IT Chapter Two
Director: Andy Muschietti
Writer: Gary Dauberman
Cast: Bill Skarsgård, James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Jaeden Martell, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Rated R | Minutes: 169
Release Date: September 6, 2019
Andy Muschietti‘s IT was one huge surprise as it wisely split Stephen King‘s epic novel of the same name into two parts, with the first being a pure coming of age film which saw a group of young kids spend their summer vacation fighting an evil which often takes the form of a clown named Pennywise.
Though they are successful, Pennywise promised to come back 27 years later, and they, in turn, promised to unite as one to fight the clown when it returned. This only set the stage for IT Chapter Two, which not only completes their story but promised to be an epic battle between good and evil.
Unfortunately, much of that charm and chemistry from the first film did not transfer over to IT Chapter Two. Part of that reason is the fact that we are now dealing with the adult members of the Losers Club, who spend a lot of the time in the sequel separated from each other. And the use of flashbacks prolongs the film, making it longer than it actually should be.
27 years after IT, Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain), Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy), Richie Tozier (Bill Hader), Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa), Ben Hanscom (Jay Ryan), and Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransone) keep their oath to return to Derry, Maine to vanquish the malevolent force often known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård). As strong as they are now, nothing has prepared them for the new fears that they will encounter and the sins of the past.
While the Losers Club is back, they are still unsure about how to defeat IT once and for all. That’s because none of them, except for Mike, who was the only one to stay behind in Derry and study up on the mythology of IT, actually remembers fighting the insane clown. And they’ve come to the realization that they further they are from Derry, Maine, the less they remember anything about IT. Some members of the group want to leave almost immediately because of their traumas with IT and personal demons that still haunt them. However, they all are convinced to stay and fight.
What worked so well in the first film was that the Losers Club stayed together for a good majority of the film. That chemistry is severely lacking in Chapter Two, as the group spends a good amount of time separate from each other as they are trying to either escape Derry or find their own personal and meaningful tokens that will be later used in a ritual to try to defeat Pennywise. That sort of separation throws the tone of the film off, especially when Muschietti has to juggle seven different characters. More if you count the flashbacks.
As much as these flashbacks help the audience understand the kids’ personal traumas and what they have done since defeating Pennywise, some scenes feel like they are on a loop because the kids are merely re-confronting their past fears. Sure, Chapter Two is only here because of the success of the first, which was due in large part to the kids. So in a way, it owes a lot to its predecessor. As much as they are a conduit that connects the first film to Chapter Two, there are times where it feels repetitive, which only adds to the already lengthy 162-minute runtime. Then there are the other flashbacks.
While some flashbacks don’t rehash what we already know, they seem to retcon what Chapter One established. King’s novel is already difficult to adapt into a film, now we have to worry about the film re-envisioning itself.
But as problematic as the lack of chemistry and the lengthy runtime are, Chapter Two can still be a lot of fun to watch if you look in all the right places.
Production designer Paul D. Austerberry gives Derry more depth as he adds some real creepy set pieces – like the insane asylum, Neibolt House, underneath bleachers, and the hall of mirrors, the town of Derry, the sewer labyrinth that lurks beneath it, or the strange alien-like world that looks like the surface of an alien planet that lurks beneath that. Though some aspects are fantastical and unspeakably horrifying, they all have a degree of tangibility. It’s almost as if there was an evil malevolent force that hides from us waiting to surface.
Blend that with Benjamin Wallfisch‘s score, and you get chills that run down your spine whenever Pennywise is on screen or just lurking somewhere. Or maybe a sense of cheer and hope, which will help lighten the mood depending on the scene.
Hader and Ransone give the film a humorous spark with their constant scene-stealing juvenile back and forth riffs as Richie Tozier and Eddie Kaspbrak, while the film is set on giving much of its attention to McAvoy and Chastain. If anything, Hader’s take on Ritchie makes the sequel a more compelling watch as he seems better equipped to handle all of that comedy that the younger Ritchie was able to dish out. In a way, Chapter Two would have been a lot more fun had it been from his perspective given how his character develops.
As much of the joy of the first came from the kids, a lot of the terror came from Skarsgård’s performance as the twisted Pennywise. And IT Chapter Two doubles down on all of those horrifying bits with even more scenes to paralyze you with fear with. There is one moment in the opening of the film, where a large number of red balloons come showering in as he successfully kills his first victim, all to the tune of a haunting children’s chorus playing in the background. There is another where Bev is trapped in a bathroom stall and blood comes flooding from the floor. Sort of this is reminiscent of the first film, in which she was hit with a geyser of blood when she looked down the sink drain. And, of course, those jump scares you know are coming and yet still react to because of Muschietti’s ability to control the pacing and knowing when to strike.
Ultimately, IT Chapter Two relies far too much on reminding us what we already know and takes too much time to tell us that. That magic of kids spending their summer vacation killing an evil clown is also gone, taken away by the need of their older selves to find these tokens and confront their traumas. Despite all of that the fear from the first is lingering, and much scarier because they amped up Pennywise’s scare factor. So while there is a bit of convolution in the sequel’s narrative, one thing remains the same: clowns are fucking scary.