For this reviewer, IT Chapter 2 was easily the most anticipated film of 2019.
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Part one in 2017 was a pleasant surprise and an easy five out of five movie. Mostly thanks to some great casting, excellent creature design and brilliant direction from Andy Muschietti, and of course Stephen King’s best-selling story.
People who remembered the original mini-series and thought that nobody could top Tim Curry’s great performance of Pennywise, had forgotten a couple of things:
1. The mini series was a straight to TV production with some pretty average casting (Curry being the exception)
2. It’s been a long time since they probably saw it and realised that it wasn’t actually very good.
There was a new clown in town in the form of Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise, and the negative comments from any naysayers were put to rest as soon he lit up the screen with the new and improved version in 2017.
The only disappointing thing about IT Chapter 1 was that we would have to wait a couple of years before we saw the Loser’s Club come back and finish Pennywise off once and for all.
Although you kind of had to expect it.
King’s original story is one of his best and was written while he was heavily under the influence of cocaine and booze. It’s also one of his longest and one thing you may find if you ever have the misfortune of having to talk to someone who is drug-fucked, is they tend to prattle on a bit. They also bombard you with a whole bunch of bullshit before getting to the point, if they even had one in the first place. This could be why King has been criticised in the past for building these incredible worlds and amazing characters but not handling the endings of his stories very well (fans will appreciate how they address that in this film). It is also why they needed to stretch this across two movies, clocking up a runtime over 5 hours.
One thing that will hold true long after the hype dies down is just how impressive and ambitious the IT movies are. Thanks largely to the efforts of director Andy Muschietti, his wife and producer Barbara and Gary Dauberman who wrote the screenplay. They have succeeded where the mini-series failed and delivered us an iconic horror story that over time will be regarded as a classic and sit alongside others films like The Thing, Halloween, Jaws and The Shining.
We can’t really talk about It Chapter 2 without spoiling the first movie so you have been warned, minor spoilers from here on in.
This is definitely not a sequel, more a continuation of the story. It’s been 27 years since our heroes affectionately known as The Losers’s Club sent Pennywise back into the hole deep underneath the sewers in Derry and swore a blood pact that if IT ever came back, so would they and finish the job.
The characters have all left town and grown into larger versions of their younger selves, except for Mike, who stayed on to run the town library. Bill is now a famous writer. Beverly is a fashion designer who cannot escape the cycle of abuse that started with her father and now manifests in her marriage. Ben hit the gym and became a handsome and successful architect. Stan is a successful accountant and started a family. Eddie is still a hypochondriac, works as a risk assessor in New York and married a woman who is exactly like his mother. Ritchie grew up to become a successful stand-up comic in Los Angeles. The psychopath bully who killed his dad, Henry Bowers, survived that not-so-fatal fall in the first film and is now in a mental hospital.
Mike discovers that Pennywise has returned after a series of brutal murders in Derry and the gets the band back together to finish him off once and for all.
The highlight of both these movies is the casting. It is perfect. Although probably the biggest challenge the production team have faced would be having to de-age the younger cast members, this is the first time it’s been done in a horror film and with people so young. Finn Wolfhard in 2019 looks totally different to his 2017 self and once you pick up on the fact he’s been de-aged it can be really distracting.
Looking at the older versions of the kids audiences will be 100% convinced that these are the adults they grew up to be. Sophia Lillis and Jessica Chastain as Beverly Marsh. Jaeden Martell and James McAvoy as Bill Denbrough. Jeremy Ray Taylor and Jay Ryan as Ben Hascomb. Jack Dylan Grazer and James Ransone as Eddie Kaspbrak. Chosen Jacobs and Isiah Mustafa (the Old Spice guy) as Mike. Wyatt Olef and Andy Bean as Stanley Uris. Finn Wolfhard and Bill Hader as Ritchie Tozier. And of course Bill Skars Gard as Pennywise.
Beep beep Ritchie!
The highlight by far is Bill Hader as Ritchie. It’s a little shallow though in that the grown up losers are basically older versions of their younger selves, there’s not much growth that seems to have taken place over the past 27 years to turn them into mature adults, although you could argue that might be the effect being back in Derry has on them.
The movie is good but it doesn’t have the same kind of magic as the first one, which could be down to it being viewed through adults eyes. The soundtrack by Benjamin Walfish is great but it doesn’t have the same great songs that the first one had in between to appeal to people’s nostalgia. The innocence of the kids in the first film really upped the ante and delivered the terror of the monster lurking under the bed once the adults leave and lights go out exceptionally well. Pennywise to the adults just seems like far less threatening, instead they handle their fear with humour mainly through Ritchie and Eddie who are hilarious.
The movie is at its best when the cast are together and not off on their own seperate quests, they have a great chemistry between them and the way they use humour with the horror is fantastic. Fans will be incredibly satisfied with the way they fill the gaps from the first movie and appreciate the story is about coming to terms with your past in order to embrace your future, the past just happens to manifest itself as a child eating, monster clown who lives in the sewers in this case.
Speaking of which, seeing Skarsgard’s Pennywise return to the big screen is a real treat, and getting to know more about the character’s origins is quite satisfying but there is a lot more CGI used this time. The upside is we get some really cool horror effects, zombies, hallucinations, monsters and all that great stuff. The downside is that the clown is used sparingly, which may be disappointing for some fans. I know I wanted to see a lot more of him.
It is long! 2 hours and 50 minutes long. However there’s no post credits scene so you can race out and take a piss once the credits start to roll. Adding to the length was the inclusion of the adult Henry Bowers who’s grown up to become Pennywise’s version of Renfield. His involvement is fairly inconsequential here, especially after they cut that awesome scene from the first movie where he killed his friends and was driving around in the car with their ,corpses talking to them as if they were still alive. He was fun to have, but could have easily been left out.
On its own, IT Chapter 2 is a weaker film than its predecessor but that’s because it doesn’t have the element of surprise. Viewed as a sequel, it’s a bit like Stephen King on cocaine, or anyone on any drug for that matter, you only get to experience the first time, one time and from there, you’re forever chasing and trying to duplicate that moment.
Don’t view the movie as sequel and treat the second half more like the come down and you’ll be just fine. It’s still really, really good and a lot of the early criticism will wash away over time.