Volume Eight, Issue Thirty-Six!
“Movie Review: IT: Chapter Two”
As the sequel to the highest grossing horror movie of all time, there’s a lot of pressure for IT: Chapter Two. Hell, there’d be a lot of pressure for the sequel even if the first film wasn’t such a monster success. That box office record is both a blessing and a curse for Chapter Two though, as the return trip to Derry, Maine, while plenty entertaining, struggles to recapture the magic of the first film, and at times feels a tad too long.
After receiving a message from their old friend Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Moustafa), the Loser’s Club of Bill (James McAvoy), Beverly (Jessica Chastain), Richie (Bill Hader), Eddie (James Ransone), and Ben (Jay Ryan) are forced to return to a hometown that they don’t remember to complete a vow that they seemingly never made. But Mike remembers because he never left town. He remembers the monster that they fought and promised to destroy if it came back. He remembers Pennywise The Clown (Bill Skarsgaard), and Pennywise remembers the Loser’s Club.
The most impressive thing about IT: Chapter Two is the cast. From well-established actors like Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy to relative newcomers like James Ransone and Jay Ryan, the casting for the adult versions of the Loser’s Club is an astounding achievement, and all of these actors embody the younger actors who played them in a really remarkable way. Ransone has the quick talking of his character that was established in the previous film, and Chaistain was practically born to play the role of Beverly. While they all get neat little arcs, McAvoy’s take on Bill Denbrough and his struggles with responsibility for the death of his brother are the highlights of the character arcs for me, but there’s one member of the group who absolutely steals the show: Bill Hader.
If you’ve seen any episodes of Barry, you know what Hader is capable of. Well, with IT: Chapter Two I expect his schedule to get a whole lot busier from now on. Hader stands toe to toe with McAvoy, Chastain, and Skaarsgaard in a role that’s hilarious and heartfelt, and adds numerous dimensions to the character of Richie Tozier. I’ve known that Bill Hader was capable of great dramatic work before, but I was NOT expecting this from him.
Bill Skaarsgard’s Pennywise is still plenty creepy in this film, but you don’t see as much of him as you did in the first film. That being said, his influence is felt all over the town and on the adult Losers, making it seem like he’s in the film much more than he really is. While the Skaarsgard Pennywise probably won’t trick kids into following him like Tim Curry’s original clown did based on looks, Skaarsgard has a weird disarming charm to his Pennywise that makes it a little more believable that kids (and adults) would fall under his charm long enough to get chomped on.
Clocking in at just under three hours, IT: Chapter Two has a lot of story to tell. Which is strange then, that the middle of the film kind of drags. There’s a repetition to the film in this section that makes it feel almost twice as long, and while it’s nice to see the younger Loser’s Club again in flashbacks, the minimal CGI de-aging they’ve gone through to match the characters from that time period is a little distracting. To be honest, these flashbacks don’t seem as integral to the initial plan of the two films as they were sold, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was no plan for a sequel initially, despite the “End of Chapter One” tag at the end of the previous film. Otherwise, why wouldn’t director Andy Muschietti have filmed the flashback sequences when he was filming the first film?
There are also huge chunks and character arcs from the book that are removed completely, which is understandable given the novel’s door stop length, but also make for full scenes that could have been wiped from the film to make it shorter. There’s no point in introducing Bill’s wife at the beginning of the movie if she never shows up again. Unlike the novel, which is long but, in my opinion, doesn’t need to have anything cut from it, I feel like you could easily remove twenty or even thirty minutes from this film and you wouldn’t miss much at all.
Despite the laggy second act, IT: Chapter Two is a rock solid adaptation of the adult half of King’s mega novel, and well worth a trip to the cinema if you saw part one. Yeah, you might feel the need to hit the bathroom somewhere, but the return to Derry is a welcome one, and fits in with the tone of the previous film pretty well. While a miniseries would have probably been the preferred way to adapt this story again, Andy Muschietti’s two-film take is solid, and will serve as good nightmare fuel to come.