Another 3 hour, long-anticipated, September release to discuss; this time it’s the 2nd and final chapter of the modern IT adaptation. When the first one released, it surprised fans with how creepy, faithful, and compelling the end result was, but can the 2nd chapter live up to its predecessor (spoiler alert: It can and it does).
Set 27 years after the first chapter, IT: Chapter Two finds the Losers Club all grown-up and at different paths in life, having to return to Derry to once again face the evil that is Pennywise the clown. The movie got two huge wins even before the filming began, by having most of the talent behind the camera return, and by making incredibly strong casting decisions for the talent in front of the camera; besides all of the actors looking like their younger counterparts, the cast of James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Isaih Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, and Andy Bean as the Losers Club is an ensemble of amazing actors who all do a great job, but the real stand-outs are Bill Skarsgard (again) and Bill Hader who had a lot asked of him in terms of bringing levity as well as delivering a dramatic performance, who not only delivered, but surpassed my expectations. The movie in general was a lot better than what I expected going in; there were some incredibly creepy and disturbing imagery, a lot of good scares, very strong direction, and surprisingly good writing when it came to characterization. My only real issue with the movie was some scenes and some inclusions from the book that did not fit the overall style of the movie, and made some nervy moments look unintentionally hilarious because of how goofy they looked compared to the imaginative moments of horror and foreboding sense that followed.
However, after I had seen the movie and formed my opinion, I stumbled on some other opinions regarding the movie and saw an overwhelming majority disagreeing with my perspective and, surprisingly, referencing specific features as negatives that I didn’t mind/ thought to be the real strong points of the movie. So, I decided to mention those criticisms and give my own perspective on them – hopefully providing a comparison and some useful information about the movie and whether you would like it. First up, the almost 3 hour duration of the movie; I didn’t really feel it, although I have to admit as someone who re-watched the first movie days before watching the second, the first 45 minutes were a bit repetitive and slow (especially compared to the rest of the movie). Secondly, the change of perspective from young teens to middle-aged adults makes the scares, the events, and the atmosphere less thrilling/scary; this one is actually the most surprising criticism for me, because the main reason I was invested in the movie and enjoyed it as much as I did was this change and how the creative team handled it. It is one of those rare occasions where the characters feel like actual individuals that went through 27 years’ worth of growth and change; the movie makes a painstaking effort to present the characters as the same kids from the first movie, but are now shaped and formed into adults with adult problems and more mature issues to deal with. That makes these characters more relatable and easier to care for; you see how they ended up in their lives, what they are regretful about, what struggles they keep fighting, which makes their horror and drama more ‘real’ and personal. In turn, that makes their realization of the thing they feared when they were kids is actually true, scary, and lethal, more terrifying. It allows the movie to explore themes from the first movie, but now from the perspective of the same characters as adults, dealing with the same or similar troubles but from the perspective of someone who was burdened for 27+ years from those issues.
Lastly, I’ve heard from a lot of people that the more surreal elements of the movie made the experience more ludicrous and funny rather than scary, and in all honesty there are elements that have had that effect on me; in particular the last confrontation between the loser’s club and Pennywise felt more like it belonged in a last boss battle of a video game or an action blockbuster, but the general vibe of that scene (a desperate final attempt) still allowed it to work for me. However, there’s one element that absolutely fell flat for me and made me laugh, but in the grand scale is a small and inconsequential misstep (Spoilers: I’m talking about how Henry Bowers gets around in the movie).
All in all, the elements that I liked from the first movie are still here; there’s still a sense of dread and terror lurking in every corner, there’s still imagination in every scare and Pennywise is still executed to perfection by Skarsgaard and the VFX team, there’s still that feeling that something’s off in this town like the adults are just brainwashed to not care or are just evil, there’s still excellent writing and world-building. But with Chapter Two the creative team struck another cord; they’ve made something more intimate. When I watched this movie, I felt like I was watching something reflecting the regret I feel whenever I thing back on past mistakes or missed opportunities, the dread with which I reflect on my inner demons and fears; sure, this is a long movie with a slow pace, and the adult characters do subtract from the horror tone that the original nailed. There’s no nostalgia element and the outlandish horror can break immersion when the characters are now adults and should be more critical of what they see, but it’s these elements that made it speak to me so favorably and what kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the entirety.