Directed by Andy Muschietti [Other horror films: Mama (2013), It (2017)]
Being an almost three-hour movie, and with a lot of additions new compared to both the source novel and 1990 mini-series, there’s a lot in It Chapter Two to try and digest even now.
I think the one of the highlights of the film is during the flashbacks to when they were kids, especially the clubhouse scene. It’s just nice seeing the young cast coming back and giving more solid performances. Related, I appreciated how they led to these flashbacks, pointing out that the first movie didn’t cover everything the Losers went through, and revealing new information to the audience via these new flashbacks, which was a fun technique.
That leads into a journey to collect tokens (not too different from the Walking Tours in the book, mostly), which was okay. I didn’t love it, nor understand the importance of some of the tokens, but it made sense in the context of preparing for some Native American ritual in order to defeat Pennywise (which itself is something a bit new and somewhat unnecessary in my view).
As far as performances go here, the clear standout is Bill Hader as Richie. He gives a fantastic performance throughout, often bring levity to dark situations, as he did as a kid. A great scene was his joke in the clubhouse, which was entirely tasteless and entirely Richie. Also, toward the end, he has a breakdown of sorts, and the emotions coming from him are almost overwhelming in their sincerity. Just utterly fantastic.
Related, I thought that Eddie’s actor, James Ransone (most well-known for Sinister), was also pretty spectacular. He really did feel like a grown-up Jack Dylan Grazer, and his character was a lot of fun, especially his conversational reportare with Hader. The third best adult performance was probably Mike’s Isaiah Mustafa, who gave a solid, somewhat manic at times, performance, and didn’t really feel too far removed from Tim Reid’s in 1990. Andy Bean as an adult Stanley Uris was great too, though I wish he appeared more.
As for Jay Ryan, Jessica Chastain, and James McAvoy, there were decent, but weren’t really that amazing. I did like McAvoy’s performance at times, especially regarding the Georgie surrogate, and he really comes across as unhinged at times (understandably so, if truth be told), but he didn’t blow me away, nor did Ryan or Chastain. For the life of me, I couldn’t see Ryan as an adult Jeremy Ray Taylor, which hurt his character a bit for me, and Chastain, while appearing reasonably similar to her childhood version of Lillis, just didn’t bring enough to wow me.
Seeing Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Wyatt Oleff (who played one of my favorite characters in the first chapter) again was great. I wish we had more flashbacks of the times they spent together that were missed from the first film, but what we got worked out just fine.
Some scenes I like include, but at not limited to, the opening sequence (which was in the books, and I was nice to finally see that put onto film), Pennywise’s encounter with a little girl during a football game, young Ben’s encounter with Beverly at summer school, and finally seeing Paul Bunyan attack Richie (as he did in the book, but wasn’t included in the 1990 mini-series). Admittedly, Pennywise’s singing in that last scene took me aback, but it made sense in context.
Also, kudos to Stephen King’s appearance in the film, along with the snatch of Bill’s writing we saw toward the end of the film, which was almost taken word-for-word from the original novel, page 769 in my paperback copy. Just a small thing, but that paragraph was almost one of my favorite’s from the novel, so it was nice to see the nod to it. And King’s joke about how his stories end? Fun times.
So what doesn’t work? Well, they add something new to Richie’s character that I don’t think was necessary, though I don’t hate it as I suspect some viewers will. The heavy use of CGI was a bit daunting at times, especially toward Beverly’s encounter with It as an adult and the whole of the finale. The vision cave sequence didn’t do a lot for me, and the final recitation of Ben’s haiku just felt so Hollywood.
Another thing – Henry Bowers coming back didn’t really change anything about the events of the movie – sure, both Eddie and Mike got hurt, but unlike the book and the 1990 version, Mike is still able to accompany them down into the sewers, so what did Bowers accomplish? Lastly, the way that they defeat Pennywise in the end just felt ridiculous to me, and if I could have one thing in this movie changed, it would be that, because it definitely was done better in the book and, dare I say, the 1990 mini-series.
A few scenes felt something out there, such as Eddie’s encounter in the basement of the pharmacy, or portions of the final encounter (the final form was okay, in a CGI-riddled way, but the 1990 version did a better job following the source novel), but over time, I’m guessing that these scenes will do more for me.
There are a few things I wish the movie had added from the book, including the downfall of Derry during an epic storm as the group confronts Pennywise. In the book, that was such a great sequence, seeing outside characters who we’ve heard and seen throughout the book dying, or nearly escaping death, and seeing just how screwed up Derry is like to be following Pennywise’s demise.
Also, writing out the important parts that Audra and Tom play in the book is an interesting choice. Obviously, Tom wasn’t any more important in the 1990 version than he was here, but Audra was reduced too, which I’m personally okay with (her love story with Bill in the novel is perhaps the least engaging part of the book for me, though she does has a really creepy interaction with Pennywise). That said, leaving these two out but bringing in Henry Bowers just felt off to me, especially since, as aforementioned, Bowers didn’t really accomplish anything.
Like I said at the beginning, there’s a lot to digest in this movie, especially as a fan of the source novel and the 1990 mini-series, not to mention the first chapter. As it stands, I can say that the first chapter probably felt more ordered, because at times, Chapter Two can come across as a bit messy (perhaps by design). Having Pennywise go after the Losers in somewhat psychological ways (which was played up more here than in the novel) brought a little something new, as did other factors, that I’m not exactly sure yet how I feel about.
My theater performance was pretty stellar, though, so that’s good.
I can’t say many things for certain right now, but I can say that I think the first movie was better. I’ll need to see this a few more times before I come to a final conclusion, but as it stands now, divorcing myself from the rare experience of seeing a movie in theaters, I’ll give this one an average rating.
This movie was covered on the Fight Evil podcast, episode #14, so if you want to hear Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and myself discuss this, check it out.