Let’s talk about It Chapter Two.
The first It movie is one of the most pleasant surprises there has been in recent history. With the original mini-series being so beloved, even if it did inspire that weird scary clown on the prowl thing in the UK a few years ago, no one really wanted a remake and we all collectively dreaded it. But it ended up being very good, charming kids on an adventure with horror twist tale that followed in the trend of Stranger Things. Yes I know this was most popular in the 1980s but this has been part of the comeback in that genre, a comeback I very much welcome. But now the pressure is on and there are expectations and hype going into this, so can It Chapter Two be a satisfying conclusion?
27 years on, The Loser’s Gang have grown up and apart from Mike, have all left Derry. Those who have left have forgotten about Pennywise and their pledge to return, but still, get drawn back by Mike when the clown re-emerges to start killing people.
The first thing about this movie is that it is very long. 169 minutes long in fact. That’s only ten minutes away from the run time of Avengers: Endgame which I think we all decided only got away with that because of the incredible build-up. And I personally don’t think this movie can justify that length at all. I’m not one of those who thinks if a movie goes over two hours it should go in the bin, if you are on that train of thought you have to start dismissing classics such as Lawrence of Arabia and Ben-Hur, but I do think that when you get to this length you have to start justifying every minute. This doesn’t. While the movie isn’t slow-paced, it does go about things in a roundabout way and you do get the urge to shout at them to get on with the plot, especially when they spend about twenty minutes doing the slowest runaway from Derry ever.
When it comes to a long runtime like this, you start looking for the things that could have been cut. And it is definitely those flashback scenes. The movie has a lot of flashbacks to the original casts with mostly new scenes, and I do have a lot of issues. One, it interrupts the flow of the main narrative and very rarely adds anything useful to that plot, so any momentum the film picks up is gone as we stop everything for this flashback. Two, they don’t actually fit into the timeline of the original. The first movie is very clear that Ben and Beverly only start their friendship at the end of the last day of school and that the entire plot takes place in the summer holidays. That’s when they start to know each other and when Ben starts to fancy her. Yet one of the flashbacks has them chatting while in school with Ben fancying her being the crux of it. There’s a few other scenes where you wonder when this actually happened because the first movie was pretty tight in its timeline and when things actually happened. It seems like a picky problem I know but it does distract from the main plot.
My main problem though is with Pennywise. Not the performance or the design, Bill Skarsgard is still fantastic in the role. He makes it his own so you forgot about the iconic Tim Curry depiction and take this one its own merits and the design is still incredibly creepy. That forehead is just inhuman. But the fact he barely shows up. In the first It, the danger of Pennywise was very immediate. It always felt like he could show up at any moment to wreck their day. It doesn’t feel the case here and it’s the biggest problem. Pennywise does show up, but for the most part it is in those aforementioned flashbacks which detract from the main plot. When the adults are attacked, it always seems to be something else like weird malformed insects or a grandma monster. Pennywise is pushed to the side and the horror scenes are just not as fun without him and it also means other scenes lack that tension the original did because it doesn’t feel like he’s around the corner about to attack.
Before I get onto the things I did like, I will address some of the controversies. The opening scene has caught a lot of heat from many groups accusing it of being exploitative. It features a vicious homophobic attack on a gay couple and it is very uncomfortable to watch, though that is the point. But many have said that it is just exploiting homophobia to get a cheap reaction from the audience without justifying it. I can see where the outrage comes from as the movie doesn’t really follow this up. The problem here is that the movie fails to follow up on an idea the book and the first film had. Pennywise killing and abducting kids isn’t the only horror he is doing, the first film suggested that he had a weird projection of evil that made a lot of the town become nasty bastards. The sequel though doesn’t really follow up on this so this scene does stick out as a real piece of nastiness without much justification for it. Also I get the feeling that the ending letter could be seen as very dangerous by certain groups but won’t go into it too much here.
There is still something to like in this movie though. While it doesn’t add up to a cohesive all, the horror set-pieces do work and will get some good scares in. They are built well, have good pay-offs and there isn’t an over-reliance on jump scares though they do like to tease it from time to time. It’s definitely a bigger movie than the first one and you can see the studio has much more faith in this movie this time, and I can see some people enjoying the big nature. There was a bit too much CGI for my liking but they were still enjoyable scenes that worked. I think the adult cast are great too, with them all doing very well to seem like the same characters but grown that we all fell in love with from the original. Bill Hader, in particular, is fantastic and if he can continue to pull off performances like this I can’t wait to see him in more dramatic roles. If one thing comes out of this movie, I hope it’s a boom in the stock of Hader.
It Chapter Two is just very disappointing. It is way too long for a horror movie and there is so much that could have been left on the cutting room floor which would have made it a better experience. The flashbacks slow the movie down way too much and add very little other than some nicely done but ultimately rather pointless horror moments. Yes there are some good performances and the big scale horror set pieces are fun to watch but the plot just doesn’t come together enough to make this anywhere near as good as the first one.