I’m going to go with the casual moviegoer on this one (vs the critics) and say that I actually loved IT: CHAPTER 2 quite a bit. But while I also agree that it does not exactly capture the magic of the first film, mainly due to the incredible child performances, I just can’t see why critics and some others aren’t taking to this movie so well. Especially when one person I know said it is one of the top ten worst films he has ever seen in his life. My only guess is that they are walking into this movie completely blind, and haven’t read the source material to sort of know what to expect going in. They had their own expectations, and those expectations weren’t met….kind of like Last Jedi (sorry, I had to). I’ve read the book twice, so I more or less knew what was going to float up on screen and other than a couple of issues, the filmmakers actually nailed it pretty well. With book adaptations, you are usually screwed if you do, and screwed if you don’t when it comes to changing aspects of the book to have it play well and make sense on screen. People that haven’t read the book won’t know that, yeah, basically the adults going back to find and kill Pennywise once and for all is just more of the same from when they were kids (albeit slightly tweaked). For me, personally, it all came together fantastically, and I thought they improved on the so-so ending in Stephen King’s novel. So well in fact it will probably stay in my top ten films of 2019 by the end of the year.
And in my eyes, it is completely fine if you didn’t like It: Chapter 2. I get it, and I’m not going to argue with anyone on the merits of why the film irritated them, especially if they loved Chapter 1. If you are reading this, and hated the film, I can guarantee that you thought the Losers coming back to Derry to kill Pennywise would be more elaborate, epic, and weird. You didn’t think you’d get a remake of the first part (right down to the ending), just with different tweaked scares. That’s okay. Just don’t pick a fight with me on why I loved it. I do recognize its faults, which we will get to in a second, but the long 2 hr and 50 minutes run time did not faze me, entertained the hell out of me, and I loved the look and visuals of the film (minus some awkward CGI moments). When the film was over, I couldn’t believe it had been that long, and I was transfixed with everything that I probably could’ve done another 30 minutes and still not have felt it (and I know exactly what should have been added to take up that run time.)
I thought the acting all around was stellar. Even though some of the characters get short changed with their arcs from the book to the screen, everybody brought their A game. I thought the adult actors really represented their kid counterparts almost perfectly. My favorite of all of them would probably have to be James Ransone as Eddie and Bill Hader as Ritchie. I have to disagree with one aspect everyone is talking of Hader’s performance, mainly that he should get a supporting Oscar nomination for his work. Bill Hader is great in this, but it is in no way an Oscar worthy role, but it could be the gateway to a trophy in the future. Just to see Bill Hader go from SNL to this and Barry, and showing so much more range than previously thought, is just a privilege to be able to experience. The bigger, more A-list stars in this, such as Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy are good, but I feel like some of their character arcs were sacrificed to make the overall story more accessible to audiences. And of course, Bill Skarsgard kills it as Pennywise.
Another complaint that a lot of moviegoers seem to have is that Pennywise isn’t in the film that much. To me, that point is moot. Because if he was in this anymore than he was, or if he was in Chapter 1 anymore than he was, everybody would say that there was just way too much of him. Either too little or too much, filmmakers are always trying to fight an uphill battle when it comes to how much screen time these classic antagonists should receive (fun fact, did you know that Heath Ledger is in the Dark Knight for only about 16-18 minutes of the 2 and a half hour runtime? To me that was and still is perfect). Most of the time, filmmakers are probably going to lose. To me, Pennywise is in this the PERFECT amount. Not too little to end up being disappointed and wanting more and not too much to the point of rolling my eyes every time he showed up on screen. The screen time hits a bullseye here. Having Skarsgard in it anymore would’ve lessened the impact of his presence and he would’ve felt less and less like a true threat. Granted, just like Chapter 1, Chapter 2 isn’t really that scary in the first place. But Pennywise has always been creepy. Too much of him, and that creep factor will easily go away. But if you can get the amount of ingredients just right, you get that chilling but welcome uneasiness feeling in every bite, and thankfully this movie is flavorful till the last bite.
Let’s go into the critics complaints versus my complaints for the movie. I realize it has its flaws, but some critics are going so far as saying the editing, the tone, the pacing, all combined with too many flashbacks of the kids is jarring. Other than one awkwardly placed musical choice/moment (when the leper throws up in Adult Eddie’s mouth) and an added joke in ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement, this happens right after a character has been stabbed in the cheek no less), I thought everything mentioned above was quite even. In fact, I’d go far as to say that the studio, the screenwriter Gary Dauberman, and the director, Andy Muschietti did some things that improved upon the adult part of the novel. They managed to make the “Ritual Of Chud” (the way to get rid of Pennywise once and for all) actually make some sense, and then, to try not and ruin anything, they tweak the final form of Pennywise a bit so that we can not only get more of Skarsgard’s fantastic performance, but also have at least some sort of dialogue exchange between the protagonist and antagonist for the audience to understand what is exactly going on story wise. If you’ve read the book, you know that Pennywise’s final form doesn’t really talk all that much, if at all. And while the kids flashbacks are a little more than a cameo, I thought they were fit into the story very well, and it didn’t take me out of the movie for one second. Even though with these flashbacks one could argue that they ret-con some of the events of Chapter 1. For example: the losers have a clubhouse in this we didn’t see at all in the first film, and it is revealed that some of the Losers still saw each other and had more individual Pennywise frights even after they all fought near the end of the second act and the group broke up. But it was all forgivable to me. I loved the look of the film, I loved the tone, to me, almost everything worked.
