Now You See Me 2 puts the magic of the original to shame. Picking up a year after the events of the first film, the Four Horsemen are back — with Lizzy Caplan filling the void left by Isla Fisher — with even more magical and death-defying thrills. Except this time around, they’re the ones being played.
In the new trailer above, the Four Horsemen themselves are exploited by a tech prodigy, Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), who may have an accomplice in the incarcerated Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), out for blood after Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) framed him as the Fifth Horsemen in the first outing.
But it looks like that may come back to haunt Rhodes, as a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene in the trailer depicts someone (possibly the Fifth Horsemen) being dropped into dark waters inside a safe — much like what happened to Rhodes’ father, Lionel Shrike.
To get the scoop on what’s in store in the sequel, EW turned to director Jon M. Chu to answer our burning questions:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKY: Talk about where we’re picking up, a year later, with the story. How are the Four Horsemen even working without immediately being arrested after the events of the first film?
JON M. CHU: They’re in hiding in the beginning of the movie and they’re frustrated because the promise of working with the Eye is not exactly how they imagined it. They’ve had to stay in hiding. They haven’t had the big next job yet. They’ve been training and planning something that they’re not privy to when it’s going to occur or exactly what it is yet.
In the sequel, the Four Horsemen themselves have been tricked, seemingly by Thaddeus Bradley. What are they facing in this new movie?
The fun part of this movie is the first one was all about a trick to the audience. With this movie, it slips to the other side of the curtain. We are with the Horsemen almost the whole time. We get to see them being placed into a magic trick themselves. They have to use their knowledge of magic to figure out how to get out of this magic box. Their show is hijacked. They get sent into a tube and arrive on the other end in China. They have to figure out how to get out.
The first movie established that magic is real. How much do you lean into that in the second film, especially with the trailer saying that the Horsemen magically end up in China?
In this movie, we really wanted to show that all magic has a mechanic to it, because these are highly specialized people who use storytelling, use distraction, use sleight of hand, mentalism, and hypnotism to achieve their allusion. We don’t necessarily do hocus pocus magic in this movie. We tried to do a lot of it practically. You’ll physically see these things. We created the contraptions and the things so we could actually shoot it on camera. What’s fun about this movie, too, especially Daniel [Radcliffe] — he’s this guy who loves magic, but has been burned by magic, so he’s turned to science as the real magic. He’s really bad at magic, actually. So Daniel Radcliffe in the movie is not good at magic. When he does finally accomplish magic, his favorite part is to tell everyone how he did it. That mechanic is a fun thing that we play off of as our team tries to unravel what he has put them in.
With someone like Radcliffe, who starred for a very long time in a franchise about magic, will you have any references to Harry Potter in the film?
You’re going to have to see that for yourself. Ours is a very different world than Harry Potter. But this is a fun movie. We have a lot of references to a lot of things. Ed Solomon, our writer, is amazing. There’s a lot of pop culture references and things like that in our film.
Early on, Michael Caine let slip that Daniel Radcliffe is playing Tressler’s son. Do the Horsemen know this?
I’ll neither confirm nor deny that report of Michael Caine saying that. Michael Caine is obviously a part of this movie.
Does whatever is happening and whoever is doing this to the Horsemen have a direct revenge connection to the first film?
There’s definitely a revenge aspect to the movie. Even though you don’t need to have seen the first movie to understand this movie we made, we made a very conscious decision to do that, it is actually a companion piece. If you do watch that first movie, the weight of events carry over to this movie, and it’s almost the second half of what they started there.
In the trailer, it appears that someone is dropped into the water inside a safe, much like what happened to Rhodes’ father Lionel Shreike. Is that meant to be a direct homage to the past?
Or you may even see the events that sparked this whole thing since the first movie. You may see what happened to Dylan as a kid and what went down. It could go either way. Like I said, it’s continuing Dylan’s journey of this guy who held this revenge plot in his head for 30 years in that first movie. That’s a lot time to plan and have the long game go on and on. What happens to the man when he actually accomplishes that? What happens to that boy when he gets to the end of the journey and now the trick is over? Who is that person at that point? Is he an FBI agent? Is he a magician? Is he part of the Eye? Who is that person, and does he even know? I think that journey, emotionally for me, really got me into this movie.
Is Rhodes more of the leader of the group now instead of J Daniel Atlas?
The movie starts with Rhodes as the leader of the group. It’s a couple years later. He has brought them into the Eye. They’re following his lead, but there are definitely questions about his leadership. There are definitely questions about his effectiveness. He’s never been a part of their group. There’s definitely some tension about who is the leader at the beginning of this movie.
How are you explaining away Henley?
You have to see the movie to see the explanation, but there is definitely an explanation for sure.
How different is Lula from Henley?
Completely different. We definitely did not want to tread on Henley territory. She was so great and we loved Henley. Lula is actually a fan of the Horsemen and of the Eye and all these things of what she thinks is true. She has studied them as well. She gets dropped in here as someone who is eager. She doesn’t know how to lie. She just speaks the truth. She loves geek magic, which is basically like bloody, gutsy magic. Her magic is very gross, I guess. It’s very bloody and things are always being cut off.
Anything you can tell us of Sanaa Lathan or Jay Chou’s characters?
Sanaa comes in as the new head of the FBI. She has to deal with what was left last time, the mess that the FBI didn’t catch these guys. She actually has a respect for Rhodes. Even though Rhodes is the guy who dropped the ball, she looked up to him even when she was a younger FBI agent. She looked up to who he was as a hero. There is a mutual respect there, although in her position, she still has to fulfill her position, so it’s a tough place to be. She’s amazing. Jay Chou, what can I say? One, he’s the coolest dude on the planet. Just being on set, he does real magic. He can do anything on the fly. It’s really amazing. They meet him in Macau and we don’t know if he’s an enemy or a friend of theirs throughout the movie.
In a deleted post-credits scene from the first film, we see the Horsemen gather to get their new gear, but they’re missing their tarot cards. Does the sequel tie into that at all?
No. We don’t tie it to that moment.
Will the cards be back?
There are a lot of Easter eggs in the movie, even when the movie is done, you probably have to watch it a couple more times to see some of the Easter eggs.
Last one: If the original was called Now You See Me, why didn’t you call the sequel Now You Don’t?
I pushed for Now You Don’t, I really did. The title would be really long, but also the name recognition was Now You See Me, The studio and everybody believed that is the name recognition. If you call it Now You Don’t, there’s a confusion there. If you say Now You See Me: Now You Don’t, it’s a really long, more confusing title. There was a huge debate. We went back and forth. It’s the No. 1 comment I get almost every day of my life since joining this movie. We’ve had meetings about it, but ultimately that’s a studio call. I think Now You See Me has become such a brand that they really wanted to stick with that recognition of what this movie. I think it was hard to communicate what this movie was in the first movie. It’s a heist movie with magicians! They wanted to stick with that idea.
Now You See Me 2 will hit theaters on June 10.