Considering NYSM2 only brought in about half as much box office as the first one (at least here in the U.S.), it’s a head scratcher that Lionsgate has a proposed third installment waiting in the wings.
Picking up shortly after the first film, J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) is still searching for the ever elusive “Eye.” FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is still pretending to be hot on the Four Horsemen’s trail, while Agent Cowan (David Warshofsky) is still waiting to unmask him for the fraud he suspects. Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) is patiently waiting in prison to exact his revenge, meanwhile, tycoon Arthur Tressler’s (Michael Caine) illegitimate son Walter Mabry (Radcliffe) is helping his dad exact revenge. Meanwhile, Merritt McKinney’s (Harrelson) twin brother Chase (Harrelson again) is helping Walter, leaving Jack “Faked-His-Own-Death” to play odd man out even if he’s written into a forced relationship with the new Horseman Lula (Lizzy Caplan).
Lionsgate has issued Now You See Me 2 on both Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD, and the results are a mixed bag when poised against each other. The 1080p presentation is the more favorable of the two as the blacks aren’t quite as crush-filled, there’s less noise, and has a far more filmic look. The 4K has an artificial sharpness to it, something that should have been left behind from the days of DVD and early Blu-ray, but still wreaking havoc on most Universal catalogue titles. A simple thing such as the leather interior of a Hummer looks simply like leather at 1080p whereas there’s a weird shimmer to it in 4K.
Colors on the 4K aren’t necessarily better either, even with the touted HDR. Brighter doesn’t mean natural. Skin tones fluctuate way more throughout the 4K disc than the Blu-ray, they’re far more consistent in 1080p. There’s been complaints about constant judder throughout the 4K, but I never witnessed it once on a 65” Samsung (UN65J58500) played through a Samsung UBD-K8500. This could be a case of early 4K adopters having older monitors. All things considered, the 4K looks like an upscaled Blu-ray, which is funny since playing the Blu-ray on either a 4K display or on a 1080p display still looks better. If you have to have the 4K disc, at least it comes with the Blu-ray.
The included Dolby Atmos track (downgraded to a 7.1 for this review) is as good as you’d expect. While the film itself never finds itself as the kind of film made for an Atmos mix, it still sounds way better than I’m sure a 5.1 would. Does it need Atmos? No. But it’s nice to see Lionsgate continuing to pull out the stops on the audio front. Dialogue is never lost amidst the random moments of chaos and there’s plenty of prioritization and directionality. There’s also plenty of ambient use of all surrounds, even when it’s just Rhodes talking to agents in his office. Bass is deep but never wall-shaking. Crowded moments are always enveloping and the score is never overwhelming. Additional audio tracks include the English Dolby TrueHD 7.1, Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1, and an English Dolby Digital 2.0. English and Spanish subtitles are also available.
All special features for NYSM2 are on the Blu-ray disc. What is included are your typical EPK material with the cast and crew indulging in lots of back-patting. They may have had a great time making the film, but so did the cast of Ocean’s Twelve, and that didn’t cross over to audience enjoyment either. First up is an audio commentary with Director Jon M. Chu. Behind-the-scenes featurettes include “The Art of the Ensemble” (21 mins) featuring the cast and crew discussing how awesome they all are; “You Can’t Look Away” (17 mins) goes over the sets, production design, and location filming; “Bringing Magic to Life” (16 mins) could have been the most interesting since it includes producer David Copperfield and Magic & Mentalism Consultant Keith David. They clearly think they’re way more clever than the audience and try to convince you that most of the tricks were done in-camera. Anyone watching the film will see right through Chu’s smoke and mirrors.
I was never a huge fan of the first Now You See Me, as it might as well have been called Exposition: The Movie! since it spent half the movie explaining what was going on. This is no different. Except that the tricks are bigger and faker. The 4K presentation isn’t much of a step up from the standard 1080p, but at least both discs are being packaged together. Fans of the first will probably find a few things worth checking out, but for a film centered around magic, it certainly lacks in that department.
The special features are self indulgent and add nothing to helping the film’s cause. Chances are you won’t even remember watching the film once you’ve sat through another one. A rental wouldn’t be a huge loss, but it’s not necessarily worth paying the extra money for a 4K purchase. At least the audio lives up to Atmos standards. But there are way better demo discs that are way more deserving of your hard earned cash and time. See it at your own risk.