Out of Clown
It Chapter Two is directed by Andy Muschietti, written by Gary Dauberman, and stars Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, and Andy Bean. The child actors from the first film: Jaeden Martell, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Wyatt Oleff all return to reprise their roles from the first film.
The question was never, "Would 2017's It have a sequel?" There was always going to be a sequel, because no filmmaker in his/her right mind could take Stephen King's 1000+ page horror novel and turn it into reasonable one film marathon. No, the question was more so, "Would there be optimism or pessimism heading into the release of It Chapter Two?" The 1990 It miniseries starring Tim Curry was far from a seamless execution of King's novel, which is why it's easier to get behind this more up-to-date version of King's novel. It Chapter One was a big hit at the box office for Warner Bros., so optimism should be the answer to the above question, except that the It miniseries and the book itself to a certain extent are notorious for their kind-of-sucky second-act(s) when the Losers become adults, so perhaps that optimism might need to be sprinkled with a little pessimism. It's not worth wasting time comparing and contrasting the novel, the 90's miniseries, and this dual-movie adaptation, but the point being is that history suggests this second chapter/act of King's novel doesn't have too much history on its side.
Before I sound too much like a debbie-downer, it should be stated right now that I did find myself enjoying a lot of It Chapter Two, at times debating if I liked it more than the first It. Much criticism has been laid at the feet of the film's sprawling 169 minute run time, but I am not one to add to that critique pool, simply because the film felt to me like it was only about two hours, which I guess is my way of saying the film is not boring or that it drags. I also don't want to add to the critique pool that is directed towards the film's opening hate crime scene, in which a group of thugs attack a homosexual couple and throw one of them off a bridge. It's a scene straight out of the novel and was put in the movie presumably because Muschietti and company found this to be the best and most faithful way to reintroduce Pennywise.
27 years have passed since The Losers Club defeated Pennywise, but now the evil clown is back and ready to unleash his reign of terror on the helpless folks of Derry, Maine once again. Mike Hanlon (Mustafa/Jacobs), the only one of the Losers that stayed in Derry, first learns of Pennywise's return and calls the other Losers- Bill (McAvoy/Maetell), Beverly (Chastain/Lillis), Richie (Hader/Wolfhard), Ben (Ryan/Ray Taylor), Eddie (Ransone/Grazer), and Stanley (Bean/Oleff) to come back to Derry. All but one of the Losers agree to return; Stanley commits suicide after his call with Mike, unable to confront his fear of the creature he and his friends defeated so many years ago. The Losers reunite in Derry and learn from Mike that there may be a way to destroy Pennywise once and for all: The Ritual of Chud. In order to perform the Ritual, the Losers must find and sacrifice a "token", aka something from their past. The Losers then split up to search Derry for their respective tokens, but quickly realize that Pennywise is out and about, terrifying each and every Loser with haunting visions.
- There was plenty of excitement to be had surrounding It Chapter Two's casting call, and it does not disappoint in the slightest. Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Bill Skarsgard, and company all deliver terrific performances, Hader being singled out for a performance that has many chattering about a possible Oscar nomination for him next year. At least up until now, Hader has been mostly known for his voice acting and comedy roles, but playing an adult Richie allows him the opportunity to not only show off more of his comedic talent, but also show off some dramatic flare. Hader balances the comedy and horror behind his role perfectly; it's quite the unexpected surprise among a talent-rich cast. Skarsgard, meanwhile, is fully immersed once again into his role as Pennywise, and it makes for a lot of terrifying fun, watching him torment every one of the Losers. There's not one weak link in the cast; they are the glue that holds everything together.
