Warning: Spoilers and TW
In spite of everything going for “It,” not even the Eater of Worlds is immune to sequel-itis.
In 2017, director Andrés “Andy” Muschietti reawakened Stephen King’s terrifying clown from its 27-year slumber for his horror opus, “It.” Released to critical acclaim from both critics and audiences, “It” delivered on many fronts: The scares were very well choreographed and relied on a strong understanding of building tension and releasing it.
Expectations are high and why not? So, did “It” deliver in this much-anticipated return from the grimy gutters of Derry?
Yes, and no.
Let’s start with the positives. First, the casting and acting are mostly phenomenal. Bill Hader easily steals the whole movie as the 40-year-old Ritchie Tozier, whose performance is a prime showcase for his mastery of one-liners, comedic timing and further assorted wisecracking.
Another scene-stealer is James Ransone as Eddie Kraspbrak, who probably comes the closest to transferring the overbearing nervousness and hostility of his younger incarnation, and his scenes with Hader are some of the highlights of not only the movie but the entire series. When it comes to Beverly March, Jessica Chastain also carries some of the more emotional scenes, though she’s sometimes reduced to the third corner of a rather forced love triangle.
James McAvoy as Bill Denbrough (90’s ponytail sadly absent), not only recaptures bits of Jaeden Lieberher’s verbal tics but gives an emotionally charged performance that adds to the depth of his character. And of course, Bill Skarsgård is freakier than ever as Pennywise the Clown, including an immensely unnerving scene that demonstrates the capabilities of the killer clown’s manipulative abilities.
Second, Muschietti’s steady control over mood and scene direction has not lessened, with well-shot sequences and some outright sublime transition shots. He knows how to work with the script and can produce scenes that are not only horrifying but sometimes segue into gut-busting hilarity.
This means “Chapter 2” surely has the strength needed to surmount any hurdles, right?
The first potential obstacle to “Chapter 2” is its running time of 2 hours and 50 minutes. You’re going to feel it, especially considering there are a few subplots that, regardless of whether they were in the book or not, did NOT deserve inclusion in this.
The biggest one is probably the opening, taken from the original work. In 2016 Derry, a gay couple is violently assaulted by a homophobic mob, which results in one of them being murdered by Pennywise after both are left for dead.
For this sequence, both the novel and the film draw from a real-life tragedy, the murder of Charlie Howard. King’s intentions and that of the filmmakers’ were probably to not only establish the predatory vileness of Pennywise but to also draw attention to similar events in real life. Was it supposed to feel tasteless and exploitative? Nope, but it sure did. With many acts of violence and rising opposition to LGBTQ acceptance across the world, this feels more like a shlocky attempt at edginess than support.
To add to that is the decision to make a member of the Losers gay. While it is nice to see more representation, how the film handles it stumbles. Aside from being a secret that the character is ashamed of and used by the antagonist to mock them, the subplot is never given any meaningful resolution. The character isn’t shown coming to terms with it and there’s not much depth to it, aside from a small, undeveloped scene at the end.
Finally, there are the actual scares. As I stated prior, Muschietti does have a decent understanding of setting up scares and many are done very well here. However, I would be lying if I said the CGI didn’t feel somewhat overbearing. While the original did have quite an abundance of CGI, it feels especially gratuitous here, especially the finale.
Ultimately, “It Chapter 2” is an admirably ambitious movie that flies a bit too close to the sun. There are many qualities to like, but there are definite areas for improvement. Still, it’s far better than most of the cheap horror shlock that gets released these days.
My rating: 3/5
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