IT Chapter Two is a compelling and satisfying ending to Stephen King's story, even if it's not quite as charming or scary and feels a bit overlong.
When IT released in 2017, Warner Bros' film was an all-around success, earning rave reviews and going on to become one of the highest grossing movies of the year - even though it only adapted half of the book on which it's based. Now, Warner Bros. brings fans the conclusion of the story with IT Chapter Two. Director Andy Muschietti returns for the sequel, as does one of the first film's screenwriters, Gary Dauberman (IT was written by Dauberman, Cary Fukunaga and Chase Palmer). The IT sequel follows the adult versions of the Losers Club as they return to Derry 27 years after the events of the first movie to take on It once again. IT Chapter Two is a compelling and satisfying ending to Stephen King's story, even if it's not quite as charming or scary and feels a bit overlong.
IT Chapter Two picks up 27 years after the Losers Club initially defeated Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), with the kids now grown up and most living elsewhere. However, when Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) - the only one to remain in Derry - recognizes the signs of It's return, he calls the others and asks them to come back and make good on the oath they swore in 1989. Though they've all largely forgotten Derry and It, the majority of the Losers return, including Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy), Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain), Ben Hanscom (Jay Ryan), Richie Tozier (Bill Hader) and Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransome). As the Losers Club members' memories start coming back, they must wrangle with the trauma they endured as kids and try to defeat It once and for all.
Whereas IT was a coming of age parable featuring a group of kids on the cusp of growing up, IT Chapter Two somewhat clumsily shifts the focus to their adult counterparts and the difficulty of dealing with past trauma. Whether due to a lack of finesse in Dauberman's script or the shift in focus proving to be too much of a challenge, IT Chapter Two's handling of its story and themes isn't as sophisticated as IT. Rather, IT Chapter Two relies too heavily on expositional dialogue and telling the viewer, rather than showing them (or, in some cases, telling and showing them). Thankfully, IT Chapter Two has a stellar cast to fall back on, with McAvoy and Chastain doing much of the emotional heavy lifting - though even they struggle at times to rein the movie in from going full melodrama. Hader, too, turns in a compelling performance, stealing much of the show from his fellow castmates.
Still, IT Chapter Two flounders a bit with its horror, undercutting many of the film's creepy visuals with jokes. These jokes, delivered skillfully by Hader and Ransome particularly, bring levity to what would otherwise be uninterrupted terror, but they detract from the scariness of the movie. There's also a disconnect between the very human violence of the movie - which includes a homophobic attack and a scene in which Bev is abused by her husband, both very early on in the film - and the fantastic elements of It trying to scare the Losers. Certainly, there are moments that are undeniably scary when It manifests disturbing creatures or sticks the adults in situations that bring their greatest fears to life. But, often it feels as though IT Chapter Two must choose to go either for the low-hanging fruit of jump scares or more thematically relevant creepy situations, at times failing to provide horror that is both scary and furthers the themes and character development of the movie.
That's not to say IT Chapter Two will disappoint fans of King's book and of Muschietti's 2017 film. Altogether, the film delivers a satisfying second and concluding chapter to the story of the Losers Club - though it takes nearly three hours to do so. With sequences that lag even as they offer important character development, it's clear Muschietti needed all 169 minutes, but could have used them a little more efficiently. Further, the levity brought to IT Chapter Two with its jokes might make the movie that much more appealing to general viewers, balancing horror with humor so as not to be too scary (though that might just as easily anger or alienate more hardcore horror fans). Still, even as Chapter Two works well enough on its own, it doesn't quite stack up to its predecessor, losing some of the charm and nostalgia that IT embodies.
Ultimately, IT Chapter Two isn't quite as good as IT was, and may have trouble living up to the expectations that have been building over the past two years. It's not as skillfully written nor is the story as thematically strong, though the visuals are striking and it does pack in a fair amount of scares. While IT Chapter Two has its flaws, it still comes from (almost) the same creative team, meaning that while the story necessitates certain departures from what worked in IT, Muschietti and Dauberman manage to bring throughlines that evolve the characters and franchise in a way that's both gratifying and fascinating. As such, IT Chapter Two is a must-watch for fans of IT and King, and is an altogether entertaining viewing experience even for those that may not be fans of the horror genre.
IT Chapter Two is now playing in U.S. theaters. It is 169 minutes long and rated R for disturbing violent content and bloody images throughout, pervasive language, and some crude sexual material.
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- IT Chapter Two (2019) release date: Sep 06, 2019