IT: Chapter Two (2019) Review
LOSERS STICK TOGETHER
In 2017, moviegoers everywhere returned to Derry, Maine, The Losers’ Club, and the enigmatic being known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown with the film IT. Based on the terrifying bestselling novel of the same name by Stephen King, the movie (a remake of the 1990 TV movie) tells the story of seven children in the town of Derry, Maine, who are terrorized by eponymous being, only to face their own persona demons / fears in the process. Directed by Andy Muschietti, 2017’s IT proved to be surefire hit with both critics and moviegoers everywhere; setting numerous box office records and grossed over $700 million worldwide; making IT the highest grossing horror film of all time (thus far). In addition, the movie went to garnish praise from Muschietti’s direction, the film’s cast (especially those of the various members of the Losers’ Club and Bill Skarsagard), the cinematography / presentation, and the feature’s score, with many calling 2017’s IT one of the best Stephen King film adaptations. Now, two years after the film was released, Warner Bros. Studios and director Andy Muschietti return for the continuation / conclusion of King’s famous story with the film IT: Chapter Two. Does this sequel float (like it’s 2017 predecessor) or does this follow-up installment gets lost within its own narrative?
It’s been 27 years since The Losers’ Club faced off against the malevolence and enigmatic trickster known as Pennywise the Clown (Bill Skarsagard), banishing the evil into the darkness, and going their own separate ways. Now, Bill (James McAvoy) is a successful author who has trouble with his ending ideas, Eddie (James Rasone) works in the safety risk assessment business, Stanley (Andy Bean) lives a quiet with his wife, Richie (Bill Hader) is a stand-up comedian and touring the nation with his crass and sharp wittiness, Ben (Jay Ryan) has found success in business and lost the weight that caused him so pain as a kid, and Beverley (Jessica Chastain) is stuck in an abusive marriage. Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), however, as remained in their hometown of Derry, Maine, made aware of Pennywise’s return as area of unexplained deaths and disappearances have become increasingly rampant. Calling for the a Losers’ Club reunion, Mike hopes to unite the old gang and destroy “IT”, but the villainous clown has other ideas for the visitors, tapping into their childhood guilt and personal shame for another round of psychological nightmare torments, lusting after their mounting fears.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
As I mentioned many times before, I’m not the biggest fan of horror movies. I’ve always said that I won’t discredit anyone who likes them, but the genre isn’t really my personal favorite “cup of tea” to watch. That being said, I was generally quite surprised when I saw 2017’s IT and how much I loved it. Perhaps it was because of author Stephen King’s bestselling novel, which provided a great source material for the feature’s narrative, a solid direction from Muschietti, and the film’s collective cast, which were mostly unknown acting talents. I mean…. I really quite enjoyed the movie and I even loved all the horror elements, which definitely creepied me out. There was just something about 2017’s IT that definitely works and deserves the praise that it has received. All in all, 2017’s IT really does stand tall and proud in its cinematic undertaking and in its theatrical presentation and execution.
Naturally, this brings me around to talking about IT: Chapter Two, the 2019 follow-up sequel / conclusion to King’s terrifying bestselling story. Like everyone who loved 2017’s IT, I was definitely looking forward to seeing this movie and really was super eager to read all about the “buzz” the movie was making during its production. Perhaps most interesting was the announcement of the cast for the adult members of the Losers’ Club as well as the return of the younger cast in the sequel (most notably for flashback sequences). So, my anticipation for the movie continued to build and the film’s movie trailers definitely caught my interest; eagerly waiting to see how IT: Chapter Two will play out. I even placed the movie on my Top 15 Most Anticipated Movies of 2019. So, before I went on vacation, I got the chance to see the movie on its opening night, but I decided to hold off on writing my review; choosing to write some reviews for movies that I missed earlier this year (while I was on vacation). Now, it’s time to finally give my “two cents” on IT: Chapter Two. What did I think of it? To be honest, it was definitely good and is quite enjoyable. While I did find the first film to be better, IT: Chapter Two is a solid and satisfying second half to Stephen King’s beloved novel; credited to the source material, the feature’s direction, and some terrific performances. Despite a few criticisms, this movie undeniably floats (and you’ll float too…again).
