BBC Radio film reviewer Mark Kermode described the Jesse Eisenberg magician heist film Now You See Me as “The Prestige for dumb people” in reference to its surface level similarities without the same amount of depth. In the film, Eiesenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, and Isla Fisher star as four magicians selected by a mysterious benefactor to perform an elaborate bank heist, which Mark Ruffalo is assigned to as the FBI investigator in its aftermath. It’s actually a far different film than The Prestige, but with Christopher Nolan favorites Morgan Freeman and Michael also showing up in supporting roles and an apparent homage to the “girl in the water tank” magic trick the comparisons are unavoidable. However, here’s one big difference between the two: The Prestige was a one-and-done deal whereas Now You See Me is getting a sequel now. Score one for dumb people, I guess.
Lionsgate confirmed earlier today, as per The Hollywood Reporter, that production on a sequel is officially scheduled to begin in 2014. And that’s pretty much all we know at this point. Who in the cast is returning? No idea, although one would assume you can’t tell a sequel to the story of magicians who call themselves “The Four Horsemen” without, well, the four horsemen. Based upon the conclusion to the film, Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurents would seem like necessary parts of a sequel as well. What about the people behind the scenes? It’s unclear if director Louis Leterrier and screenwriters Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, and Edward Rincourt will be asked back (or have contracts dictating as much).
Of course, no one could have predicted this turn of events earlier this year. When promotion first began for Now You See Me, it was easy to write it off as just another Jesse Eisenberg film in which he plays a version of Mark Zuckerberg. That comparison seemed inevitable when the trailers highlighted an interrogation sequence in which Eisenberg displayed his Zuckerberg-esque douchebag charm (or anti-charm) ala the famous legal deposition scenes from The Social Network.
Here’s the trailer for Now You See Me:
Plus, it certainly didn’t help that its promotional period overlapped with that of another movie about magicians, the Steve Carrel-Jim Carrey-Olivia Wilde stinker The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.
Once the film was actually released, critical opinion was mixed-to-negative, but it stunned box office prognosticators by opening #2 in North America, ahead of After Earth, the other movie opening that weekend that was supposed to be the bigger hit. Instead, After Earth bombed so hard it is a key piece of evidence being used by an activist stockholder seeking to bring about some seriously significant changes in that film’s distributor, Sony, while Now You See Me is truly the toast of the summer, on its way to becoming among the most profitable films of the season.
How much has it made so far? A lot. Oh, you want something more specific? The current worldwide total is $233 million, $115 million domestic and $117 million foreign. That is chump change compared to something like Man of Steel or Iron Man 3, but while those both grossed more than $600 million worldwide they also cost around $200 to produce and possibly around the same to market. Now You See Me only cost $75 million to produce, with much of that budget coming via foreign pre-sale agreements Lionsgate made with various foreign distributors who (in the simplest explanation) contribute to a film’s budget in exchange for the rights to distribute the film in their territory/country.
It’s not done yet, though. Now You See Me has pretty well run its course domestically, but Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment have been staggering its foreign releases. For example, it just opened in France last weekend, where it scored the highest opening of any English-language film of the year (the director is French…what his last name, Leterrier, didn’t give it away?), and it still has openings in China and Japan down the road. The Lionsgate CEO thinks it could reach $275 million worldwide when all is said and done, and he may not be wrong.
Here’s why this is both good and bad news: the fact that a mid-size budgeted film like Now You See Me has outperformed big-budget bombs like The Lone Ranger, White House Down, and R.I.P.D. this summer might be a wake-up call to Hollywood studios that were far too quick to abandon the mid-sized film in their rush for bigger equaling better. Plus, the example on Lionsgate’s part with their intricate foreign pre-sales points to the ever-increasing importance of the foreign markets for US films. However, Lionsgate reacting to their surprising success by just fast-tracking a sequel instead of going for another original product of a similar budget and quality (although hopefully even better) is pretty much just more of the same.
What do you think – did you like Now You See Me, proud to call yourself a “dumb person” if that’s the only person who could like it? Saw it and agree with Mark Kermode? Think I’m over-analyzing and sometimes a sequel announcement is just a sequel announcement? Take to the comments.
Here’s the First 4 Minutes (roughly) of Now You See Me: