The Now You See Me franchise’s next trick could be a cinematic universe.
“We just hope we can keep on doing them,” composer Brian Tyler tells EW of the series, as the second entry, Now You See Me 2, arrives in theaters Friday. “We just love it.”
Released with modest expectations in 2013, Now You See Me became a surprise hit with audiences, grossing $351 million worldwide. News of a sequel soon followed, with plans for Now You See Me 3 already announced. The films focus on a group of magicians — played by Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco, Woody Harrelson, and Lizzy Caplan, replacing Isla Fisher in the franchise for Now You See Me 2 — who team up with a mysterious benefactor (Mark Ruffalo) to help topple nefarious members of the 1 percent. Now You See Me 2 expands on the world-building of the first film, taking the heroes to Macau and London, while also introducing some new allies (Jay Chou among them) and formidable adversaries (Daniel Radcliffe).
“There’s so many ways you can do them,” says Tyler of the future of the series. The composer is no stranger to franchises, having written scores for four Fast & Furious films as well as entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (including Iron Man 3 and Avengers: Age of Ultron). “There’s all these ideas we’ve talked about that haven’t been touched on yet,” he says, recalling conversations with producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. “It’s a really cool thing. The idea of people who use trickery to pull off a heist and exposing people who are taking advantage of other people — it’s almost like Robin Hood via trickery. It’s a twisted way of doing something that’s for the greater good. I think that’s why it’s so much fun.”
Twisting expectations is what Tyler did for the Now You See Me score as well. The first film established a memorable theme for the franchise, one that Tyler notes broke traditional film score rules. “You have these two different kinds of music intersecting, which usually don’t co-exist. The old grooves and almost ironic music from the 1960s — Henry Mancini style, Lalo Schifrin, things like that — colliding with fantasy scores like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. These genres are usually really far apart, but having a movie about tricksters who are kind of cool in a way that you usually see in a heist film combined with the fact that they do all this magic allows for that convergence. For me, it was the opportunity to do something that was out of the box. You could play to the fantasy aspect to it and the fun aspect to it at the same time.”
For the sequel, Tyler expanded on the theme — adding layers that highlighted the film’s locales — but also kept it firmly within the realm of Now You See Me.
“It is nice to sit down and the first thing you hear brings you right back into that world,” Tyler says. “The way it’s specifically done is a) bring them back into the universe of Now You See Me, but b) make sure the adventure is more epic. So it is a bit more grand, I would say — that’s part of it. At the same time, the funky stuff got funkier. The drums, the bass, the band elements of the score are tweaked.”
Magic also plays a role. Tyler was an amateur magician as a teen — mostly card tricks at birthday parties — and like any good trick, his score catches the audience a bit off guard.
“It’s really the approach to a piece more than anything. Where you have a set-up, an established groove or theme, and then a reveal, and then you bring in some kind of counterpoint,” he says. “For this film, I often with the music would do some kind of misdirect. Where you typically hear a crescendo dropped into a big theme, I would crescendo and modulate into something that almost makes no sense as a follow-up. There’s a little bit of musical strangeness to it. If you throw things that are unexpected, to me that’s what makes tricks fascinating. It does play with your perceptions, and misdirect is a great part of it.”
Listen to two exclusive tracks from the Now You See Me 2 score above and below. The full album will be released on Friday.