Returning to the director’s chair is Andy Muschietti, which is actually a really a good thing as his vision and directorial work on the first film was fantastic and really keen on King’s source material (and translating it to the cinematic feature). Thus, with Muchietti back, IT: Chapter Two certainly does feel very much (directorially / aesthetically) like the 2017 film, which is great thing to strive for as two features (as a whole) feel like one long movie rather than two very distinct and different halves. Of course, there are some difference between Chapter One and Chapter Two that are easily to point out, but I think that Muschietti’s directive prowess is certainly there and definitely shapes to the feature to be more of a wholesome endeavor. Much like what I said about the first film, Muchietti has a great understanding of the material given to him and certainly seems that way in shaping Chapter Two; focusing more on an actual narrative story rather than simply horror scare tactics. Naturally, with this movie being a horror movie, there are still classic modern touches of “jump scares” employed in the film, but Muschietti is still quite capable of delivering more of human / emotional drama of a horror feature; shaping Chapter Two (as a whole) in similar meaningful way to Chapter One. The idea of friendships, personal fears, and the challenges we face along the way (both internal and external) is the common thread that Muschietti brings to the feature and certainly knows how to execute the movie in a way that’s both entertaining and heartfelt, which can be a bit of unorthodox way for a horror movie. However, that’s why I like these two movies, which is probably from Muschietti handling / directing of the movies.
While Muschietti returns to directing, the job of adapting King’s novel into a screenplay falls to writer / director Gary Dauberman, whose hand in the Conjuring cinematic universe is what probably got in the opportunity for Chapter Two. To be fair, Dauberman does a good job. Of course, there is a heavy reliant on expositional dialogues sequences (i.e. various “telling” and not “showing”), Dauberman shapes the feature’s screenplay in way that does change a few storytelling points from King’s original tale, but I think for the better. Yes, some purists out there might cry “fowl” in what was changed and omitted from the screenplay, but I think it is for the better. I mean, there is a bit more in explaining the character of Stanley and is better handled in the film (in a wholesome manner) than in the book. Plus, the film’s ending is a better and has a satisfying conclusion more so than King’s original ending piece, which I thought to be a bit hokey. Additionally, while Chapter One’s narrative focused on several meaningful thematic messages (i.e. facing your fears), Chapter Two examines past trauma and the regrets we face from the past actions. In the end, while some stuff is changed and could’ve been more refined, Chapter Two’s screenplay is what I would’ve expected from this movie.
Much like the previous movie, IT: Chapter Two’s presentation is quite solid with plenty of pleasing scenery and visual scattered throughout the feature. Of course, while the movie’s budget is a little bit more than Chapter One, the production limitations are still there (Chapter Two has a budget of $79 million), but that doesn’t mean that the film looks cheap. On the contrary, I think that Muschietti once again utilizes his production budget smartly and crafts a cinematic world (practical effects, production designs, and everything else) in a great way. Thus, the work by Paul D. Austerberry (production designs), Nigel Churcher (art direction), and cinematography (Cheeco Varese) are greatly appreciated in Chapter Two’s background setting and aesthetics, which to bring the quaint town of Derry, Maine to life as well as some of the more subterranean / alien-looking realms of where IT lives. Additionally, film composer Benjamin Wallfisch returns to the project; blending creepy melodies and dramatic moments (big ones and small character filled scenes) with his composition for IT: Chapter Two’s story.
There are a few pieces of criticism that the movie falters on; making IT: Chapter Two less favorable than its 2017 predecessor. That’s not to say the movie is terrible in any way as fans of King’s novel and / or the first movie will probably enjoy it, but it just won’t overtake 2017’s IT. Perhaps one of the main reasons why is because how choppy the movie feels in certain areas (particularly in the middle / second act of the feature). What do I mean? Well, why first movie dealt directly with the members of the Losers’ Club when they were kids, Chapter Two tries to focuses on the adult Losers as well as few flashback sequences of when they were kids again. It’s quite clear as to what Muchietti wants to accomplish by doing this cinematic storytelling technique, but it becomes a bit messy during the middle part of the film. This, of course, brings up the other big criticism about Chapter Two….its lengthy runtime. With the first film clocking in at around 135 minutes (two hours and fifteen minutes), Chapter Two exceeds that number by having a runtime of 169 minutes (two hours and forty-nine minutes). By any lengths…. that’s a seriously long runtime for a theatrical feature film endeavor. Thus, despite the longer time and more character-building nuances, this elongated narrative for Chapter Two is definitely a point of criticism, which certainly makes the feature feel quite bloated, with (again) a large emphasis on the middle portion of the movie. Easily could’ve been trimmed in this particular area.
