In 2017, “IT Chapter One” took the world by storm, becoming a record-breaking horror movie (grossing $700 million worldwide on a $35 million budget) and cementing itself as a cultural phenomenon that has not quite died down. Pennywise and Losers Club memes littered social media, and the force was only strengthened by the strange clown sightings around the country at the time of its release. By all definitions, the movie was an absolute success, and it is probably the strongest horror movie to come out in the last decade, with a staying power not many horror movies have outside of the niche of fans.
“IT Chapter Two” opened with a strong $91 million as fans sold out theaters, donned attire and hopped on the “hype train” to see it over the opening weekend despite early critic naysayers. I have to admit, I was one of these people. “IT” has been one of those recurring stories throughout my life, so seeing the conclusion to the phenomenal opening chapter was something I was really excited for, but could it live up to its predecessor?
The story for “IT Chapter Two” is pretty shallow, as the movie opens with an extended version of the closing scene in the final movie. Bev, who is played by Sophia Lillis, recounts what she saw when she was taken by IT and reassures the club the best she can. Lillis’ acting here is superb, as she balances physical and vocal marks while answering questions the other Losers have.
The sense of finality for the younger Losers that the audience got in “IT Chapter One” really seems to bring a bit more closure here, as the movie fast forwards 27 years into the future. The Losers have moved away from Derry with no memories of what went on in their childhoods, except for Mike, who stayed behind and became a historian of Derry, spending the nearly three-decade break studying up on their metaphysical rival. When a brutal homophobic attack leads to someone’s violent dismemberment, Mike jumps into action and calls the Losers back to Derry to finish what they started.
As for the story, the biggest issue is reliance on knowledge of the book to expand on important scenes in the movie. Case in point, the scene at the Chinese restaurant, while visually cool, does not have the depth it could. Mike briefly mentions Lisa Albreicht who, in the book, was a girl who IT took on the anniversary of Georgie’s death to send a message to Mike. The things that come out of the fortune cookies also would have a lot more depth if we understood that they were tied directly to the fears of the Losers. Later, we see Kersch give Bev some tea that she grimaces at. In the book, we understand it to be grey water, and IT’s powers are manipulating her, so it looks and smells like tea while leaving the flavor.
Another large issue is the lack of character development in this movie. Where “IT Chapter One” focused greatly on fleshing out these characters, “IT Chapter Two” does little to expand on who they became in the 27 years absence. The underwritten love triangle between Bill, Bev and Ben leaves all the characters feeling flat. Mike’s story is reduced to that of a crazy librarian, and Richie’s only progression is featured in the films closing moments. There should have been much more of a focus on how we got here, and if flashbacks needed to be utilized, they should have focused on events such as the Black Spot, which is the core of Mike’s character. We even get a shoehorned return of Bowers that could have been cut entirely.
For the most part, the movie looks great. Taking the palette and technique from “IT Chapter One” and modifying colors during pivotal scenes to give us that dream-like state was incredible, but the biggest visual issue with this movie is the effects. The creatures are horrible other than a corpse seen a few times early in the movie, and the de-aging is massively distracting. It causes the young Losers to look plastic. There was also some weird pitch shifting done with their voices to make them sound more like they did in “IT Chapter One,” which led to some weird digitized audio at moments.
Out of the many issues I have with this sequel, my biggest gripe is the inconsistent tone. What begins as something dark, mysterious and frightening, ends up at this weird place of goofiness similar to the miniseries from the 90s. Horrible lines of dialogue, an abrupt three-second snippet of Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning” during an otherwise scary scene and an over reliance on classic horror homages leave the movie feeling more like a skit-show than a cohesive tale.
The movie is not a full failure, though. There are some cool scenes where the Losers have to confront situations that happened to them as children, and an early scene of Pennywise hunting a child brings you back into the original universe, albeit for a moment or two. I am particularly fond of a scene where Pennywise lures a girl under the bleachers with a firefly, offering her something she wants and playing coy. It is at these moments the movie shines, but those moments are too far in between.
I understand the adult portion of the novel and mini-series were both bad in comparison to the children’s portion, and give Stephen King’s his penchant for not being able to give a satisfying ending (a meta-joke that is made constantly towards Bill throughout the movie). I was hoping there would be enough changes throughout to give the audience something solid.
I am disappointed in what I received though; this feels less like a cemented film, and more like a recap of a six or seven hour film roughly cut together to get a theatrical release. The run time is taxing, and I felt every minute of it because of the tonal inconsistency, the drawn out scenes and the scenes which should not have been included in the first place.
Andrés Muschietti says he wants a six hour cut of the movie to come out eventually, but after seeing this, I do not trust him with my time anymore.