Just like Harley Quinn in the ‘Birds of Prey‘ teaser, we should all be so “f*cking over clowns” too but we need them, don’t we? With Pennywise and the Joker, psychotic clowns are going to be giving the box office a much-needed boost.
After defeating IT, the ‘Losers’ all go their separate ways, with most of them leaving Derry and starting their own lives. 27 years later, however, IT returns which necessitates the return of the gang too. As a massive fan of the first IT and the actual 1000+ sprawling novel, I was excited about the sequel. The studio definitely assembled a star-studded cast (with the likes of James Mcavoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, etc.) and the predecessor was delightfully entertaining.
In terms of performances, the actors all deliver. Mcavoy (Bill) and Chastain (Beverly) bring their usual A-game, carrying a lot of the film’s emotionally-charged sequences. For Bill, it’s a ‘storyline’ with a random kid who he encounters a couple of times that truly allows the actor to flex his acting muscles. You absolutely buy his frustration and anger and Mcavoy truly excels there. The other adult Losers’ actors – James Ransone (a still-hypochondriacal Eddie), Jay Ryan (a more muscular Ben), Isaiah Mustafa (Mike), and Andy Bean (Stanely) are all great as well and are definitely prime for more roles in the future. But, I really have to echo what most people are saying “Bill Hader steals the movie.” Not only is he easily the funniest character (Richie) in the film, but also one of the most sympathetic. Even though he’s still as foul-mouthed as ever, we learn that his tendency to be puerile is more of a facade he wears to not reveal his true feelings. I can’t really delve more into that because of spoilers…
Richie and Eddie’s back-and-forth is particularly engaging and absolutely fun to watch. The cast has excellent chemistry and when they are allowed to interact with each other, you really feel a sense of camaraderie. My favorite scene in the movie is the Chinese restaurant scene where the adults reunite for the first time and try to remember their past. Of course, Pennywise is up to his usual devilish antics and ruins the reunion but, that scene perfectly captures the chemistry. Their personalities and charming back-and-forth are played extremely well and it’s clear that the cast had a lot of fun too.
Courtesy of Warner Bros & New Line Cinema
Albeit a poor decision to show the titular character in broad daylight and not given enough screentime, Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise is still pretty terrifying. There are 2 wonderful Pennywise-related additions in the movie (not in the book) that were f*kn awesome – a scene with a young girl underneath the bleachers at a baseball game and the ‘Hall of Mirrors.’ Not only is the ‘Hall of Mirrors’ scene extremely thrilling, but also effective because Bill sees Georgie in the aforementioned kid and doesn’t want the same fate to befall him.
The cinematography, the production and the hybrid of CGI/practical effects are all pretty solid. But by far, the most surprising aspect of the film is its abundance of humor (sometimes to a fault). IT Chapter Two is dam funny, which is probably not what most viewers expected. There is also a pretty meta-throughline about Bill’s character (who is a writer) sucking at writing a proper ending, which is a common complaint of Stephen King’s book endings.
Even though the first IT had a great balance of humor and scares, the sequel goes a little overboard with the humor, which often ends up undercutting the emotional sequences. In addition, we don’t learn much about adults (aside from the obligatory scenes in the beginning). It would’ve been great to actually spend more time with them before they are thrust to this world again. The child actors also return and even though they were great in the first one, their additions take away screentime from their adult counterparts.
Also, the whole point of the second part of the IT story is that the adults reunite to take down IT. Unfortunately, the entire second act is the Losers being separated and finding ‘totems’ or relics from their childhood for a sacrifice, which would have been okay if the ritual ended up being (at least a little) effective. It doesn’t, so you’re left with almost an hour of the movie being pointless. Think Finn and Rose’s storyline in Star Wars: The Last Jedi… This is also where the movie drags a little and could have truncated a portion of the runtime (which is almost as long as Avengers: Endgame). Each character (sans characters like an adult Mike) is allocated 5-10 minutes and some of their nostalgic moments just aren’t that interesting.
Courtesy of Warner Bros & New Line Cinema
Speaking of, Mike is the only loser that stayed back after defeating IT and vividly remembers IT and the adventures they had. However, he once again gets the short end of the stick, in terms of character development, and we don’t learn much about him. He exists as an exposition-dumping machine and doesn’t have much of a personality. Returning characters like Henry Bowers, the switchblade-wielding bully, has absolutely no purpose being in the movie. He doesn’t affect the story much, if at all, and simply ends up taking precious screentime away from other characters.
The filmmakers also feel a need to shove a lot of material from the book and oftentimes, it feels as if not enough time is spent to let us marinate on what just transpired. I contend that this film could have benefitted from splitting into 2 movies, which would have given us more time to flesh out the pre-Derry adult Losers and explore the mythology behind Pennywise.
Finally, the big climactic moment ends up feeling extremely anti-climactic and I was left scratching my head “that’s how they defeat IT?”
Rating – Mild Recommendation
Albeit filled with strong performances and hilarious one-liners, IT Chapter Two is a bit of a disappointment. 2017 IT was so good that when compared to the original, the sequel was always going to be a bit of a let-down. Regardless, the movie has good scares and is an entertaining watch.