Storytelling-wise, Chapter Two is what I would’ve expected to see, so it’s not quite big point of criticism that I have with. However, that being said, there are a few points where the narrative / script handling could’ve been “ironed out” a bit more. The most notable portion is in the explanation of the origin Pennywise (i.e. IT). The movie quickly explains it, but it’s kind of vague and really hard to figure out. Kind of wished that the film could’ve explained it better or rather just handled the material in a more streamlined version. Another portion is (again) the middle section of Chapter Two, which, for lack of a better term, deals with the same thing that happened in Chapter One; finding the members of the Losers’ Club dealing with their own personal strife, fears, and regrets as Pennywise feeds upon those viewpoints. It’s all well and good (storytelling-wise), but becomes problematic and quite repetitive after a while. This portion of the story could’ve been easily trimmed down a good twenty minutes and probably could’ve achieved the same poignancy
Additionally, the movie, while still able to drum up certain frightful moments of horror scares, doesn’t quite reach the same level of moments that the first film was able to achieve. Yes, I did find myself squirming in my seat a few times, but I wasn’t completely scared as I was while I watching IT: Chapter One. Chapter Two has some good staging of scary horror moments (much better than most horror movie endeavors of late), but just can’t outpace what’s been done before in the first movie. This is a bit disappointing as Muchietti (prior to the movie’s release) went on to promote Chapter Two for having much wider range of scary tactics for the feature. The end result is good, but nothing that matches the first IT movie. Also, there are a one or two moments in the movie that might act as a “trigger” point for some viewers out there, especially ones in the LGBT. Sure, it’s quite clear as to what Muchietti wants to project during these scenes, but it comes off as a bit too forced / too harsh and might turn some be off by this approach. Then again, some of the scenes (sequences that were quite harsh and violent) did show up in the first IT movie and (at least to me) demonstrated how violence / disturbing behavior can materialize in the real world…. stuff that is scarier than a supernatural / enigmatic clown.
The cast in Chapter Two is great and definitely has more recognizable names in the film than its predecessor; casting several big named acting talents in the adult roles for the Losers’ Club members. Similar to the first movie, Chapter Two does take a heavily focus on the characters of Bill Denbrough and Beverly Marsh, with actor James McAvoy and actress Jessica Chastain playing the adult iterations of these particular characters. McAvoy, known for his roles in Spilt, Atonement, and The Last King of Scotland, is great as the adult version of Bill. He has that everyman quality and likeability to make it easy to root for as well as handling a lot of the film’s dramatic emotional brunt of Chapter Two’s story. Like before, the character is overwhelmed by guilt and haunted by his past of which he must overcome in his quest to defeat Pennywise. Likewise, Chastain, known for her roles in Molly’s Game, Lawless, and Zero Dark Thirty, is solid as the adult version of Beverley, who is also saddled with some of the more emotional pieces of the film (due to her character being exposed to Pennywise’s dead lights); offering up a conflicted and haunting version of the character. Interestingly, Chapter Two does focus a great deal of time on the character of Richie Tozier, who is played by actor Bill Hader for his adult iteration. To be honest, Hader, known for his roles in Barry, Inside Out, and Trainwreck, is probably the standout role in Chapter Two; giving his portrayal of Richie in a humorous way that certainly does plenty of levity within this supernatural horror entry as well as “humanizing” the character in a very unique way.
