Stephen King’s masterful horror epic “IT” captured both the trauma and beauty of childhood in such a captivating fashion in 2017. The adaptation not only became the highest-grossing horror film of all time but was a mesmerizing and unforgettable game changer.
Twenty-seven years after we last saw the Losers’ Club seemingly defeat Pennywise, the demonic dancing clown entity, the now-adult gang of misfits is forced to return to Derry, Maine, to fight It once and for all.
This was one of my most anticipated films of the year due to my adoration for the first film and King’s original novel. “IT: Chapter Two” is successful in concluding the story it started two years ago, containing yet another blend of action, scares and heart that pays great tribute to its source material. However, it doesn’t live up to the expectations set upon it due to a less focused plot and struggling to find a proper pace.
Yet again, returning director Andy Muschietti had a vision that brings this story to film beautifully. That said, the director struggles this time on how to initiate his vision in addition to making the film a little too long at 169 minutes.
The big step of casting the Losers’ Club as adults couldn’t have been handled better. James McAvoy is terrific as Bill Denbrough, who while still guilt-ridden over the death of his younger brother, Georgie, has become a famous writer. Jessica Chastain portrays Beverly Marsh, who brings both fierceness and sweetness that makes us admire her as a character.
My biggest issue in the depiction of these two adult characters is how little time they spend together despite their past chemistry. Bill and Beverly had a sweet romance in the novel that was a treasure to read. But, in the film, the two barely talk to each other and act as if they never loved each other as kids.
Ben Hanscomb (Jay Ryan), now thin and fit, has fulfilled his dream in becoming an architect and is still in love with Beverly, creating a slight love triangle before Bill and Beverly’s connection simply fizzles.
Bill Hader is spot on as Richie “Trashmouth” Tozier and fulfills the role as the funny guy after becoming a successful stand-up comic. Hader offers great comic relief and is also able to show his dramatic talents consistently. The character of Richie is taken into a slightly changed direction, which isn’t explored enough to become compelling.
Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransome) has become a successful businessman, yet remains a paranoid hypochondriac. Stanley Uris (Andy Bean) is the most reluctant to return to Derry to defeat Pennywise out of fear and finds his loyalties to his friends tested. Meanwhile, Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) is the sole member of the gang to remain in Derry, who spent the last 27 years as a librarian, researching how to kill It.
“Chapter Two” struggles to make the adult characters as compelling and emotionally investing as the children. The kids from “IT” were charismatic and relatable, who accurately captured the struggles of growing up, whereas the adults aren’t able to emulate that same spirit of the kids’ performance.
To instill an emotional core to a higher level, the film brings back a seemingly endless amount of flashbacks to when the Losers were kids, which varies between heartfelt and unnecessary. At times it feels like Muschietti doesn’t trust his audience enough to remember the characters when they were kids and forces us to spend a tremendous amount of time with the kids once again.
While flashbacks are necessary for this film, the staggering amount of screen time the kids get distracts us from the focus of “Chapter Two” and makes the adults feel like extended versions of the kids and not changed characters who have developed over the last 27 years.
“Chapter Two” strangely mixes up its momentum by rushing through the reintroductions of each character to take them all back to Derry. It would have been much better to spend more time with each of the Losers in their new lives after such a long-time period instead of each getting one scene with just a brief glimpse of their lives.
In Derry, the storyline becomes a tad misguided when each individual is forced on solo missions that take each into flashback sequences of their own, detracting from the current conflict. It’s as if Muschietti forgot he already had each kid face their fears in the first film, and for some reason, decides to show us what they’re afraid of yet again with scenes similar to what we’ve already seen.
Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise is just as creepy and extroverted as before. While we get to see a larger variety of forms that It takes as an entity, the form of Pennywise is by far the best. Most of the monsters we see are very creepy and well designed digitally, yet it's Pennywise that we all want to see. At times the monsters depicted on-screen feel rather goofy and weird as opposed to frightening, making it hard to be scared and take the film seriously.
That said, “IT: Chapter Two” gives us an epic climax that is impossible to turn away from. The Losers get the ultimate showdown with Pennywise in one of the most memorable action sequences filled with character-driven emotion and arresting CGI.
While slightly disappointing, the second half of “IT” is an exciting and heartfelt ending full of heart that is centered around a group of characters impossible not to care for and concludes Stephen King’s masterpiece epically, giving fans of the nearly 1,200-page novel what they need to be more than satisfied.
Final Grade: A-
Dominic LeRose is a staff writer for the Daily Cardinal. To read more of his work, click here.