- Composed by Brian Tyler
- Varèse Sarabande / 2016 / 77m
2013’s slightly odd heist movie Now You See Me, featuring four magicians who seem to be stealing money in bulk and redistributing it from rich to poor, attracted at best mixed reviews but was a big box office hit. Three years later the first sequel has arrived, with most of the case reprising their roles, including Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, with Daniel Radcliffe added for good measure. Jon M. Chu takes over the directorial reins from Louis Leterrier.
Brian Tyler’s music for the first film was extremely enjoyable, a kind of mix of the funkier John Powell action sound with David Holmes’s distinctive Ocean’s Eleven series music. It didn’t really get the kind of attention it deserved, possibly because the album release didn’t really feature all that much of it, but that’s certainly no issue with this 77-minute album for the sequel, which is essentially more of the same, various cues reprised from the first score, other ideas fleshed out and built upon, a few fresh ones too.
The first of the “freshening up” comes immediately, in the score’s standout cue “Now You See Me 2 Fanfare” – a florid, orchestral, gigantic take on the main theme from the first score – it could easily come from one of the composer’s Marvel scores and seem quite at ease supporting some act of great heroism, in fact. That enlarged sound is heard at a few points later on too, but more typical (and more like the first score) is the ultra-cool sound of the main title, the same theme but now heard on sassy strings with drum kit and bim-bam-smash brass. There won’t be many more enjoyable six minutes of film music this year than the opening two cues here.
Tyler’s far from done with the entertainment, though – up next is a great seven-minute track, “300 seconds”, which is a good showcase of the composer’s skills, from the sweet winds which highlight the early portions, the just-right choral wonder, seamlessly seguing into compelling drama with the drum kit back to accompany the strings, the two sections of the main theme both being explored in some depth, finally some modern electronic beats added. All of this disparate stuff is effortlessly placed together into one package, and the various styles are each heard a lot over the course of the remainder of the album.
It’s a long one – perhaps a bit longer than it really needs to be – and admittedly somewhat repetititve – but there aren’t really any points at which it drags, thanks to the strength of the core material. I love the action music – “The Setup” is a classic heist cue, but then so many other cues are as well. But there’s much more here than just that: the piano version of the theme’s first phrase sounds at times ethereal, really quite beautiful (check out “Revelatory”); and there’s a lighthearted Slavic feel to “Off the Grid (Walter’s Theme)” which provides some lovely light relief. The only thing I don’t like (and it’s because I’m an old fart) is the electronic opening to “Trifecta”, but even that develops into something good, and I love the retro electronics later on, in “Diversion Tactics”.
The crystal-clear recording really allows the musicians’ fine performances to breathe, and there is such style to the music that listening to the album is a great joy. Yes, those familiar with the first score will find a lot of very familiar material, but even if you have the lengthy promotional release of it you will still find plenty here that’s fresh, and if you just have the short release of the first score then of course there’s even more. This is up there with Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as one of the most entertaining things Brian Tyler has ever done, and while it certainly shares some stylistically similarities with aspects of those scores, its lighter, breezier feel makes it stand out. This is a really impressive piece of work.