I wanted to love this movie, but unfortunately it is just another hash mark on the ever-growing “meh list” for 2019. Top-notch casting, some great laughs in the midst of the darkness, stellar cinematography, and chilling music and sound design could not make up for an overstuffed screenplay.
Telling simultaneous stories between the teenage years of our characters and their current fight against Pennywise appeared to be an effective direction initially. There were some very clever editing transitions that used the past to commentate on the present, providing a very unique perspective on the character progressions of our protagonists. However, this gimmick grew stale and stagnant. There was no need for the 170 minute runtime. I understand that the source material is quite extensive, but the adaptation process could have been much smoother. The runtime leading up to the extremely bloated climax is inconsistently paced and detrimentally repetitive. The final 30 minutes or so venture into the unfortunate territory of poorly executed, gratuitous cacophony. It felt as if there was an incessant desire to showcase more advanced practical effects and CGI, but even this arrow missed its target. Certain images and sequences will certainly stick with you, but others are overly cartoonish, and, I hate to say, almost amateurish. The same scares are recycled over and over again, quickly losing the sting of their initial fear factor. Additionally, the management of the character of Pennywise was underwhelming. “It: Chapter One” did an outstanding job keeping the character shrouded in terrifying mystery and eerie ambiguity. The origins of this nefarious being were hardly hinted at in the first film, developing an even more horrific aura around him. However, when the essence of a fear is understood, the impact is greatly lessened. Trying to explain why something is scary is not nearly as terrifying as wondering what makes it so. “It: Chapter Two” attempts to sloppily fold Pennywise’s backstory into the already convoluted narrative, with little success. While this does draw direct inspiration from the source material, it feels out of place in this film adaptation. Even Bill Skarsgård’s fully pledged performance is not quite enough to push Pennywise into the petrifying territory of “It: Chapter One.”
Yet, it would be wholly unfair of me to not examine the aforementioned effective elements. The “Losers Club” is perfectly cast compared to their 27 years younger counterparts. James McAvoy (Bill Denbrough), Jessica Chastain (Beverly Marsh), Bill Hader (Richie Tozier), Jay Ryan (Ben Hanscom), Andy Bean (Stanley Uris), James Ransone (Eddie Kaspbrak), and Isaiah Mustafa (Mike Hanlon) are all remarkably believable older versions of the younger actors. Indeed, this is where another constructive aspect of the flashback sequences shines. The audience is provided with a direct comparison from scene to scene of all the characteristics, nuances, strengths, weaknesses, and fears of each character from childhood to adulthood. Witnessing the nearly flawless translation between the original cast of Jaeden Martell (Denbrough), Sophia Lillis (Marsh), Finn Wolfhard (Tozier), Jeremy Ray Taylor (Hanscom), Wyatt Oleff (Uris), Jack Dylan Grazer (Kaspbrak), and Chosen Jacobs (Hanlon), to the updated cast is a site to behold.
The themes explored through this unique storytelling mechanism are also compelling and thought-provoking. The constant struggle to let go of your personal fears and regrets is something that every human being experiences to one extent or another. How one responds to the demons of their past is what truly defines the core of who they are as an individual. Do they face their insecurities, scars, and mistakes, or do they ignore them and continue to be eaten alive from the inside? The eternal evil of Pennywise, who is the embodiment of fear, anxiety, and dread does just that with his victims if they give into his diabolism and devilry. Obviously, the metaphors and symbolism present here are commendable and worthy of respect, but when you step back and take a look at the whole piece of work, it is regrettably inefficient.
I knew it would be hard for Chapter 2 to live up to the near perfection of the Chapter 1, but I had hoped that it would hit a little closer to the mark. I am glad I took the time to give this one a watch, but it is certainly not one I plan on revisiting any time soon. Three hours is a lot of time to sacrifice out of your day, so my recommendation really depends on how you feel about spending that time seeing an average movie. If you are a die-hard horror aficionado or Stephen King fan, then by all means, go for it! Otherwise, just know what you are getting into ahead of time.