Film Review – It Chapter Two (Second Take)
It Chapter Two
The film adaptation of It by Stephen King began in 2017, and the first film broke records making it the highest-grossing R-rated horror film of all time. The collision of a terrifying clown, hysterical comedic elements, and excellent casting of young actors who gelled and acted off each other so well that you believed they could all be best friends in the “Losers” club off-set. If you have the lengthy novel, you knew there had to be a sequel coming and with it being a box office smash the sequel became inevitable.
Like the novel, the majority of It Chapter Two takes place 27 years after the Losers defeat Pennywise the clown (Bill Skarsgård) in Derry, Maine. At the end of It, the Losers make a blood pact to return to Derry if Pennywise returns, and he does. There are more sinister things afoot in Derry than just Pennywise. It seems there is some hold on those in Derry and when residents leave, they lose memories of what happened there. Only one Loser remained in Derry, Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) and he becomes the anchor for the rest of the Losers, unbeknownst to them. As Pennywise makes his scheduled return as Mike realizes they did not kill It, people begin to disappear again in Derry. With the rest of the Losers unconsciously forgetting what happened to them, Mike must call them and get them back to Derry to help kill It for good.
With all but one of the Losers not in Derry, the film takes the time to show you what each of their lives is like and the realization that they have to return to fight evil again. Bill (James McAvoy), Richie (Bill Hader), Ben (Jay Ryan), Eddie (James Ransone), Stanley (Andy Bean), and Beverly (Jessica Chastain) are all still alive and have carried on with their lives, but a returned Pennywise and his antics have brought unknown turmoil to these Losers, and they really don’t want a reunion. It is the blood oath that brings them back, a sense of duty. All except for one makes the return trip, and the mind games of Pennywise start to flood their minds.
Even after being back in Derry, each of the Losers has a scene devoted to reexperiencing Pennywise and what havoc he caused to their personal life and any other childhood drama. With the introduction of the adult Losers and then these scenes, the film starts to drag. While it is interesting to see these scenes, the film runs close to three hours. Each of these scenes is the same as the others, making each story of a Loser formulaic; the audience is just waiting for the monster that will inevitably pop out and give a decent jump scare that diminishes over time.
It Chapter Two begins with the ending of the first film to the first film and reacquaint the audience with what happened in the meeting in the field post-defeat of Pennywise. We see the blood oath again, and new material is added to it as well. There are also new scenes with these young Losers, adding more depth to their friendship, their fights, and their turmoil. The best thing about It was this group of friends and had they not been in It Chapter Two, the film would be lacking the spark that made so many people love it. I have a sneaking suspicion that these scenes were filmed either at the same time as the first film or close to it as puberty had not struck them quite as much as can be seen in Finn Wolfhard’s (Richie) Stranger Things although Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie) looked a bit taller.
Speaking of Richie and Eddie, they continue to be the comedic relief for It Chapter Two. Bill Hader and James Ransone perfectly mirror their younger co-stars Wolfhard and Grazer with their insults and jokes. It is easy to see that Ransone and Hader studied the younger versions of their characters to mirror their tone, the way they talk, and their body language. Thankfully, they both had their own memorable lines. Both the younger and older Eddie and Richie are again the best parts of the sequel.
Like many films which do well with their first outing and try to outdo themselves with the sequel, It Chapter Two has to compete with itself. While I am grateful that the producers did not cram It, the novel, into one three-hour film, the success of It, the film, places high expectations and pressure to make It Chapter Two just as good if not better. Having never read the novel, I cannot say how close the sequel comes to it. However, it seemed that scenes could have been cut out or down and the finale is overwhelmingly too much. Looking at the credits for the film, director Andy Muschietti helmed both films, but the screenplay has only one returning writer, Gary Dauberman, who wrote the first film’s screenplay with Chase Palmer and Cary Joji Fukunaga (who was initially supposed to direct It). I have to question whether the input of the two other writers would have made the film better.
As much as I loved It, It Chapter Two fell short of being just as great. Having to bring the Losers back to Derry and have them remember what happened 27 years ago took too much of the runtime when Pennywise is already running rampant and killing people. Older Mike became too much a one-dimensional character and more of a scapegoat for things that go wrong. The script did not give Isaiah Mustafa much to work with in conveying to the audience what an important character he is. There is also more physical violence in It Chapter Two, and unfortunately, it begins the film’s reintroduction to Pennywise (with a surprise appearance by Xavier Dolan). While horror fans are used to a certain kind of violence against people, hate crimes and domestic abuse are entirely different in terms of the emotions they bring to the surface. Not every audience member will be prepared for or enjoy it. There are many issues with It Chapter Two, but as a fan of the first film, it was a story I was always going to see played out to the finish regardless of any bad reviews or word-of-mouth, and this reason will be why the film will do very well at the box office. Pennywise now carries with him a partially-deflated balloon.