The second film adaptation of Stephen King’s “It,” released in 2017, became an instant horror classic along the lines of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” or “Halloween.” Bill Skarsgård’s take on the iconic clown Pennywise is perhaps the most memorable and frightening horror movie villain of this generation so far. On top of that, “It” was genuinely a great film. With excellent performances from the child cast and an emotional story that could bring its audience to tears, it earned its place as one of my favorite films of 2017.
Naturally, expectations for the 2019 follow-up, “IT Chapter Two,” were sky high.
Director Andy Muschietti returns to direct the conclusion of King’s horror story, but this time he’s armed with an even better cast that includes the likes of Bill Hader, Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy playing adult versions of the children from the original.
The story focuses on the Loser’s Club, the group of childhood friends who defeated Pennywise in the first film, as adults. They have each gone off to live their own lives, that is, until Pennywise returns to start tormenting their hometown, Derry, ME. The Club then reunites to defeat the demonic clown so that the children of Derry never have to fear it again.
I wanted to love this movie.
I wanted this movie to build upon the first film, be truly horrifying and tie the story of Pennywise and the Loser’s Club up in a satisfying manner. Unfortunately, “IT Chapter Two” struggles to make those hopes come true, and it fails to leave much of a lasting impact on its audience due to the general lack of excitement.
It’s not an entirely bad movie. In fact, I would say that there is a lot here to like, such as the performances. However, there are also a lot of noticeable flaws in the film that hold it back from being anywhere as good as its predecessor.
The biggest flaw in the film is its length.
“IT Chapter Two” clocks in at almost three hours long, which is about a half hour longer than its already lengthy predecessor. Three hour films can work. For example, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is one of the best films of the year so far, and it exceeds that mark. The difference is “IT Chapter Two” doesn’t need to be that long. You could easily shave about 40 minutes off of this film and it wouldn’t change the plot at all because there are so many scenes that don’t forward the plot at all. They’re just there, and they drastically slow down the pace of the film.
The film has a problem with going needlessly into detail about the events that are unfolding. Muschietti goes out of his way to show the audience exactly what the characters are doing, even when it doesn’t forward the plot, and it often just becomes uninteresting. There is a lot of truth to the statement “less is more,” and that’s an ideology that could have helped this film a lot.
The child actors from the first film reprise their roles through a multitude of different flashbacks that fill in some of the gaps from the first film’s timeline. While it may have been fun to see them back, a lot of those scenes were entirely unnecessary. They could have made for fun deleted scenes on the blu-ray, but in the film they ultimately just make the whole thing feel like it wasn’t edited down from their initial cut.
“IT Chapter Two” was honestly uninteresting for most of its runtime.
The opening scene was fantastic. It’s one of the most intense and horrifying sequences in the film, but after that the first act drags its feet and takes way too long to actually get the plot moving. The second act features some fun scary sequences, but is annoyingly repetitive until it moves into the third act. This is where the big exciting climax is supposed to occur, and while the plot certainly hits a peak, it isn’t all that exciting.
The only consistently amazing thing in “IT Chapter Two” are the performances of the cast.
The whole cast is phenomenal, but the real standouts were Bill Hader, who plays an adult version of Richie, and (once again) Skarsgård as Pennywise. Hader’s character provides most of the comic relief, but also serves as a lot of the film’s heart. Richie is given a very intriguing and emotional story arc, and Hader thrives in the role.
Skarsgård manages to once again capture the strange mixture of fun, horror and general creepiness that makes his iteration of Pennywise great. Everytime he is on screen, even if the scene he was in isn’t necessary, you can’t help but be engrossed in his performance. While “IT Chapter Two” may not successfully follow up the first chapter, Skarsgård does manage to build upon what he did in the first film by offering a more raw and genuinely horrific performance. He was incredible, and he certainly earned his place amongst the horror greats.
I didn’t actively dislike “IT Chapter Two.” It’s a fine film, but it is disappointing. It never gets out of the shadow of its predecessor, and it leaves the audience wanting more, but not in a good way.
The cast is great, and the film does offer some really scary moments, but the story just never really grabs your interest. It just drudges along until it ultimately comes to a bit of a lackluster ending.
“IT Chapter Two” should have been much better than it was, and honestly, unless you’re absolutely dying to catch up on the Loser’s Club, I would just recommend waiting to watch it at home.