Review - 'It: Chapter 2'
The first IT was a sprawling horror film that capitalized fully on its premise; providing scares and humor aplenty. Of course, that was only part 1, and two years later here we are with IT: Chapter 2. Well, I’ll just say that sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.
IT: Chapter 2 follows the Losers as they travel back to Derry 27 years later because of an oath they promised to each other in the event of the murderous clown Pennywise returning to torment the small town.
I loved the first IT, which was also directed by Andres Muschietti. That film united a talented, young cast with an interesting and terrifying new take on Pennywise the dancing clown, which all culminated in a heart-felt send-off, that, in retrospect, could have served as a complete and satisfying end without a sequel. But no, there’s more! And honestly, I’m fine with that, but this film is very rough around the edges. For starters, IT: Chapter 2 runs at a near-insane two-hours-and-fifty-minutes. There is too much fat on this movie, enjoyable, tasty fat, but fat nonetheless. I’m perfectly fine with long films when they are justified, IT: Chapter 2’s only justification is…more scares, or attempted scares because this movie is not very scary. There are so many Pennywise encounters in this film that it became a predictable pattern and I no longer dreaded or feared his presence. All that being said, each sequence is unique and inventive enough to be engaging, and I never wasn’t having a decent time.
IT: Chapter 2 is also full of unnecessary detours. The bulk of this movie is basically the now-adult Losers club splitting up to go on various fetch-quests. That’s all well and good, but what makes it frustrating is that these protracted sequences where we watch each character toil to get an item, all end up being pointless in the end. It’s a massive set-up with virtually no pay-off whatsoever and basically serves as an excuse to throw in flashbacks with the original cast. Then the movie ends up resolving in a surprisingly unoriginal and expected way. Again, though, I still enjoyed most of the individual parts of this film, they just don’t coalesce into a narrative that makes much sense.
Muschietti managed to secure a near-perfect cast to play the older versions of the characters we spent time with in the first film. Bill Hader and James Ransone are the best of the pack as Richie and Eddie. Bill Hader balances the humor with the heavy dramatic stakes of the film perfectly, while James Ransone is uncannily similar to his younger counterpart, played by Jack Dylan Grazer. Jessica Chastain also does a decent job as Beverly, though I was hoping for slightly more from her performance. Jay Ryan, who is a relative newcomer, also turns in a surprisingly heartfelt performance as Ben, same goes for Isaiah Mustafa as the older version of Mike Hanlon, who thankfully gets a little more to do here than in the first film. The one truly disappointing performance comes from James McAvoy, and it’s not that his acting is bad, it just feels like the film makers couldn’t find anything interesting for him to do.
The returning cast is also solid, particularly Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise. There’s more CGI trickery implemented around many of his disorienting scare sequences, which doesn’t work as well, but when he’s unassisted by computer gimmickry, he’s solid gold. One particular sequence where he lures a young girl to where he’s hiding beneath some bleachers is particularly unnerving. The young returning cast is also still good, though some of the heart seems missing. I felt like a couple of the characters, particularly Jack Dylan Grazer, were trying a little too hard for laughs.
The big double-edged sword of IT: Chapter 2 are the Pennywise scare sequences, of which there are numerous. These segments are all very creative and fun to witness, but overdose slightly on computer generated imagery. Some scenes look great, and some still need a little work, or should have been practical. It’s never bad enough to derail the film, but it’s noticeable when something isn’t real and it robs the sequence of being able to effectively scare the audience. I can’t knock it too much though because I’ve never seen some of the things this movies attempts on the big screen before, and more of the moments hit than don’t.
With IT: Chapter 2, Muschietti swings for the fences, and while his batting average isn’t perfect, there’s still enough here to warrant a trip to the theater if you were a fan of the previous one. The film is a fun if flawed conclusion to the excellent first installment and helps establish itself and its predecessor as one of the few satisfying horror epics to come around in a long time.