The other adult members of the Losers’ Club, including actor Jay Ryan (Mary Kills People and Top of the Lake) as Ben Hanscom, actor James Ransone (The Wire and Generation Kill) as Eddie Kaspbrak, actor Isaiah Mustafa (Shadowhunters and The Clinic) as Mike Hanlon, and actor Andy Bean (Power and Here and Now) as Stanley Uris, get pushed to the more secondary position roles as Chapter Two focuses more on the roles of Bill, Beverly, and Richie. That’s not to say that these acting talents are bad in any shape or form as they do make for great acting counterparts to the original actors in Chapter One. Again, like before, some of these characters were pushed to secondary roles in the first film as well. Still, what’s given to them and what they project into their respective characters is great and definitely works within the feature’s presentation and storytelling moments.
Speaking of Chapter One, the young acting talents of the Losers’ Club also return for Chapter Two (again…via flashback sequences) and, with the help “de-aging” them slightly through the usage of visual effects. Thus, the performances actor Jaeden Martell (Midnight Special and The Book of Henry) as the young Bill Denbrough, actress Sophia Lillis (Sharp Objects and Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase) as the young Beverly Marsh, actor Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things and Carmen Sandiego), actor Jeremy Ray Taylor (42 and Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween) as Ben Hanscom, actor Jack Dylan Grazer (Me, Myself, and I and Shazam!) as the young Eddie Kaspbrak, actor Chosen Jacobs (Castle Rock and Hawaii Five-0) as the young Mike Hanlon, and actor Wyatt Oleff (Guardians of the Galaxy and I Am Not Okay with This) as the young Stanley Uris are a welcomed addition to the movie and easily slide back into the previous roles as these characters. It’s almost to a point where the movie (or rather Muschietti) seems more interested in revisiting / integrating these younger versions of the Losers’ into Chapter Two rather than their adult counterpart, especially in the film’s bloated second act. Still, it was great to see them return.
In the villain category, actor Bill Skarsagard once again returns to play the menacing and enigmatic Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Known for his roles in Castle Rock, Atomic Blonde, and Hemlock Grove, Skarsagard continues to demonstrate such a captivating and terrifying performance within the famous Stephen King creation known as Pennywise. Like before, Skarsagard gives the character such a solid performance that is terrific to behold on-screen. Maybe it’s the way he breathes life into the character (alluring and creepy at the same time) as well as the way he can make the voice sound or the ability of how he can pursue his lips / make his eye wander. I don’t know…. it’s hard to say. I really do think the character of Pennywise is quite interesting (even though I’m not a huge fan of horror movies), but Skarsagard’s Pennywise is definitely one of my favorites and one of the main reasons why I like these two IT movies. In a more secondary, the character of Henry Bowers also does return and (like before) acts as a more secondary villain for the film, with actor Teach Grant (Braven and Almost Human) playing the adult version of the character. There are a few more minor characters that appear throughout the movie, so just keep your eyes open for them, including a cameo appearance from King himself.
It’s been twenty-seven years, but the Losers’ are back together and ready to face their fears and the demonic Pennywise once again in the film IT: Chapter Two. Director Andy Muschietti second half of his cinematic adaptation of Stephen King’s terrifying bestselling novel; retelling / reimaging the iconic tale for a feature film endeavor. While certain aspects do get lost within its bloated runtime and confusing nuances of explanations, Muschietti still makes the movie quite enjoyably entertaining, especially thanks to the film’s narrative source material, his steady direction, and the various cast members (most notably McAvoy, Chastain, Hader, and Skarsagard performances). Personally, I liked this movie. Yes, I do agree that the first film was better, but Chapter Two was still a pretty good movie that ends the story on cinematic and satisfying note. Would I make changes in the film? Of course, I would, but I’m happy with end result of the feature. Thus, my recommendation for this movie is a solid “recommended” one as I’m sure fans of King’s novel and / or fans of the first movie will delight in this sequel of Muschietti’s IT duology installment. Whether or not these two movies will go down as the best adaptations of Stephen King’s tales is still up in there, IT: Chapter Two symbolizes an adaptation (for better or worse) on a better path; offering up a more pronounced and steadfast cinematic conclusion than some of its predecessors. Just remember….” Losers stick together!”.
4.0 Out of 5 (Recommended)
Released On: September 6th, 2019
Reviewed On: October 23rd, 2019
IT: Chapter Two is 169 minutes long and is rated R for disturbing violent content and bloody images throughout, pervasive language, and some crude sexual material