If only this sequel stuck with the blueprint from the original, I think we all would’ve been better off.
Set 27 years after the original film, It: Chapter Two sees The Losers come home after going their separate ways in life and love after the supposed defeat of the disturbing nightmarish terror that is Pennywise The Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgard). Now fully grown with the usual abundance of stress inducing adulting issues stemming from a childhood they oddly cannot remember, Bill (James McAvoy), Beverly (Jessica Chastain), Ben (Jay Ryan), Richie (Bill Hader), Eddie (James Ransone), Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), and Stanley (Andy Bean) must reunite in their hometown of Derry, Maine to face an evil that has finally resurfaced, one that they know all too well and one that is hell-bent on finishing the job it started all those years ago.
Stepping out of the theater after watching the original It, I was able to confidently say that not only was the film my favorite Stephen King horror adaptation ever, but that it was an excellent movie in its own right. The near perfect blend of an unnerving, creepy tone mixed with great character work, tense scares, dynamic lighting, and a great script with an execution to match it had me feeling like the film was firing on all cylinders for the majority of the runtime, so to be honest, this final chapter was something I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time. Unfortunately for me and It lovers alike, It: Chapter Two disappoints more than it wows (or scares even), giving audiences and fans a middling film that does itself no favors.
Now it’s not so much that It: Chapter Two is bad by any means, it’s just that it doesn’t have that spark, that originality, that solid and confident sense of execution that the original had in spades, and because of that, this sequel is much less better off. Feeling more like this was a rushed into production film that changed creative teams to get the thing shot and into theaters as quick as possible (it wasn’t rushed and they didn’t change), It: Chapter Two is an exercise in a bunch of filmmakers that missed the mark in terms of telling a coherent, well paced and engaging story, while still trying to hold onto the tension and inherent terror that this narrative should be presented as. Some simple changes in the editing of the film, or even adjustments in the way certain aspects of the script were organized and maintained would have helped, but instead, and almost immediately at the beginning of the film, it’s apparent that the execution of the film was more of a weakness than anything else, especially in regards to how the original film felt and flowed.
It was almost as if there were no more clever ideas, scenes, interactions or plot beats the filmmakers had left in their bag of tricks, so instead of working on strengthening those ideas that worked so well in the original, they settled for making a “normal” horror film i.e. one that isn’t so occupied with being a real, solid movie and instead settles for doing the bare minimum in telling a story and giving us just enough scares to technically call itself a horror flick. The pacing for nearly the entire film is so out of wack and the structure of the story so boring and all over the place that it’s hard to find a real through line – dramatic, horrifying or otherwise – that holds interest outside of the general terms that Pennywise has to be defeated…eventually.
In fact, the entire middle section of the film is so stretched out and unnecessary that it grinds the film to a sluggish, frustrating crawl, only to end up not mattering all that much in the final act. It’s a wonder why the filmmakers even needed to keep most of that stuff in the film considering it already sits at a bloated two and a half hour plus runtime to begin with, but even at that length, the film still feels too chopped up and non-organic in its storytelling to have it come across as anything but effective. In truth, there’s about three to four standout scenes that felt like a continuation of the competence of the first film, but they are so fleeting and few and far between that I can’t say that they did enough to elevate the film to any higher heights, or that they were able to pull off double duty to save the film from itself. It’s frustrating to see that these sparks of genius were lurking somewhere just below the meh of it all, but were never strong or cultivated enough to a point that they were the majority of what we experienced onscreen, and that’s a shame.
As for the casting that everyone is talking about, on paper it all seemed near perfect, but onscreen it’s another thing entirely. Save for a truly excellent and real feeling scene in the form of a dinner get together between old friends in the first half of the film before everyone goes their separate ways for the better part of an hour (why wasn’t cross cutting these separate scenes together an option here?), there really isn’t anything important about casting so many great actors if they don’t really interact with one another. Granted, Bill Hader’s Richie and James Ransone’s Eddie still have great character chemistry just like when they were as kids, but as for everyone else, the stellar casting seemed to have little effect on the final cut other than giving the marketing team some awesome selling points for the ad campaign. Add in the fact that Pennywise is kinda not in the movie as much as he should have been and when he is, is mostly regulated to some shoddy computer effect wizardry for no real apparent reason (except the finale obviously), and you have a film that needed to be better and quite simply put, isn’t.
Nowhere close to being as good as the original, It: Chapter 2 had a lot to live up to coming on the heels of one of the best Stephen King adaptation ever made, but settles for being one of the most middling. Even with some spot-on casting and a truly great scene or two that harkens back to the first chapter’s excellently executed terror and tone, this sequel is less scary, less serious, less coherent and less solidly made than the first. This final chapter might not be what I wanted nor expected, but it’s still worth the watch to see how Pennywise and The Losers’ story ends, just don’t expect to like it as much.