What I Watched is and on again, off again feature in which I discuss the writing lessons I learned watching a particular television show or movie. It is not my intent to reveal spoilers in these posts, but sometimes it is necessary to talk about the lesson learned. All spoilers will be clearly marked.
My daughter and I are on a mission this summer. To see a movie every Tuesday — my husband golf league night AND the day that movies are only $5 at our local theater.
This week, we picked Now You See Me.
Anytime I start to pick on what I dislike about a movie, I get the feeling people will think I didn’t like it all. With this film, that is not the case. I have some complaints, which I will talk about, but overall I really enjoyed most of the movie. If I had to give it an overall grade, I’d probably go with a B bordering on B-.
I’m going to do my best to talk about my likes, dislikes and what I learned without divulging spoilers, but it’s going to be really, really hard with this one. If you haven’t seen the movie, and hope to, read on with caution.
The scene pictured to the left is one of those from the trailer that drew me to this film about four (5? 6?) magicians who go from street performers and minor success to pulling off some Robin Hood-esque heists and rise to big notoriety. In the early scenes, Henley (shown left) is doing a Houdini-like Chinese Water Torture escape — with an added element of Piranhas.
From the moment the four magicians are singled out and brought together, you realize there is a huge mystery to unravel. Who is the mastermind? Who is bringing them together? And to what end?
The journey along the way is quite the ride. Some beautifully shot scenes involving the illusions. The acting is very good — from an all star cast, though I’d have to say Woody Harrelson has a way of stealing any scene he is in.
There are clues given — or so we think. A good thriller / mystery should have tidbits the savvy movie watcher can pick up on. Of course, you expect red herrings to be thrown in too, but in the end, it should all make sense.
Or is that my over sensitive writing brain taking over?
When the big reveal happens, I should be able to look back and say, “Oh, yeah, I should have seen that coming.” I shouldn’t leave the theater thinking, “What just happened in there?”
Even though I don’t write true thrillers, both Fairyproof and Resurrecting Harry have a small mystery element to them. What I tried to do in those books, and what I learned after watching Now You See Me, is that layering is oh-so-important in a story like this. Everything has to come together for a satisfying ending. It’s not fair to lead the audience in one direction and then in the end make the viewer (or reader) think they were lied to.
Because that was my first thought as the mystery was revealed: “You lied to me!” An I began listing in my mind all the scenes that should have been played out the way they were for this ending to make sense.
I was reminded of the scene in What Just Happened with Robert De Niro when his character is looking at the surveys from test audience and those guests are threatening to kill him over the ending of the film he’s trying to produce. I seriously thought, “How did this ever pass a test audience?”
Then, in the back of my mind, I think: this movie was supposed to be about illusions, right? Misdirection. The power of magic. Yeah…I’m still not happy with how it ends.
That being said, I cannot in good faith tell you not to see it. I would warn, however, to go in and enjoy the ride. Take in the magic, be amazed (or maybe let down) by the scenes that explain how some of the tricks are done, but, maybe, you’ll enjoy it better if you don’t treat it like a mystery.