“It” (2017), directed by Andy Muschietti, took theaters by storm upon its initial release. “It” managed to break into mainstream media and became a cultural phenomenon. Now, after two long years, “It Chapter Two” has arrived.
While the horror genre is infamous for pumping out tasteless and repetitive sequels, this film breaks the mold. The original novel by Stephen King is over 1000 pages long and switches between two time periods. The first is set during the childhood of Chapter Two’s main characters, in which the group of young adolescents confront an evil in their hometown. This plot was given a full treatment in the first film. “It Chapter Two” tackles more thoroughly the second plot, when the same group returns home 27 years later to end the threat once and for all as adults. This makes the movie unique, since it wasn’t created simply to bank on a profitable idea, but instead it was crafted hand-in-hand with the original to be part of a fully realized saga. Now that the duology has been completed, many are asking: does “It Chapter 2” sink or float?
First and foremost, the production team behind the movie demonstrated once again that they know the most important aspect of a compelling piece: the characters. It’s a common trap in the horror genre for filmmakers to construct a demonic entity to be the centerpiece, and to create for the protagonists human archetypes with paper-thin personalities who are only there to react. The result is a lack of a meaningful focal point for the audience.
“It Chapter Two” and its predecessor know how to avoid this: by making the humans the centerpiece. The main cast of characters, dubbed the “Losers Club,” all have strong, likable and distinct identities that were established in the first film.
When Chapter Two picks up, we meet the members of the Losers Club 27 years later. We see how these characters have grown and how their childhoods shaped their adult lives and fears.
Despite being a completely new cast composed of grown-ups, the film does a superb job of aging the characters in both appearance and personality. Audiences have known the faces and characteristics of the children playing the Losers Club for the past two years and finding actors to fill those shoes was a huge undertaking.
They did a great job overall, with Bill Hader as Richie Tozer and James Ransone as Eddie Kaspbrak being the clear standouts. Even Jay Ryan as Ben Hanscom, who is intentionally a very physically different actor than his younger counterpart, composes himself in a manner that exemplifies the lovable and shy Ben from the first movie.
The cast embodies the spirit of the original kids that audiences fell in love with in 2017, allowing for this film to pay off scares, jokes and story arcs established in the first.
However, this does present an issue with the story. While “It” (2017) was a self-contained flick, Chapter Two is heavily reliant on the first. For a movie nearly 3 hours in length to not be able to stand on its own is problematic.
What is most frustrating about the runtime is not the fact that it’s lengthy, but that it doesn’t have to be. While there was no point in the film where I was bored, there are entire sequences in the second act that could be completely removed without sacrifice to the plot. The pacing would have greatly benefited and the product as a whole would’ve been a tighter package if these scenes were left on the cutting room floor.
On the other hand, while the film suffers in terms of pacing, it’s filled with great comedic timing, often in horrifying moments where you don’t expect it. This only adds to the experience as many characters react in real and human ways to the atrocities happening around them. These responses create much more investment from the audience than if the characters simply shrieked and ran away every time.
It’s this creative direction and the performance that saves the movie from falling flat with its runtime that’s about a half hour too long, and some story beats that rely too heavily on its predecessor.
Overall, “It Chapter Two” is thoroughly entertaining. It’s not as neat and concise of a package as the first, and I don’t see myself choosing to watch Chapter Two over “It” (2017). Everything great about the first is also great in the sequel, but everything bad is unfortunately magnified due to its length. That being said, the longer format allows nearly every member of the Loser’s Club to have an arc in the story, unlike the first where it was obvious some characters were there only to fill out the ensemble. While some of the arcs are more compelling than others, each one gives tension, laughs and heart all at the right times. This makes “It Chapter Two” a good companion piece to the first, thus creating a solid 5-hour horror epic that can be enjoyed without any fears.
Photo by Glyn Lowe | PhotoWorks