Director Andy Muschietti Returns To The Town Of Derry To Continue The Story Of The Losers Club As They Vow To Defeat Pennywise For Good. With A Triumphant Leading Cast & An Excellent Show Stopping Performance From Bill Hader. At Nearly Three Hours Long “It Chapter 2” Is Still A Solid, Well Crafted & Great Looking Follow-Up. Although It Would Work Best & Be More Effective If It Were Viewed With Chapter 1, As The Whole Five & A Half Hour Film Experience. Where Viewed As Separate Chapters It Feels More Of The Same Just With Taller Actors.
The awaited follow-up to horror filmmaker Andy Muschietti’s 2017’s monster hit “IT: Chapter One”, aptly titled “IT: Chapter Two” is finally here. Chapter One garnered a $700 million payday at the box office, making it the highest-grossing horror film of all time. As we all know both films is based on Stephen King’s massive 1,138 page novel, published in 1986.
Chapter One easily earns my captain five star rating approval and because it had put on such a great show, the pressure of a second chapter was on to deliver a fitting adaptation of the second half of King’s story. Chapter two would introduce the grown-up versions of the “losers club”, while attempting to appease fans of the film and book, delivering a satisfying conclusion to such a great film.
So of course the big question here is if “IT: Chapter Two” is as great, better or worse than Chapter One? Honestly that’s a difficult question to answer, but a question that can easily be pondered for hours.
I’m sure a-lot of movie goers will toil over which film is better between Chapter One and Chapter Two, but also whether they even should really exist separately. In discussing this after the film was over with my fellow Hawai’i Film Critics Society movie critic G-Money, we concur that it’s meant to be viewed as one whole movie going experience. In fact director Andy Muschietti is working on making an “IT: Complete Cut”, consisting of chapter one and two in a complete five an half hour running time. While it feels like one complete film when comparing the two films, I’m sure this debate will go on for years to come.
The fact remains that there’s a variety of fans to try and please here, whether it be casual moviegoers, hardcore Stephen King fans or just genre fans. There’s still a lot of check marks to check off in making sure the second chapter lives up to the expectations.
Introduced as children in chapter one, they’re back 27 years later in chapter two all grown up and portrayed by Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan (looking like a younger Josh Brolin), James Ransone and Andy Bean. Traumatized by the events in the first picture, by the manifestations of the drooling, shape-shifting, child-murdering clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård). The group of friends joined forces to temporarily best the demon, now they’re summoned back to the scene of the long-ago crimes by loser member Mike (Mustafa), the only one of the seven to remain in the town of Derry. While everyone else no longer lives in Derry, their memories of the events of the past have mysteriously faded, and they’re understandably not too eager to return and revive the memories. However they all made a blood pact as kids to go back if Pennywise ever reappeared to finally finish him off. So a pact is a pact and when Mike summons them, they’ve got to go.
Gary Dauberman who co-wrote the script for chapter one returns, while Cary Fukunaga chose to not return. I’ve never read King’s book, but from what I hear from people who have read it says that Dauberman mostly stays true to King’s book, but some (as I was) will be disappointed by a lack of detail in the group’s adult lives. The adults of the losers club only have a quick introductory scene apiece to demonstrate who they’ve become. It plays less like adults confronting their childhood trauma and more like adults taking a sightseeing tour of their childhood town, remembering a few bad memories and coming together trying to beat up Pennywise again.
Rather than using the extended three hour running time to dig deep into these characters, director Andy Muschietti piles on the frights and jump scares. Along the way, because it’s a Stephen King adaptation he tosses in a “Here’s Johnny!” callback to “The Shining” and soaks Jessica Chastain’s character Beverly in blood a la “Carrie”. She certainly has bad luck being bathed in blood as it also happened to her in the first film.
However that’s where the majority of chapter two’s running time unravels, as it follows their individual experiences. They visit old haunts in Derry to collect offerings for the magic spell, they need to take part in a strange ritual that is treated as if it were a “Scooby-Doo” episode. Having the group go out and find their artifacts, forces the gang to split up and experience episodic flashbacks to their youths that reunites them with past anguish.
The flashbacks reveal almost nothing new about most of the characters so many of the scenes involve repeated explanations of the plot or remembering extended sequences starring the younger actors. Certainly the biggest thing chapter two gets right is the adult cast who kills it. James McAvoy and James Ransone are the best of the bunch. While two time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain gives a passable performance, not a career defining one as she does in most of her past films.
It’s Bill Hader who steals the show. If you’ve seen his leading role in “Barry,” his HBO series or his pitch perfect performance in “The Skeleton Twins”, you know he has no problem blending comedy and drama. Hader takes it even further by adding not just comedy and drama, but also horror and proves he can tackle any genre. It’s the most satisfying role in the entire movie as he delivers a performance that’s as hilarious as it is emotional. This is no doubt, one of the most impressive horror ensembles you’re ever likely to find.
Dauberman and Muschietti knows that the heart of what makes both films special is the friendship. He establishes that well in the films best scene, as a reunion at a Chinese eatery brings back the plucky energy of the first movie. The production design is rich with detail and wonderfully designed. The cinematography conveys a deep and dark sense of doom.
Most of the humor in chapter one sprang from the characters interacting with one another. While chapter two has more of a Sam Raimi horror-comedy vibe, especially the scene that goes full Raimi that comes complete with a puking demon. The manifestations Pennywise morphs into are spectacular visually and are frightening. As in the scene of Beverly’s encounter with an old woman at her former home, a scene that was sadly spoiled in trailers, retains a certain creep factor as her ghastly true identity is revealed.
Pennywise devours a few underage victims and defiles the remains of past ones, which help chapter two make good on the “R” rating. While some of the scares are of the “jump” variety, and follow familiar beats from the prior movie, they lose some impact. The longer runtime makes it feel like we get less of Pennywise, even if that’s not the case, and while he most definitely delivers some creatively freaky scenarios. When he isn’t a manifestation and appears as just Pennywise, this time he feels just slightly less vicious. Maybe it’s because when Pennywise bares his teeth and zeroes in on a victim, it’s easier to feel empathy when the victim is a kid. It would have been satisfying to see the mystery unravel of who or what Pennywise “really” is, instead we are still left with plenty of questions left by the end of the tale.
Chapter two could have easily shaved 20 minutes off its running time, especially the films unnecessary opening and the chopped down runtime would never be felt. The longer runtime almost guarantees that you don’t have to worry so much about not getting a satisfying conclusion as there’s plenty of time to get there. Which is why it does take a while to get to the actual “mission” of the story of defeating Pennywise.
While it isn’t five star material as chapter one, doesn’t mean it’s not a good film. You won’t be bored through it’s three hour length as it’s a solid, extremely well-crafted, great-looking and occasionally chilling film. Headed by a gifted sharp cast who match their youthful counterparts with accuracy. Muschietti’s film is brimming with ambition and still nails a lot of the elements that makes Stephen King’s work memorable.
Chapter two furthers the two part film as an achievement in delivering on the horror, spectacle and nuance of King’s work in a big-budget fashion. It’s something that’s so rarely been done in the decades of adapting his work to the big screen. I can’t wait until Muschietti releases his complete cut of chapter one and two together as one whole film, as that will surely be a five star cinematic experience.
GRADE: ★★★1/2☆☆ (3 & 1/2 out of 5)