IT Chapter Two opens the door for Stephen King's literary shared universe to be adapted to film in some capacity with a reference to the 1980 film The Shining. The sequel to the 2017 horror movie mega-smash IT Chapter One, the two films see a group of childhood friends known as "The Losers Club" battling a demonic entity that takes the form of a clown named Pennywise to prey on unsuspecting children in the town of Derry, Maine. After believing they've defeated the killer clown as children, IT Chapter Two sees The Loser's Club reunite as adults when Pennywise returns to Derry 27 years later.
Based on Stephen King's 1986 novel, the two films are the second adaptation of the book following the 1990 television miniseries. The hype surrounding both films has been far beyond what most horror movies enjoy, with each seeing opening weekends more akin to the summer movie season than the month of September. Additionally, Bill Skarsgard has seen widespread acclaim for his utterly vicious performance as the monstrous Pennywise, while Andy Muschietti has offered hints that there could be more Pennywise movies in the future.
While fans of Stephen King are sure to relish the thought of the origins of Pennywise being explored, the interconnected continuity of King's body of work also opens the door for the vast well of the author's shared universe to be delved into even further. While Warner Bros. itself has given no indication of interweaving Stephen King's stories into a shared continuity, one particular reference to the The Shining found in IT Chapter Two offers at least a tiny hint of the IT films as a theoretical beginning for a "Stephen King Cinematic Universe".
IT Chapter Two's Shining Reference Explained
IT Chapter Two drops its reference to The Shining during The Loser's Club's final battle with Pennywise under the sewers of Derry. Specifically, when Pennywise uses his supernatural powers to trap Beverly Marsh in a bathroom stall. As the stall begins rapidly filling with blood, Pennywise repeatedly opens the door to terrorize Beverly in the form of several villainous characters from her life, including the sociopathic bully of The Loser's Club, Henry Bowers, who proclaims "Heeeeere's Johnny!" to a terrified Beverly. Fans of The Shining will instantly recognize this as a direct quotation from the climax of Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of King's novel, in which Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson, chops through a bathroom door with an axe and speaks these very words to his horrified wife Wendy, played by Shelly Duvall.
It's also worth noting that this scene isn't the only Easter egg to other Stephen King stories in IT Chapter Two either. A paperweight of a turtle seen when Ben Hanscom revisits the Derry school is an obvious nod to the eons old turtle Maturin, a staple character of King's shared universe known for its appearances in both IT and the Dark Tower series. Furthermore, a scene in which Eddie confronts Pennywise in the form of a leper that terrorized him as a child briefly includes the song "Angel of the Morning". While 2016's Deadpool is likely the first thing most audience members will flashback to, this is also a nod to King's 1990 novella The Langoliers, where it is a favorite song of the alcoholic mother of Craig Toomey.
Stephen King's Shared Universe Explained
The aforementioned hint to Maturin the Turtle points to the very foundation on which Stephen King's shared universe is based. Maturin exists in a void known as the "Macroverse", and effectively kicks off Stephen King's continuity by literally vomiting the known universe into existence after experiencing a stomachache. Prior to taking the former of Pennywise, IT also existed in the Macroverse as the adversary of Maturin. Both IT and Maturin are billions of years old, and while the turtle regards IT as his "brother", Maturin is looked upon with contempt by IT, who views itself as a superior being to all other life. While IT Chapter Two ending charts its own path, Maturin also proves to be a great ally of The Loser's Club in King's novel, aiding the group in their first encounter with Pennywise as children in one of his rare direct interactions with humans.
Maturin is also a pillar, both figuratively and literally, in King's Dark Tower series. Specifically, Maturin functions as one of the Twelve Guardians of the Beam, which supports the series' titular Dark Tower. With his presence in both IT and The Dark Tower, Maturin effectively functions as the fulcrum on which King's shared universe swings. While neither the IT film nor 2017's The Dark Tower makes any explicit reference to Maturin, the turtle paperweight in IT Chapter Two is a clear nod to the character. Along with the film's additional references to King's bibliography, and specifically with its unmistakable Easter egg for The Shining, the movie has, at a minimum, provided the building blocks for Stephen King's shared universe to be extensively explored in a cinematic context.
Could WB Build A Stephen King Shared Universe?
It should be emphasized that Warner Bros. has not announced any concrete plans for a shared continuity based upon Stephen King's interlocking novels, and any immediate hype for such plans would be decidedly jumping the gun. As the recent split between Sony and Marvel over Spider-Man has shown, intellectual property rights being tied up among different studios is easily the biggest obstacle to creating a shared big-screen continuity among disparate but interlocking properties. The Dark Tower itself is the property of Sony, while Warner Bros. holds the rights to IT, so any effort to tie the two together would require the two studios brokering a deal like the one that brought Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the first place.
That's not to say that Warner Bros. still couldn't build a shared universe of Stephen King properties, given that the studio owns the rights to not only IT, but also The Shining. Indeed, the reference made in IT Chapter Two to Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of King's novel comes when the studio is just two months away from releasing the next big screen Stephen King adaptation, Doctor Sleep. The 2013 sequel to The Shining, the novel sees Danny Torrance return to the Overlook Hotel as an adult, with Ewan McGregor assuming the role in the film adaptation.
Of course, Doctor Sleep has its work cut out for it in serving as a sequel to both King's novel and Kubrick's film, which King was famously dissatisfied with. While Warner Bros. could theoretically tie Doctor Sleep in with the IT films, it's perhaps more likely that the latter's nod to The Shining is simply Warner Bros. using the film to subtly prime the audience for the release of Doctor Sleep in November. In any case, whatever seeds may have been planted by the Easter egg to The Shining for a shared continuity of Warner Bros-produced Stephen King films is purely hypothetical at the moment and any anticipation for it right now would be premature.
IT Proves Audiences Will Buy A Stephen King Universe
Whatever obstacles there may be to Warner Bros. creating a shared universe of Stephen King movies, the success of the two IT films is definitive proof that audiences are prepared to turn out in droves for adaptations of King's work. Both films have seen the kind of financial success one would more readily expect from a family-friendly animated movie or superhero adventure rather than a horror movie that earns its R-rating several times over. With Pennywise's relationship to Maturin, along with the film delving into the Ritual of Chud as a major plot device, IT Chapter Two has already opened the door for the nuts and bolts of Stephen King's shared universe to be explored in much greater detail.
Additionally, the upcoming release of Doctor Sleep is carrying considerable hype itself, and even given King's popularity as an author, it is a true rarity to see two big screen adaptations of one novelist's work being released within two months of each other. While the blatant reference that IT Chapter Two makes to The Shining could just as easily, and probably more reasonably, be read as Warner Bros. offering audiences a reminder of just what Doctor Sleep is a sequel to ahead of its release, it also offers a glimpse, however brief, into just what a shared universe of Stephen King movies could look like.
While there's nothing to indicate that Warner Bros. has any plans for a Stephen King shared universe (and the rights to King's novels being spread out over multiple studios would necessitate quite a bit of selectively on the studio's part anyway), it is nevertheless a hypothetical scenario that King's many fans would doubtlessly get behind if Warner Bros. were to give it the greenlight. Given the success of the IT films, and IT Chapter Two specifically hinting at or explicitly incorporating elements of King's wider literary continuity, the possibility for such a shared universe is clearly there. With Stephen King even making a decidedly Stan Lee-esque cameo in IT Chapter Two, Warner Bros. already has plenty of material to work with if they truly fancy the idea of a "Stephen King Cinematic Universe".