Friday, July 5, 2013

"Now You See Me" (2013)

Every once a while a trend emerges in Hollywood. Multiple projects about the same subject or theme will coincidentally be released around the same time. Back in 2006 and again this year, pairs of magic themed movies were released. In all four cases they were pretty much popcorn fare, even though we got four distinct stylistic approaches to the subject (comic, action, period drama, and sci-fi mystery.)

The problem with traditional magic tricks and approaches these days is that we are too informed. Just about everybody knows the basic techniques used to pull off such entertainment; so we are watching for things like sleight of hand and misdirection. This all means that modern day magicians need to be highly skilled—we will see little mistakes and slip-ups—and they have to be creative. We are not impressed with things we have seen before or that we can figure out.

In the film world, of course, the magicians can do anything. We all know that they have the benefit of computer animation and editing. We are not expecting a bunch of tricks that could actually be done in real life. That does not mean that anything goes, however. In the case of a magician story, all of the skill and technique must go into the story-telling. Here we are also an informed public. We know to look for things like red herrings and foreshadowing.

So, does Leterrier pull off a good story in “Now You See Me?” Sort of. It is an entertaining film if you don’t think about what you are seeing. The problem is that—since this is a film about magic—we are all in “overthinking” mode. We are looking for the wires and the twists that we know are bound to come. That is where things fall apart. We know where the story is going the whole time. We see the red herrings from miles away. The only thing that partly saves the whole thing is that we like where the story is going… Right up until the completely implausible and unearned romantic end.

That is anything but magic.

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