I woke up early for some Sunday morning cinema and experienced two let-downs.
- AMC raised pre-noon ticket prices to $7.00 (Bastards.)
- Despite the assemblage of an undeniably kick-ass cast, Now You See Me failed to rock my world
From the first time I saw the trailer, I thought this film had the potential to be my favorite surprise of the summer. For myriad reasons, it just looked like it was made specifically for me. But alas, while it seems to be a relatively successful crowd pleaser, it did not especially please me.
I give them credit for trying something different from the typical heist movie formula. Usually you follow the banditos around while they hatch and execute their scheme. Instead, this movie follows around the cops and assorted other folks while they endlessly try to explain to each other their theories of how the criminal masterminds pulled it off. One of these fonts of exposition happens to be Morgan Freeman, and so the audience is treated to a lot of him narrating other characters’ death-defying feats of cleverness. This has worked before, but not in a heist movie.
It’s a problem of sympathy. A successful heist movie gets law-abiding citizens to root for the crooks, mainly because in Hollywood the crooks are frequently so smart and charming and good-looking. But the “Four Horsemen” are barely even in this movie. Rip off.* Frankly I think it’s a serious mistake to spend so much time with the authorities. If I wanted to watch a police procedural, I could just turn on TNT at any time of the day or night without even leaving the house.
I have to admit this is all way more entertaining than I’m making it out to be. The movie is fast-paced, there’s some interesting dialogue about the art of illusionists, and it has a nice sense of whimsy about it. But it just left me wanting more (in a bad way), and then there’s the twist.
Full disclosure: I did not see it coming. But I refuse to offer any kudos for that because it’s not just unpredictable; it doesn’t make any sense.
Allow me to digress for a flashback. It’s circa 2005. I have rented Identity** from Blockbuster (remember them?), and I’m watching it at home by myself. Rarely have I been as enthralled as I am by the first half of Identity. I am completely mesmerized by the all the possibilities surrounding the central mystery. How can they possibly wrap all this up? The prospect of this film presenting me with an elegant and ingeniously complex solution delights me. And then they reveal their hand, and…
I’ll refrain from spoiling the movie even though it’s a decade old. It will suffice to say the resolution provided is the only one that could possibly explain everything that happens, but I found it immensely unsatisfying regardless. It keeps good company with the twist in Now You See Me.
Except this twist is actually worse. Because I could still go back to Identity and appreciate it for the movie it is rather than the one I wanted it to be. Really the twist in Now You See Me ruins the whole picture. Seriously. However, if you would care to argue otherwise, feel free to do so in the comments. Just keep in mind that it might get awfully spoilery up in here if we start a real discussion about it.
* I realized at about the half-way point that what I really wanted to see was the magicians’ stage show. I probably would’ve been happier buying a Penn & Teller ticket, but then again that would’ve set me back quite a bit more than just $7.00. Maybe I’ll just watch some Through the Wormhole instead.