With ‘Now You See Me 2' and ‘Harry Potter,’ magic is having its moment in pop culture
Prestidigitations are showing promise this year. And it’s not simply thanks to a group of sexy dudes (plus one Lizzy Caplan) transforming into a puddle in “Now You See Me 2” -- the sequel to “Now You See Me” that was oddly not called “Now You Don’t.”
True, the rogue magician troupe can take some of the credit for pushing the narrative back into a discussion about sleight of hand, but really this whole year of culture has been enchanted by the act of illusion. Magic is definitely having a moment, behold!
Syfy’s TV translation of Lev Grossman’s “The Magicians” novels was received with applause. Penguin Classics released “The Book of Magic: From Antiquity to the Enlightenment,” an anthology on the many forked roots of the occult. The boy who lived lives on again in Los Angeles with the construction of yet another “Wizarding World of Harry Potter,” and onstage in London where “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is currently in previews. L.A.’s Cinefamily is also embracing the magic with its “All of Them Witches” movie series running throughout June.
And the magic shows no signs of stopping. Marvel is prepping its first magical superhero with the fall premiere of “Doctor Strange” starring Benedict Cumberbatch. “The Magic Castle,” inspired by Los Angeles’ secret club for the incantation inclined, has long sat in development purgatory, but now the mysterious feature has been goosed by interest from Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions.
Earlier this spring, Helder Guimarães amazed Los Angeles audiences with his intimate magic act held in secret locations that were revealed to ticket holders only on the day of the performance. Notable industry magic man Derek DelGaudio has a show at the Geffen Playhouse that among other things features deft card tricks projected on a wall of the theater. And Neil Patrick Harris is currently planning an immersive, magic experience in New York.
That’s not to say magic was ever out of public favor. The popularity of this world comes in waves. At the beginning of the millennium, the world of the occult veered slightly away from classic illusions and focused more on large-scale endurance acts. David Blaine was buried alive, encased in a block of ice, shut away in a suspended, see-through box, and submerged for seven days inside a globe full of water. Goth street magician Criss Angel also turned to large stunts to propel his image, and his “Mindfreak” series aired on A&E for five years.
Lately, the movement seems to have swerved away slightly from the elaborately produced feats of mystery, and has re-centered back on the timeless classics and questions ... “Is this your card?”
Horror movies like Robert Eggers’ “The Witch” aren’t a blast of wands and sorcery, but rather an organic dissection of old-age mysticism. And for every green-tinted Houdini TV series that fails, eventually one will succeed because the world is thirsty for antique mysticism. Why else would Bette Midler still be fielding questions about a “Hocus Pocus” sequel 23 years after the original? Truly now is the moment for that old-time magic.
On Twitter: @MdellW
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