- I am more on the unpopular opinion side, because I found It Chapter Two's scares to be much freakier and nightmarish than those from It Chapter One. The main issue with It Chapter One was the movie's relentless assault of jump-scares, to the point that they started to lose their scare factor. It Chapter Two, while certainly chock-full of jump scares, makes an effort to make the imagery appear larger, more disturbing, and as in-your-face as possible. Muschietti relies more heavily on low-angle shots to make Pennywise and his transformations appear more menacing, as opposed to having Pennywise just rush the camera at blazing speed. It makes sense to take this kind of approach, as it becomes clear that the movie likes to use the idea that fear makes someone seem smaller and weaker. For It Chapter Two, it's never about when will the jump scare happen. You always know when the scares are coming. More so, It Chapter Two builds it scares by making you wonder what sort of ghastly figure is going to appear next, and who is it going to come after.
- The cast is certainly the best part of It Chapter Two, but the characters they're playing end up being the worst part. A lengthier running time would lead some to believe that the movie wants to take extra time to dive more into each of its characters, except that we only get a brief glimpse of such potential characterization early on in the movie. Once the Losers all reunite in Derry, it's basically like watching the exact same people we saw from It Chapter One, the only difference is that now they're all adults. Bill is the stuttering leader who still struggles to cope with Georgie's death. Beverly continues to find herself stuck in the grasp of an abusive man. Richie is a joker who never knows when to shut up. Eddie is uptight and paranoid about his well-being. 27 years is a long time, so it seems odd that the adult versions of these characters still seem to have the same fears and anxieties that they had as children.
What would have enhanced It Chapter Two's scares even more is if Pennywise preyed on the more adult-oriented fears of Bill, Beverly, Richie, Eddie, and so on. What if Richie was now fearful that he chose the wrong career and now won't be able to make anything of his life? Wouldn't Beverly be afraid that she would never fall in love with the right person, and thus, find herself forever feeling alone and loveless? Would Mike feel any sense of regret that he decided to stay in Derry his whole life, never travelling anywhere or at least seeing other people? These are all real-life fears that thousands, hell millions, of people around the world feel or have felt, and if Pennywise was able to terrify Bill, Beverly, Richie, and so on, based on such fears, it would really be a neat way for the movie to tell us that fear is something that never goes away, even in adulthood.
Another issue involving the characters is that, even with the expanded running time, the movie has a hard time juggling every one of the Losers and giving each of them reasonable screen time. Mike is virtually taken out of the movie once everyone goes to search for their tokens, returning only when the movie heads to its finale. Poor Beverly ends up being caught in a love triangle with Bill and Ben, and while we get a clear answer as to who she wants to be with by the end of the movie, it feels rather anticlimactic and underdeveloped. Again, I am not going to read into how faithful the film is to the second half of the book; the movie lacks the true characterization it needed to make the Losers feel whole and realistic in their adulthood, and thus, why they seem almost like carbon copies of their childhood selves. They say some people never change. I say 27 years is a long enough time for anyone to go through some kind of change.
If I were forced to pick which It movie I liked more, I might have to give the slight edge to It Chapter Two, although that choice is slightly influenced by my most recent re-watch of It Chapter One. The jump scares wore off much quicker than the first time I saw the film back in September 2017, and I found Finn Wolfhard's Richie a lot more annoying than before. It Chapter Two's biggest flaws all find their way back to the way the film treats the adult Losers: not giving them proper characterization, struggling to keep them all on equal footing, and worst of all, showing them as almost total copies of their childhood selves. Regardless, the cast is excellent, and the scares are more effective the second time around, offering a lot more disturbing imagery and nightmare fuel. Due to its near 3 hour runtime, It Chapter Two likely has very low replay value, but coupled with the success of Chapter One, this two-part film series proved to be a successful up-to-date adaptation of King's novel. Warner Bros. has made mentions that this may not be the last we see of Pennywise, although I'm not sure what else they could really do with the It mythology. Whether it's a prequel or another sequel of some sort, let's just be happy that Andy Muschietti's It films are true stand-outs in the not-so-rosy group that is Stephen King film adaptations.
Recommend? Yes. I recommend though that you have the first film fresh in your mind and that you set a couple hours aside, due to the long runtime.
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