Twenty-seven years after their first encounter with the terrifying Pennywise, the Losers Club have grown up and moved away from Derry, until a devastating phone call brings them back.
IT: Chapter Two is a complicated movie to review for me. As a fan of Stephen King, I consider IT – as do many fans – to be his magnum opus next to The Stand and The Dark Tower series. And like those two stories, the author’s novel is a cosmic horror tale full of big, ambitious and abstract ideas.
An adaptation of such a gargantuan (in both scope and page count), complex and bizarre novel would always prove to be extremely difficult. Regardless of any of the film’s shortcomings, director Andy Muschietti and writer Gary Dauberman’s handling of the story needs to be applauded.
So I’ll do my best to avoid any comparisons with King’s text as whatever problems or wonders I may have found with the translation from page to screen – of which there were many on both sides – could easily fill a whole article and it would also be unfair to the work done by the filmmaker’s as that work should be analyzed on its own.
Now, as a movie… it’s an epic, funny, emotional and heartfelt conclusion with its fair share of problems which should keep fans of the first chapter happy and readers of the novel satisfied.
Certainly the highlight of this franchise and what made the first so memorable, as well as this one so entertaining, is the relationship of the Loser’s Club. In fact, some of the best scenes of the film are when they are catching up on their lives or being terrorized together.
That’s not to criticize their individual performances as, besides the excellent source material, Muschietti assembled a magnificent ensemble of actors to play the adult versions of the Losers Club.
Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone and Andy Bean take over from the kids as the grown ups who are beckoned to come home and face their worst fear.
Not only do most look remarkably similar to their younger counterparts – it’s always satisfying to see when a film with various time periods makes an effort to have actors look the same – but they are also really talented performers.
The standouts here are easily Hader and Ransone, who both give funny and sweet performances, with the first in particular having the most interesting and complex character arc. The only one who left me slightly disappointed was McAvoy. It’s certainly not that he’s bad as obviously the man has proven time and again what a capable actor he is, it’s just that his character is… forgettable.
Nevertheless, the director along with the cast work hard to give all the scares and terror a beating heart, largely succeeding in making you connect with the characters, effectively upping the stakes for the third act and making you worried that not all will make it to the end alive. If anything, this may be one of the most emotional horror films to come around in a long time.
Bill Skarsgård’s return as Pennywise once again provides audiences with an outstanding and iconic villain. After resting for 27 years and with his eye on revenge, this is an angrier and more violent version of the clown whose fascinating backstory from the novel is thankfully explored further.
A running joke in the film is Bill’s (McAvoy) – now an author himself – inability to come up with a good ending, which also serves as a jab to King’s career. It’s a shame that the ending itself to the saga of It on film doesn’t avoid this as well.
IT: Chapter Two falls prey to some of the worst tendencies of modern horror films. Jump scares can be an effective tool for any genre filmmaker and Muschietti knows how expertly stage them but after the 10th one, they start to lose their shine and become predictable.
Furthermore, during it’s second act the story goes into a pattern with each character getting almost the same scene, even having very similar set ups and endings.
This all adds to its massive running time of 169 minutes, where the film could have lost some scenes. Although the filmmaker’s intentions are admirable in wanting to provide more texture and complexity into their characters and the world they inhabit, the film becomes a little tiresome after getting into the repetitions mentioned previously.
The terror works much better when it’s built around genuine tension as when Chastain’s Beverly visits her childhood home only to find it inhabited by a strange new owner or when a child encounters and has an exchange with Pennywise, but even those sadly end in the same manner.
The movie features plenty of spooky, gross and ghoulish monsters whose concepts and looks are great but executions are hindered by an overuse of CGI. This is made all the more obvious when Skarsgård proves that all you need is some fantastic makeup and impeccable acting.
As an adaptation of a 1,138 novel, splitting it into two movies was the logical and smart choice, but unfortunately the novel was dependent on reaching an emotional and exciting climax with the past influencing the present, giving greater purpose to the flashbacks.
Here, the flashbacks don’t really add much besides duration despite some great character work done by the returning younger cast.
At the end of the day, despite its missteps, IT and IT: Chapter Two should stand as a champion of bringing the horror genre into the blockbuster era, not only supported by its big budget but also it’s large ambitions, emotionally rich characters and epic story, which is reason enough to celebrate it along with it being one of the best adaptations of King’s work.
Andy Muschietti’s IT: Chapter Two falls close to greatness as an ambitious, emotional, exciting and epic conclusion like few other horror franchises have seen yet that is held back by being overlong, repetitive and dependent on jump scares. Ultimately, it should satisfy fans of the first movie as well as most fans of Stephen King’s novel.