My complaints are a bit different, one being very minor, one being pretty major. For the minor ones, first off, there are some awkward CGI moments. Surprisingly, none of these are from Pennywise himself, just some of the monsters he conjures up or completely turns into. One of the biggest problems I had with Chapter 1 is that Muschietti (or by the studios orders/demands) added some CGI to Pennywise’s main clown performance, instead of just letting Skarsgard’s performance shine thru to make it creepy all his own. Thankfully, I think they got the message not to do that in this chapter. Instead, they used up all their focus with that and neglected to make some of the CGI monster creations and infestations of Pennywise seem real. For example, I’m talking about the final form of the old lady that Chastain encounters, the obvious ‘The Thing’ homage, and the little bugs and other tiny creatures in the Chinese Restaurant Fortune Cookie scene. I do understand the limitations and shit of CGI, even nowadays, but I have the feeling they could’ve just shelled out some more dough to get some really neat practical effects. Apparently no one there actually watched Krampus from a few years back to know that some practical effects are still fantastic and that incorporating that could’ve put some real haunting imagery and more legitimate scares into the picture.
My one real main complaint is the story arc of Henry Bowers, Bill’s wife Audra, and Beverly’s husband Tom. It seemed like the filmmakers killed Henry off in Chapter 1, with no intention of bringing him back, but shortly into this film, you realize that is not the case, as it has a scene of Henry as a kid, surviving his giant fall in the tunnel near the end of the first movie, only to be washed up on shore at the creek, arrested for the murder of his father, and then incarcerated into the loony bin until present day. In the novel, Henry Bowers is a huge antagonist and looming presence being controlled by Pennywise in order to try and stop the Losers from getting together to perform the Ritual of Chud. He is somewhat of a presence in this, but never feels like a genuine threat, and is dispatched kind of awkwardly. Bill’s wife and Beverly’s husband Tom have pretty big arcs in the novel compared to the one scene each of them have in the movie. Audra actually chasing Bill to Derry looking for him, because she actually loves and cares for him a lot, where she is kidnapped by Marsh’s husband Tom, because he too ends up controlled by Pennywise. I think that if maybe 15-30 minutes were added into the film, more of a presence from them and their arcs could’ve been added to bring more challenges needing to be overcome by main characters of the story, while also fleshing out Beverly and Bill as adults. Like I said, these are only my minor complaints. I do understand why they didn’t do these, it would’ve not only cost more, but it would’ve made the movie unbearably long for people to sit and not have to pee in the theater.
My major complaint: just like Chapter 1, the character of Mike Hanlon gets kind of short changed in Chapter 2. In the movie, all of the characters have to go out find their “tokens” to perform the Ritual of Chud to get rid of Pennywise, and they show everyone’s journey to get those tokens, except for Mike’s. He just shows his token at one point near the end of the film and explains what it is. I have a feeling his quest was also filmed but just cut for time, considering that there is a scene in the trailers that wasn’t in the movie (where Pennywise jumps out a window and stands sideways on a building while Mike looks up in horror). I understand if they had to cut the characters of Tom and Audra for time, but I don’t think I will understand or ever forgive why they had to cut out Mike’s journey. I think his journey also included his mental redemption for him feeling guilty of being the only survivor of that burning building that took the life of his parents when he was a kid. Because of his quest not being in there, all of his story beats come up half empty and at points end up being really murky with trying to understand what all is going on with him as a character. All of it is wrapped up near the end with Mike just looking at a newspaper clipping showing him as the sole survivor of that fire, and then combines that with an “I’m over it” expression on his face. That resolution just felt very cheap, I just hope that maybe an extended cut can be released expanding it and tying everything together a bit more nicely.
Like all my other reviews, this one has run a little long and it is time to wrap it up. In conclusion, while I didn’t love it as much as Chapter 1, I still loved It: Chapter 2 quite a bit. Hell, in some of the scenes, the film even managed to match the greatness of the first one (such as the girl finding Pennywise in the back of the bleachers and the very beginning of the film’s hate crime sequence). I do understand why a lot of people would end up not liking this film. It basically is almost the exact same story and resolution of the first chapter. But having read the book twice and loving every single page (and yes, I do realize that the origin of the novel itself is a cocaine/alcohol infused hybrid mess of ideas, even King has admitted this), I feel like I got more out of this film than most. In fact, I think that the adult version of the story follows the novel more closely than the first chapter did with the kids. And the filmmakers made some very careful choices about what to change from the novel, that most of the time worked out for the better for me (the ending), with only one or two major missteps (Mike Hanlon’s character). So I can’t say say whether or not if you liked Chapter 1 that you’ll definitely liked Chapter 2. That isn’t the case for a lot of people. I can only tell and defend to you why I still loved this movie. I think I have, which will make me float in peace.