‘Now You See Me 2’ takes aim at the Chinese market

By Wei Xi Source:Global Times Published: 2016/6/23 21:38:00

Top: Jon Chu (left) and Mark Ruffalo attend a press conference in Beijing on Monday. Photo: IC

Promotional material for Now You See Me 2 Photo: IC

With a box office of about $352 million in total worldwide, heist thriller Now You See Me (2013) was not one of the most remarkable of Hollywood blockbusters. Yet, in China it was a rare type of film - one that showed off magic performances on the big screen - which allowed it to leave a considerable impression on local audiences that has remained years later.

Now the sequel is coming with more Chinese elements, from scenes set in China to characters speaking in Chinese and featuring Chinese stars. Though Chinese-American director Jon Chu has denied these elements are meant to cater to Chinese audiences, Now You See Me 2 is sure to please a lot more Chinese when it premieres on Friday.

The Chinese favor

While pretty much a similar combination of magic performances, suspense story and Robin Hood theme as the first film, Now You See Me 2 is still worth looking forward to, especially for Chinese audiences.

Besides the addition of Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe to the cast, Chu, who took over the directorial helm from Louis Leterrier, differentiates his work from the previous film by switching the lead characters, the magicians known as the Four Horsemen, from a more active role to a more passive one. For most of the film, the Four Horsemen are being manipulated by unknown enemies, which leaves the audience wondering what these new bad guys are going to do next.

While in the first film, the lead characters mostly traveled to domestic cities in the US, except for several scenes in Paris, Now You See Me 2 has the characters fly to London and even further away to Macao.

Even though Macao is not a very typical Chinese city due to its century-long colonial history, the film puts in a lot effort to show its Chinese side. For example, showing off Chinese food, Chinese writing and people speaking in Chinese. Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou also joins the cast and the Chinese rap song he sings is one of the film's highlights. 

On Monday, a promotional press conference was held in Beijing to market the film. Chu and lead actor Mark Ruffalo were both in attendance. Q&A sessions were held separately with the two the next day. 

Q&A with Jon Chu

Q: Why were you picked to shoot this film?

A: I have no idea (laugh). I am a huge fan of the first one and I have a close relationship with Lionsgate (one of the producers of the film). They called me and I had already said I did not want to do sequels, but I love this movie so much and love the script for this one so much. And of course the cast was such an amazing cast that I couldn't say "no."

Q: When working on sequels, do you think it's better to keep the original style so you don't alienate fans of the original or do you think one should come up with more changes?

A: I think it's both. I think that's why it's hard to do sequels. Because you want a little element of the first movie but you want a new experience. As a filmmaker you almost get to know your own style better, because you see how different your perspective is on the same characters and the situations they are put in. I think it's a fun challenge and I do think my experience with sequels is that audiences do want to be surprised and do want new things. They don't always necessarily know what they want when they are coming into it, but hopefully by the end they realize what you've given them is exactly the sequel they want deep down. So that's what I try to do. 

Q: There are a lot of scenes that take place in Macao and you have a Chinese pop star acting in the film as well. Is this due to the importance of the Chinese market? 

A: For me, definitely not. We were going to shoot on some island in Europe somewhere. When I came in I was like let's find a more interesting place. Let's see where the history of magic is and find a place with a real history and we found Iong's magic store in Macao. We shot that and we used that as an inspiration. It has history in magic. There is a magic store actually there in the history books and it has Portuguese architecture and Chinese architecture together. I think if [Lionsgate] wanted us to really go somewhere for market reasons, we would have shot in Beijing.

Q&A with Mark Ruffalo

Q: You are most well recognized as the Hulk from Marvel Comics in China, just like Daniel Radcliffe is best known as Harry Potter. Do you think being remembered as one classic character is a bad thing because you cannot escape from one single role?

A: I think I have been acting for almost 30 years and I've done 54 movies, and so it's easier for me to been seen as something other than the Hulk because so much work is already behind me. I think it would be a lot harder if I was a new actor and the only thing that everyone has ever seen me doing is the Hulk. Because I think it's hard to break free from the superheroes if you don't have a body of work already established. I hope at the end of the day, they don't put a tombstone that says "Mark Ruffalo-the Hulk,"  but also I don't have any control over that. So if they only know me as Hulk, that's fine.

Q: You are also a socialist, so what do you think of the behavior of the Four Horsemen when it comes to illegally stealing from the rich? Do you think society needs such people?

A: The first movie had a very Robin Hood steal from the rich and give to the poor feel. I think one reason the film did so well is because we live in - and I don't know about China as much as the Western world - people are longing for justice, you know, and they don't see justice happening. They can destroy the economy, steal billions and trillions of dollars from the American people and no one goes to jail... There is a great feeling of injustice in the world, so when people want justice and they can't get it in their real lives, they want to see it in the movies. And I don't think it's an accident that this kind of movie was popular at that moment in time. And so, you know, does the ends justify the means? I'm not sure. But, and this is just a movie, but I do think that we are longing for global justice.

Newspaper headline: A magical experience

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