Movie Review: ‘IT Chapter 2’ (Second Opinion)
***WARNING!!! SPOILERS BELOW***
You can read Gfunk’s review right here!
Plot: 27 years after the events of the first film, Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) calls the Losers’ Club back to Derry, Maine when he discovers that Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) has returned to continue his murderous ways.
Review: 2017’s IT was easily one of my favorite films of that year. Smart, scary, and boasting an excellent cast, director Andy Muschietti’s film was everything I wanted in an adaptation of my favorite novel. Yet I don’t think anyone expected it to be quite the global phenomenon it became. Aside from the critical praise, IT grossed $700 million worldwide becoming the top earning horror film of all-time. A follow-up installment showcasing the adult Losers’ Club was inevitable, and here we are two years later with the much anticipated second film. So does Muschietti’s second chapter live up to the hype and the expectations of its predecessor?
Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding no.
Bloated, meandering, uneven, and rife with missed opportunities, IT Chapter 2 is saved from being a complete disaster because of a stellar cast and a few genuine moments of brilliance and heart. The horror sequel is easily the most disappointing film of the year for me thus far, and it really pains me to write that because Muschietti’s movie was my #2 anticipated film of 2019.
It Chapter 2 opens strongly enough, depicting the brutal beating of Adrian Mellon (Xavier Dolan) who subsequently is eaten by Pennywise after being thrown over a bridge. Mike soon discovers that Pennywise was the cause, which prompts him to call all the Losers back to Derry, Maine based on the strength of their oath so many years ago. It’s here that the script, written solely by Gary Dauberman this time around, begins to unravel. Our reintroduction to each member of the group feels decidedly rushed especially Bev (Jessica Chastain) and Bill’s (James McAvoy’s) scenes which were fleshed out much more in novel and even the 1990 mini-series.
The nuanced and refined touch of Cary Fukunaga (who co-wrote the first film) is decidedly missing here. Dauberman’s script contains far too many superfluous and ridiculous scenes such as Mike tricking Bill into drinking water containing a hallucinogen to reveal the Ritual of Chud, or Eddie (James Ransone) and Richie (Bill Hader) encountering a small dog that becomes a CGI monster. Speaking of the Ritual of Chud, any novel fans hoping for a faithful/meaningful adaptation can leave their expectations at the door. It doesn’t have nearly the emotional impact or the delightful insanity of King’s text. Instead the ritual comes off flat and uninspired. Even more frustrating is that when the script sticks to the source material, such as the Losers’ reunion at the Chinese restaurant, the film works well. I hate to be that guy who complains about not using more from the novel, but in this instance I think it would have served the film better.
I can’t place all the blame for the failings of IT Chapter 2 on Dauberman however. A good portion of the fault lies with Muschietti. The director doesn’t seem to know how to get out of his own way, including too many scenes that would have been better left on the cutting room floor and excluding elements from the novel that would have served the story better. For instance the subplot involving Bill’s wife Audra (Jess Weixler) who gets kidnapped by IT in the novel, is completely excised from the film. At almost three hours, IT Chapter 2 feels decidedly long. Muschietti employs far too much CGI in this second installment when practical effects would have been better. Moreover the CGI is really bad especially the giant old crone that Bev sees when she visits her old apartment.
Muschietti’s choice to include the children from the first film in the second I think is also ill-conceived. It takes the focus away from the adult cast which ends up being a detriment. In all honesty it probably would have been better to not include the child actors at all and let the adult cast shine. Furthermore, the de-aging techniques used on the young cast just comes off jarring and weird, especially Jeremy Ray Taylor’s young Ben Hanscom.
And can we just take a moment to talk about Pennywise? One of the strongest aspects of 2017’s IT was the committed and intense performance from Bill Skarsgard. He’s just as great again here, but for a movie that’s almost three hours long he’s not nearly in it enough. Granted he has a couple terrifying scenes such as an encounter with a young girl underneath the bleachers. Yet I just didn’t get the same sense of menace and terror that was present in the first film. There’s no iconic moment like the slide show scene of the original. Even the final confrontation between IT and the Losers seems anti-climactic.
IT Chapter 2 isn’t a complete waste of time however. Andy Muschietti’s does a fantastic job of tackling the existential fears of adults such as loss of security or the threat of an abusive relationship. For die hard King fans there’s also an excellent cameo by the horror master himself. (Also randomly one by Peter Bogdanovich.) And the cast of this film is top-notch. The best parts of IT Chapter 2 occurred when this cast was on screen together. (Which makes the fact that they were split up so much even more frustrating.) Each of the actors seamlessly takes on the various traits of their younger selves. Ransone is particularly great as the hypochondriac adult Eddie and has some of the funnier lines of the film. Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy are their normal brilliant selves and Isaiah Mustafa emerges as the moral compass and leader of the bunch. The standout however is Bill Hader as the adult Richie Tozier. While his comedic timing is consistently on point he also brings pathos and a real sense of empathy to the character, exemplified best in his relationship with Eddie.
However, even a brilliant and dynamic cast isn’t enough to save IT Chapter 2 from being a muddled mess that occasionally entertains but never lives up to its own lofty ambitions or the greatness of its predecessor.
My rating System:
0-1 God Awful Blind Yourself With Acid Bad
2 Straight Garbage
4 Sub Par
8 Very Good
10 A Must See
IT Chapter 2: 5/10