Review: It: Chapter Two is a Wild Ride That Doesn’t Quite Live Up to Its Own Legacy
This slow-burn sequel has plenty of scares, but fails to deliver in the end.
Remakes and reimaginings of horror films have become all too common in recent years. It’s popular for movie fans to comment that Hollywood has run out of ideas and are seeking to make money off of anything that was once popular out of pure nostalgia. While this has typically led to some questionable efforts, occasionally a property is remade with the benefits of modern filmmaking techniques and by those with a passion for the original work. 2017’s remake of Stephen King’s It, directed by Andy Muschietti, was one of these rare gems.
Featuring a cast of impressive young actors, including Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard, the 2017 film adaptation was far better than it had any right to be. I remember seeing it in theaters and being excited by the cliffhanger ending and the reveal that there would be a second film with the Losers returning as adults to finish off the evil Pennywise. The anticipation and excitement only built from there with casting announcements of actors like James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, and Bill Hader taking over as our favorite characters, with Muschietti also returning to direct. It: Chapter Two has all the right ingredients for success, but as with most things, it simply doesn’t live up to the hype.
One issue that I think the film really suffers from is that the audience already knows the drill. Many viewers have probably already seen the 1990 miniseries starring the legendary Tim Curry, especially in the two-year gap between releases, so they have a fairly good idea of what to expect. Even if they haven’t, this film is straightforward and predictable. Pennywise isn’t really gone. He’s come back 27 years later and it’s up to the Losers to come back to Derry, Maine and put a stop to the evil once and for all. That’s what we were promised at the end of the last film and that is exactly what we get here.
We get glimpses of each character’s post-It life and then we are whisked away back to where it all started. Our heroes have forgotten most of what happened in their childhoods, however, and must set out to remember. This is It: Chapter Two’s biggest flaw. The Losers may have forgotten, but the audience has not. Sure, we get some new scenes featuring the original youth actors, shedding more light on previous events, but it mostly feels like a rehash. It reminds me of when you’re watching a television show and have to watch the “previously on…” segment at the beginning – except that was the bulk of the screen time here. Perhaps if the runtime wasn’t nearly three hours, this would have been more bearable.
Plot-wise, it is obvious that the characters have to split up so that each can be personally taunted by Pennywise and this does lead to some pretty good scares. Bev’s encounter in particular seemed to really scare everyone in the theater. These moments of pure horror evoked by Bill Skarsgård’s portrayal of Pennywise are why we were all there anyway, and this is where the film really shined. Sadly, it felt like Pennywise had a lot less presence this time around, spending most of the early movie in the shadows. At the very least, this made each of his appearances throughout literal events have the audience waiting with baited breath for the homicidal clown to pop up.
The rest of the cast must also get credit where it is due, as each did a terrific job of portraying the adult version of their character and had great overall group chemistry. While Bill Hader’s Richie Tozier was the fan favorite with his hilarious dialogue, each actor brought something unique to the table. Every Loser felt genuine and relatable, and I found myself rooting for their survival. Bill Denbrough actor James McAvoy, as always, was a treat to watch and was the anchor that grounded the entire cast. One character I couldn’t stand was Henry Bowers (Teach Grant). He was particularly useless in this sequel, even more so than last time, and it felt like a waste of time whenever the film would focus on him. Then, just as quick as he was reintroduced, he was gone, leaving me scratching my head.
Three quarters of the way through It: Chapter Two, everything kicks up a notch and our group of Losers quickly head towards a final confrontation with Pennywise. I don’t want to spoil anything here, but I will just say that I found the whole sequence rather disappointing. They did pay homage to the ‘90s miniseries, which I appreciated, but it felt like it ended with a whimper rather than a bang.
The last ten to fifteen minutes seemed to just kind of drag on after the final battle and while it was full of emotional character moments, I was just ready for the credits to roll. Again, it’s not so much that the film is bad or that director Muschietti made some kind of glaring mistake, it simply boils down to the limitations of King’s original story.
The cast is fantastic with each actor portraying a convincing adult version of the Losers we came to love in the first film. Richie once again steals the show, this time with Bill Hader giving the audience plenty of laughs. Bill Skarsgård unsurprisingly pulls off an amazing performance as Pennywise, leading to a number of legitimate scares.
The film suffers due to mostly being a rehash of the first film. Sure, the characters reveal a few new details about the time they spent apart during the summer of 1989, but while they are busy remembering Pennywise, the audience hasn’t forgotten. By the time they remember, they are thrust into the final battle, which in itself is fairly underwhelming.
It: Chapter Two proves what pretty much everyone already knew: that the first half of Stephen King’s original story was always much more interesting. Dealing with themes such as loss of innocence, transitioning to adulthood, and confronting one’s fears through the eyes of a bunch of loner adolescents is simply more entertaining than the return of a bunch of weary adults with selective memories. To be fair, the film is extremely competent with quality acting, cinematography, and special effects, and I think Muschietti did the best he could.
The film is what it is. If you’re looking to kill some time and have a few scares, or see more of Skarsgård’s Pennywise, you will find something to like. If you’re looking for a perfect ending to a perhaps overly-celebrated story, then you are likely going to be disappointed. Looking back, one of prominent jokes in the sequel is that no one is satisfied with the ending of the books written by Bill (James McAvoy). I guess even the filmmakers are acknowledging that wrapping things up neatly with a bow is no easy feat. Maybe sometimes it’s more about the journey rather than the end and if that’s the case, It: Chapter Two was one hell of a ride.