We have been thinking about the reviews and have come to the conclusion that we aren’t really doing reviews of these movies, or at least shouldn’t be. You have plenty of reviews to choose from should you so desire. Our focus is story. So we are going to change it up a bit to an analysis of these movies. Why they work as stories and why they don’t. We are really looking forward to this approach and what we can learn from the analysis.
The movie this week is Now You See Me starring Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Mark Ruffalo and Jesse Eisenberg amongst many others. The story is about four illusionists, well, actually three illusionists and a mentalist who come together as “The Four Horsemen” to put on these incredible shows that not only amaze but also steal from the rich and give it to the audience. At the same time, an FBI agent is not only trying to hunt them down, but actually prove that they, in fact, stole the money.
I liked this movie, but I didn’t love it. I wanted to love it and there were many good things, but there were elements of the story that didn’t work. So let’s take a look at what and why it worked and didn’t. Now movies are an interesting entity when it comes to story because there are so many different mediums coming together to tell the story. Some of which don’t innately have anything to do with story. One such thing is music. The music in this movie, in my mind, acted against the direction that the movie was going. It felt like it was something out of Ocean’s Eleven. Kinda upbeat poppy music, but the mood of the movie was a little more intense than that. It felt like they were trying to shoehorn a mood with the music that the story didn’t actually have. It was a little more intense than that and at the very least it was less of a caper and more action movie-esque.
The music was not the biggest problem, however. The biggest problem was The Four Horsemen. Now don’t get me wrong, they had great dialogue and seemed to be very dynamic characters, but they were not actually dynamic characters. They were extremely static. They had almost no arc except for the main story arc of completing the shows. The movie barely followed them. It starts with them doing their individual acts. Some of them more famous than others. Then they all get the call, in the form of a tarot card, to meet at an apartment in New York City. They receive their call to action and we cut to several years later and stop following their story. Until the very end of the movie, we only see them while they are putting on the shows and for a pretty great chase scene somewhere in the middle or so. That’s it. There is no character development, they have little to no backstory and we don’t really get to see them grow. I think that this was a major failing. Another half hour of story where we actually get to see their struggle and learn their history would’ve made this a great story.
My last gripe– er uhhh point of analysis is about a concept that the movie puts forth to the audience. It presents a secret society known as the Eye. It is made up of top tier magicians and illusionists who use their great knowledge to stand up for truth and justice and has done so since ancient times. The problem here is that this is all the information we ever receive about this major plot point except that The Four Horsemen are putting on these shows as an audition to become members. It became something to advance the story without their actually being any weight to it. I want to know more about the society, but it doesn’t matter if the Horsemen get accepted because I don’t know anything about them. It needed to be in that extra half hour I mentioned earlier. Actually, if there was an extra half hour of Horsemen screen time we would’ve seen their motivations and thusly would’ve received more info on the Eye. They are intertwined.
So we’ve talked about what didn’t work, but let’s talk about what did work. The Four Horsemen weren’t featured much throughout the movie but, their caper was. The caper was actually pretty well done. It was intriguing and well put together and when all the pieces were in place it all made sense. So the main plot line was well designed.
Also, because we weren’t following the Horsemen, we were instead following the FBI agent played by Mark Ruffalo. This character had a pretty decent arc. It was enjoyable to watch as he went deeper and deeper into the world of illusion and misdirection. The relationship between him and the French Interpol Agent that he is forced to work with becomes an interesting subplot. There wasn’t anything amazing in this part of the story but it was solid background to the caper leading up to a pretty decent twist. It worked.
Lastly, the dialogue, as mentioned before, was really good. Every character had a distinct voice. Even the Horsemen, of whom we know so little. Now, of course, half of that is the acting, but acting is one of those mediums that come together in movies to tell stories. Good dialogue and good acting can stand alone, but when they are both present it’s exponentially better.
That about does it for this analysis. Now You See Me was definitely worth seeing. (Pun alert!) The story had some flaws but overall it was good and I enjoyed watching it. I wouldn’t be upset to see a sequel. (Now You Don’t?… Anybody?) Just saying. Anyway, thanks for stopping by the Aisle. We hope you enjoyed our selection for you today. We hope you come back for more. Next up, MAN OF STEEL! We are excited to say the least. Should be a good one, so, we will see you then.