I used to watch all those 1980s David Copperfield specials. I wasn’t a magic geek in training or anything – though I do have a memorable gig as an assistant to a magician when I went to a taping of “Bozo’s Circus” in my history – but these were fun cultural moments that everyone was talking about the next day. So I watched as he made the Statue of Liberty disappear and wondered how he did that and other tricks illusions. It was fun, it was breezy and it was clear that while he was dedicated to his craft he wasn’t taking the overall trappings too terribly seriously, instead having fun with it.
The first Now You See Me reminded me of that in a lot of ways, particularly in how it was a slick ridiculous bit of entertainment that asked the audience to buy in to something the movie itself wasn’t completely serious about. Now You See Me 2, out this week, picks up one year after the events of the first film, which saw the Four Horsemen disappearing after pulling off a massive magic-based heist. Now they’re back with a new mission. But they’re pulled into another heist and their only hope is to go through with it in a way that not only makes it clear they’re not the criminals but also expose the man pulling the strings. The movie reunites Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco but Lizzy Caplan replaces Amy Adams as the fourth Horseman. Mark Ruffalo, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are back as well with Daniel Radcliffe joining as the bad guy behind the scenes.
The first posters were a series of character one-sheets that put all the new and returning characters in a glass mirrored room to create the sense of illusion. There’s not much to the posters outside of that, with the title appearing as “NYSM2” (which seems like a hashtag more than anything) and the promise that it’s “reappearing” on June 10.
Another set of character one-sheets came next that took more of an artistic bent, presenting the members of the Four Horsemen in images that look like promo posters from the late 19th/early 20th century. They all give off a “carnival sideshow” vibe and are pretty cool.
Finally there was a theatrical one-sheet that brought together the whole cast, placing them in a maze of cards. It’s a lot of fun and works, in case there was any doubt, to set the story in the world of magic. It also helps to convey the same loose, jazzy kind of tone and attitude that made the first movie such fun. “You haven’t seen anything yet,” promises the copy toward the bottom, acknowledging that yes, this is a sequel.
Three more character posters (sheesh…) came out later that grouped all the main characters in various ways. So the Four Horsemen appear on one, Caine, Radliffe and Cho on another and Freeman and Ruffalo on the third. The various settings of the movie’s story are hinted at by the transparent nature of the rooms the actors are standing in, showing the background of London and so on.
There’s not much to the first teaser trailer other than the promise that the group from the first movie are back and that, according to Freeman’s narration, they may have something bigger in store. Outside of that it’s basically just filled with visually incredible tricks and the promise of more to come. I do, though, love Radliffe’s appearance at the end.
We open in the next trailer (now removed, oddly, because of a copyright claim) to see Jack still trying to teach Meritt a card trick but then get quickly into the plot, as the Four Horsemen make their triumphant return to the stage. We see, though, that Thaddeus has a plot to take them down, including commandeering their show and mysteriously taking them from New York to China. Walter then explains he wants them to steal a computer encryption device for him. So those two plot threads are going to form the crux of the movie’s story.
Yep, that works. It sells a movie that’s full of slick action and outrageous tricks. Everything has a bright sheen so if you’re looking for silly escapist entertainment that’s exactly what you’ll find here.
One more short trailer focuses on the movie’s story, showing the Four Horsemen being recruited by Mabry into committing a massive heist and so on.
As with other trailer, this one is about selling the spectacle and sizzle of the movie, showing off lots of tricks and so on. It’s good and, again, if you liked the first movie this one is presented as more of the same.
Online and Social
The official website opens with the second trailer playing and it’s worth watching since it looks like a lot of fun.
Starting with the content menu on the left hand side, the first section is “Videos” which is where you’ll find two trailers and a video called Reappearing that is, oddly, unavailable because of a copyright claim against it. Would love to know what the story there is.
“About” has a decent story synopsis that outlines what the conflict of the story is. After that is “Cast & Crew” which just has the names of the actors and the characters they’re playing along with a picture. No bios or links anywhere else.
All those posters? They’re here in the “Posters” section so at least they’re not going completely to waste. After that is a nice “Gallery” of stills from the movie.
The companies who are helping to promote the movie are listed in “Partners.” Finally “Mobile Magic” takes you to iTunes where you can download a NYSM2 app that will help you learn a few easy magic tricks.
Finally, if you “Scroll for Experience” as the prompt on the landing page tells you to you’re guided through a series of animations and images that recreate the posters, scenes we’ve seen in the trailers and more. It’s cool, but the overall experience is a bit less than intuitive.
The movie’s Facebook page is pretty good, with the usual bits of promotional images and videos along side some much more interesting interactive quizzes and other posts and items. Twitter is also pretty good with lots of RTs of fans and partners to count down to the movie and Instagram has the usual promotional images.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
The studio created and ran plenty of TV spots like this one that used some of the bigger moments from the trailer to sell the movie as a run thrill ride full of slick visuals. There’s absolutely nothing about the story in any of the commercials other than some vague hints about a “big reveal” and the fact that some sort of hijinks are certainly on display.
- BMW Motorrad: Not clear what the integration is, but it looks like BMW provided cars for the first movie so it’s safe to assume it did likewise here.
- Fantasma Magic: Created a movie-themed set of beginner magic tricks to get you up to speed.
- The Venetian: No details on any actual promotional deal but the movie shot in part at the hotel.
- Sands Resort: Same as above.
- Theory11: Created a set of special edition movie-themed playing cards which are, presumably, perfect for your magic trick needs.
There were also plenty of online ads run that used various versions of the key art. And with so many posters created it’s safe to assume outdoor billboard sand more were placed as well. I also so quite a few promoted posts and profiles on Twitter and Facebook, so there was a significant social ad spend too.
Media and Publicity
One story went in-depth on the creation of one of the movie’s more complex illusions, this one involving Caplan’s character appearing to decapitate herself. That story also more generally covered director Chu’s approach to the illusions on display, most of which were done with the help of consultant Keith Barry.
Outside of that there were the usual interviews with the cast and crew. Nothing too in-depth or notable but they all made the press rounds and talked about returning to these characters and expanding the story.
The thing that jumps out at me is that the campaign isn’t pretending the movie is anything but what it is: A really slick piece of popcorn entertainment. That’s hit throughout the marketing in all elements, from the trailers to the site and the massive array of posters that were released. The story is only mentioned in a few places and what’s there isn’t fleshed out well enough to really explain it to the audience in any meaningful way.
Everything here is just all sizzle and no substance. That’s not a bad thing, it just means that it’s counting on the sizzle to be enough to pull in the audience, which isn’t guaranteed since that’s basically the same sales pitch everything else getting wide release is making to the audience. So the marketers are counting on this looking like more fun than some of the other releases, particularly the raft of “hero versus hero” super hero movies that look dour and grim. Let’s see if that focus is both representative of the movie and enough to bring in the audience this weekend.