Review: It Chapter Two
After 2017’s It (retroactively titled It Chapter One) came out and decimated all of the horror box office records, it became clear director Andy Muschietti was going to get to do as he pleased with the sequel, It Chapter Two; he now had total control. For any hardcore Stephen King fans, the prospects of this idea were endlessly exciting, for once we had a chance to see someone tackle King without having to sacrifice all of the most “King” bits. Muschietti delivers on those hopes in his near three-hour finale to the tale of The Losers Club by bringing in every last detail from the source material that was possible and trusting his actors to bring to these characters what King's writing does. With stellar casting, clever scares, and incredibly emotional character arcs, Chapter Two is able to side step its shortcomings to deliver a poignant and bittersweet ending.
The second half to this story finds us back in Derry, Maine 27 years after the events of the first film, with the only member of The Losers Club who didn't leave, Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa). As the only one with any memory of what happened, it becomes his task to get everyone else back to Derry and to help them remember the horrible things that happened nearly thirty years ago. Honoring their blood pact, despite many of them not being in the place to do so, the losers club reband in an attempt to destroy the evil that took Georgie, and that nearly took them.
When adapting King, the most effective route to take is the one that focuses on the characters and makes us truly fall in love with them, like his books do. It was true of Chapter One and it's true of Chapter Two. Getting the audience to fall in love with these characters is key to this story working on any level, and if you loved those kids the first time around, chances are you are going to love their adult counterparts. Jessica Chastain (Bev), James McAvoy (Bill), Bill Hader (Richie), Isaiah Mustafa (Mike), James Ransone (Eddie), and Jay Ryan (Ben) all transform into the adult version these characters. It's amazing how many little details they all hit to totally capture little bits of the performances from the children in Chapter One.
It’s because of this stellar casting that the film is able to side-step some of its flaws. Odd pacing and editing are easy to forget about when you get totally lost in Bill Hader's incredible performance as a grown Richie Tozier, feeling everything he feels. The movie doesn't always do a great job of spelling things out, despite its many moments of exposition, but the performances often do it all for you. By the time we reach the conclusion of the movie, you are either in or out with this gang, and if you are in be ready for Hader to bring on the waterworks.
The character of Pennywise (which Skarsgård reprises wonderfully) preys on fear, it's the food of which it lives, so inherently the “scares” this time around aren't quite as in your face as the first movie. This is because the nature of the story: we are watching the fears of these people evolve from the simple and superficial things that frighten us as children (mummies/clowns/etc) into the deeply complex fears we have as adults. These characters have been carrying around an incredible amount of baggage for nearly thirty years and all of them have been doing whatever they can to forget it. That kind of emotional repression will manifest itself in all sorts of horrible ways.
The fears of adults are much more real, and we see this when the gang splits up to go and discover the missing parts of their stories. So yeah, there isn't anything in this film as visually frightening as the projector scene from Chapter One, but the idea of opportunity lost and what it means to run away from your problems and fears hits on an entirely different level. Something as simple as watching Eddie go back for his fanny pack and medicine and fall right back into the paranoid hypochondriac mentality is scary in its own way.
At nearly three hours long there is some fat you could probably trim from this movie. The Bowers stuff is just kind of there and feels like the director wanted to fit everything in that they could, and you could shorten up a few moments that drag a bit. Mostly I thought it was justified though, getting to spend that much time with these characters really builds the audience relationship to them, and we are given just enough flashbacks to them as kids to really connect them to each generation of the story. I truly hope Muschietti gets to make his five-hour supercut of both movies, because I believe the stuff in this movie will play so much better in the order of the novel.
It Chapter Two wraps up the story of The Losers Club in an emotionally satisfying way, one that represents reality. Not everyone makes it and it is going to fucking hurt, but if you don't embrace what you have and take the shot when you have it, it can all end up much worse. It’s the many themes of the story, like this, that turned me into a sobbing mess at the end of the movie. Maybe it’s just where I am at in life, which is exactly what King is hoping for, that this movie hit so hard for me. We are all members of The Losers Club.