IT CHAPTER TWO review by Mark Walters – Pennywise waited for the kids of Derry to grow up

IT CHAPTER TWO review by Mark Walters – Pennywise waited for the kids of Derry to grow up

When the new big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s IT hits theaters in 2017, it became a smash hit with moviegoers, focusing on the principal characters as kids. But that was only half the story, as in the book we jumped back and forth in time between the kids and their adult counterparts. IT CHAPTER TWO shifts the focus to the adults, with director Andy Muschietti back in the chair, and The Losers’ Club played by James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Jay Ryan, Isaiah Mustafa, James Ransone, and Andy Bean. We also see the younger versions in flashbacks played again by Jaeden Martell, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Wyatt Oleff. But the big hook for many will be seeing Bill Skarsgård once more playing Pennywise the Clown. With the first film doing so well and receiving so much praise, the sequel has a lot to live up to.

The new movie opens with a reminder of the kids from the first movie making a pact, that if Pennywise ever comes back, they’d once again fight together to stop him. We then come into present day during a carnival in Derry, where two gay men are having fun until a group of thugs start harassing them, eventually leading to a brutal beating outside the event. This sparks the return of Pennywise (Skarsgård), who literally feeds off the hateful act. It’s a very disturbing opening that sets a dark tone for what lies ahead. As more incidents hit the news, Mike Hanlon (Mustafa) starts calling all the members of The Loser’s Club, now grown up and living outside of Derry. They reunite in their hometown for what starts as a fun gathering in a Chinese restaurant, but very soon their past horror starts showing up once more, and they all begin to question why they returned. Mike struggles to keep them together, but even the gang’s former leader Bill (McAvoy) wants to leave the past behind. Soon they all realize that for the sake of future children of Derry, they must defeat their former terror together, and Mike claims to know how. First they must individually find their “token”, an item from their past that will help them fight Pennywise, but as they search they each encounter some new form of Pennywise’s evil as a reminder of what’s ultimately in store for them.

IT CHAPTER TWO does one thing exceptionally well, and that’s its casting of the adult forms of The Loser’s Gang. Each actor playing these parts is so perfectly cast it’s almost scary, with James Ransone (as Eddie Kaspbrak) and Bill Hader (as Richie Tozier) being standouts. Andy Bean is also exceptional as Stanley Uris in his brief scenes in the movie. Both Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy are great in their respective roles, but they’re both so recognizable I almost found it a little distracting… as if to say casting unknowns for their roles might have been a benefit. That said, they’re still quite good in the film. But as good as everyone is in the movie, the film itself feels a bit bloated and overly-polished, especially when compared to the first outing. The two-hour and 49-minute run time will unlikely be the source of many audience complaints. The production is quite entertaining and engrossing, but you could easily have trimmed down some of the character moments, particularly the scenes with each character searching for their tokens. Granted, all of these moments help make the characters more sympathetic to the audience, but when juggling this many personalities in a story, it’s hard sometimes to keep things moving at a brisk enough pace.

Director Andy Muschietti proves once again he’s very capable of adapting Stephen King’s dense and layered story from the lengthy novel, and manages to capture a lot of material in a smart and accessible way. But one thing is obvious in this installment, and that is the success of the first movie has led to the studio upping the budget and scope of the film, making this less of a atmospheric horror film and more of a big studio production event. There’s a lot of CGI here, almost excessively so, with certain creatures looking less threatening and more flashy than they probably should. The best moments of the first IT film involved practical effects and real environments, and some of that feels lost here. The tone of the movie is also quite varied, with scenes of shocking and brutal horror mixed with gut-busting comedic moments, and some of those shifts are a bit jarring. I was also surprised how little Bill Skarsgård was used in the film, with the exception of the big finale. He’s so good in the first movie, and here he’s shown very little, perhaps for dramatic effect.

Muschietti’s strong visuals help make this an impressive effort, complimented nicely by Benjamin Wallfisch’s impressive and haunting musical score, which calls back to the first film while still offering great new material. There is also a nice mix of footage from the first movie, and new scenes shot with the original cast, making for effective flashback moments that again add to the adult characters’ emotional resonance. While this outing is a bit more shaky in its execution that the first, in the end it’s still a worthy and impressive follow-up, just a little overproduced for my taste. It loses some of the simple charm of the original film, but it’s still a lot of fun to watch… if a tad long. It’s also smart how the original film changed the setting from the book (the 1950s) to the 1980s, so with this new film being set 27 years later, our character are now in the present. Just one more way Muschietti helped make a classic book more topical and relevant for today’s moviegoers. I’ve heard Muschietti may be producing a six-hour supercut that combines the first and second film to be more like the book, jumping back and forth in time… I gotta say, as a big fan of Stephen King’s book, I’d be very anxious to see that.

IT CHAPTER TWO opens September 6, 2019

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.