Twenty-seven years after their first encounter with the terrifying Pennywise, the Losers Club have grown up and moved away, until a devastating phone call brings them back.
Stephen King’s ‘It’ had already been made into a successful TV miniseries when Andy Muschietti’s cinematic adaptation was released two years ago, yet Muschietti’s update was a smash hit, gaining critical and commercial acclaim on its way to becoming the biggest horror movie of all time. ‘It Chapter Two’ was already in the works at that point, taking the story 27 years into the future as the Losers Club are drawn back to their hometown of Derry when Pennywise the Clown returns to torment them and the town’s residents as prophesied. I was a big fan of the first film and its young cast in particular, and whilst ‘Chapter Two’ continues to excel in its casting and performances, it’s a step down in almost every other regard.
We’ll start with the biggest issue, that of the film’s runtime which clocks in at a whopping 169 minutes. Now I’m not against a lengthy runtime and I’m generally happy for a film to be as long as it needs to be (some of my favourite films are 3+ hours), but ‘It Chapter Two’ simply does not need to be as long as it is and it’s a problem that really clouds my overall judgement of the film. There are so many aspects that could have been cut or edited with minimal impact on the narrative (in fact it would have improved it), starting with the bully from the first film subplot which is unnecessary, then the individual stories with each of the characters that could have been condensed in almost all cases. I’m struggling to understand the logic behind the length other than self-indulgence, and a director given too much of a free rein after delivering a really successful first film.
It is a shame as there are good elements here, namely the superb casting which can’t be glossed over. Not only are the performances excellent, but the casting department has excelled in finding actors who really look like grown up versions of the child actors from the first film. Bill Hader is getting a lot of praise, rightly so, but I really liked James Ransome’s neurotic Eddy, who gets much of the emotional material alongside Hader. The scenes with the group together are mostly excellent, particularly the reintroduction in the Chinese restaurant, but ‘It Chapter Two’ sidelines them in individual plots too often and I felt it diminished the impact of the bond they have. The film is at its most successful when it leans on the nature of memory as the characters reflect back on their childhood and I felt this was most prominent when they had shared experiences together.
Whether this is a horror or comedy is not particularly important, but I felt that ‘Chapter Two’ straddled the line between both without ever committing one way. Pennywise was often more ridiculous than frightening in the first film, but he’s even moreso here and the number of scares are minimal with many of the creepier moments undercut by comedy. There are several bad filmmaking calls, namely a homophobic attack to open the film that is needlessly cruel and has no bearing on the rest of the plot, and the return of the bully which I mentioned above. I didn’t dislike ‘It Chapter Two’, but I did feel this was a major step down from the first film, not particularly scary or even creepy, and the strong moments lost their impact when surrounded by so much filler. The respective casts and performances of both films deserved a better conclusion than this.
Directed By: Andy Muschietti
Starring: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, James Ransome, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, Andy Bean, Sophia Lillis, Jaeden Martell, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Wyatt Oleff, Javier Botet and Bill Skarsgård