It Chapter Two
US (2019) Dir. Andy Muschietti
Sequels are often hard depending on the success of the first film and the story being told, whether it is continuing an overarching plot or progressing a singular franchise. For It Chapter Two, it is more a case of the former but has a lot to live up to following its surprisingly enjoyable predecessor.
Beginning with a brief recap of the end of the first film, we recall the oath made by The Losers Club – Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Beverly (Sophia Lillis), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), Stanley (Wyatt Oleff), Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), and Mike (Chosen Jacobs) – to return to Derry if It ever returns to defeat it again. 27 years later, the evil clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) resurfaces, killing the victim of a homophobic attack.
Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), the only one of the group to stay in Derry, calls the others – Bill (James McAvoy), Beverly (Jessica Chastain), Eddie (James Ransone), Ben (Jay Ryan), Richie (Bill Hader), and Stan (Andy Bean) – to inform them It is back. The group reunites with the exception of Stan who commits suicide, to perform the Ritual of Chüd from the ancient Shokopiwah Native American tribe Mike found, which will end It for good.
The most impressive aspect about It Chapter Two is how this basic plot is eked out to almost three hours, something which didn’t sit well with many audiences, and at the risk of sounding like a bandwagon jumper, this is justified. Stephen King’s original novel is apparently over 1000 pages long meaning there is plenty of material to cover, but even bearing this in mind, Andy Muschietti’s adaptation feels rather bloated.
I have to confess to dozing off about an hour in and by hour two, I was begging for the film to end. A quick look at the reviews on this site will tell you I have no issue with long run times if the content is deep enough to sustain it, which doesn’t feel the case here. Others will disagree but the consensus is a good 45 minutes could have been expurgated and I doubt little would have been lost from the narrative, although I am aware this sounds cheeky coming from someone who hasn’t read the source novel.
With most of the basic story already covered in the first film, it really could have picked things nicely even after time jump with more haste and still been effective. Everyone has grown up and moved on in their lives, with the exception of Mike who lives under the town library in Derry, where he continues to monitor any odd occurrences.
Bill is now an author whose bestselling book is being made into a film starring his wife, but everyone hated the ending (a running gag that might be too prescient to be ironic); Beverly is a fashion designer stuck in an abusive marriage (her father also abused her); fat boy Ben is now a hunky millionaire architect; Richie is a stand up comedian; Eddie is a risk assessor married to a overbearing wife; and Stan is an accountant.
Nobody welcomed the phone call from Mike, striking a fear into them they thought was in the past, though Stan’s reaction is shocking, something the others didn’t learn about until the called in to see why he didn’t attend the initial reunion. It has to be said, with Richie being a comedian and Eddie a hypochondriac they come across as comic relief double act that border on parody and instead of adding levity to the proceedings, they make it seem rather silly.
Pennywise is still It’s favourite form for causing havoc though It adopts many others to get to our heroes, ranging from the gross to the really gross, but like the Eddie/Richie dynamic, some tend to be quite goofy instead of scary, a result of overdone CGI. The ritual involves the Losers returning to where they defeated It and sacrificing a personal symbol of the past, sending each person back to an old haunt to find them and meeting an iteration of It in due course.
Much of the incidents here are referential to the first film, calling on flashbacks and new inserts featuring the junior cast to remind us of the scenes in question. There is a bizarre time warp effect here as the two periods overlap with the child version experiencing the horror and the adult one showing the effects afterwards. Mike is the lone exception, doing very little for most of the film which leaves a large gap in exploring his experiences with not even a hint of exposition is shared in this regard.
Another thread left hanging concerns the bully of the first film, Henry Bowers (Teach Grant), now in a psychiatric hospital after killing his father. It helps him escape and he seeks vengeance against the Losers, yet after one attack on Eddie, he is not seen again, so what was the point of bringing him back? Unless he gets his again in the novel, this was something that could have easily been excised in my opinion.
The success of the first film must have encouraged the signing of A-listers James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain for this sequel otherwise anyone could have played their roles. The only other actor I personally knew was Jay Ryan but only because he was in Aussie soap Neighbours 20 years ago! Stephen King has a cameo too whilst Bill Skarsgård’s turn a Pennywise didn’t feel quite so impressive and less nuanced this time round.
It Chapter Two does its job in bringing the story to its conclusion and visually does it well enough but is hampered by the indulgent runtime and a quality I can’t quite identify that is missing which made the first film work so well. Maybe the story should have ended with the Losers as kids defeating It since this was a tale about the loss of childhood innocence? Anyway, It is over now. I hope…