Turn light into dark. 27 years have passed since The Losers Club faced their fears and defeated the terrorizing Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård). In those 27 years, almost all its members have left the godforsaken town of Derry, Maine for bigger and better things. Bill (James McAvoy) has become a mystery writer, Beverly (Jessica Chastain), a designer, Richie (Bill Hader), a comedian, Ben (Jay Ryan), an architect, Stanley (Andy Bean), an accountant, and Eddie (James Ransone), a risk assessor. The only person who stayed behind is Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), working as the town librarian.
They all swore after that fateful summer that if IT ever came back, they’d return to end it. Well, that day has come, as the demonic entity often taking clown form has resurfaced in a vicious way. And so, The Losers Club assembles, dealing with not only Pennywise but the natural issues of adulthood.
Any conversation with IT Chapter 2 must start with how long it is. Let’s just put it this way. If Midsommar doesn’t exactly justify its length being more than 30 minutes shorter with stronger lore, how can a movie based on a second half of a book that’s commonly seen as the weaker half of the two do so? That’s not to completely admonish the sequel to the 2017 smash; there’s a few good things here but a palpable feeling of disappointment exists throughout.
Like The Losers themselves, director Andy Muschietti returns to finish the job. At the core (just takes some digging to hit it), this remains a story of growing up, facing fears, and realizing the importance of bonds whether in crises or in good, serene times. One thing can be said, he definitely takes chances in making changes to the source material; this is far, far different than what Stephen King’s pen put to paper. Some of them work, as honestly, it would be kind of difficult to showcase a mythic turtle or the logistics of a smoke hole. With that said, a sizable portion of what is fleshed out or omitted leads to a bevvy of less-than-positive superlatives.
At its worst, It Chapter 2 is empty heftiness, clunky and inconsistent in approach. The inclusion of one Henry Bowers stands as the biggest side thread that could stand to be removed as it doesn’t contribute to anything. Being that many changes to the material were made, why not this one? An entire second act relying on a character-by-character scavenger hunt sewn in with flashbacks contributes substantially to the dragging on length. And lastly, an ending that makes sense conceptually (in the words of Parappa the Rapper—You Gotta Believe!) comes off as underwhelming on the silver screen.
Is It Chapter 2 scary? Yes and no. Jump scares are abound and the way they appear is repetitive clockwork. Still, it takes some skill from a director knowing that they’re coming to make them work with a modicum of effectiveness, and Muschietti has that ability. Where IT2 loses out heavily to the first installment is in its inability to sustain a scary moment; as those jump scares last for about three seconds and turn into a “that’s all?” vibe. The biggest culprit seems to be—with a level of consistently—hideously subpar CGI to the point of hilarity in spots. More budgetary resources should lead to better effects, right?
Casting director Rich Delia deserves a slow clap for his work in how spot on the adult losers look to their child counterparts. Their collective unit-ness is a notch under the chemistry Muschietti’s youngsters possessed, but it’s still evident enough, with a reunion dinner scene serving as possibly the highlight of the entire movie. McAvoy and Chastain are the A-listers, reliable though unspectacular here. The Old Spice guy—dealing with psychedelic tree root and not the rich scent of a man—isn’t half bad! However, two cast members own IT Chapter 2: Hader, getting the best character arc, and Ransone, wonderfully manic as the worrisome Eddie. They are funny, perhaps too much so as their quips sometimes comes at ill-timed stamps where the horror needs to be lingering.
Maybe IT Chapter 2 will work better when watched in succession with IT, as it’s hard to visualize a consistent rewatchable return to Derry without it. Losers stick together through thick, thin, and mediocrity.
Photo credits go to buzzfeed.com, warnerbros.com, and syfy.com.
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