It Chapter Two is many things. It is a sequel to one of the most successful horror movies ever made. It is an adaptation of the arguably less-manageable half of Stephen King’s sprawling, cocaine-fueled novel. But most importantly, It is long.
All movies aspire the kind of success 2017’s It claimed. When it debuted in theaters, it shattered box office record left and right, setting new standards for R-rated films, horror movies, and movies of any kind released in September. It made money where it counts, in merchandising-becoming a new mainstay in Hot Topic for years to come, the kind of Jack Skellington money all studios crave. Beyond that, it succeeded in appealing to viewers from all different generations and backgrounds, gathering acclaim from critics and audiences alike. Therefore, it is easy to understand why It Chapter Two, the nearly three hour behemoth of a sequel became one of the most anticipated films of the year. The new film is certainly bigger than the last, but is it better? In short? No.
It Chapter Two was always going to be an uphill battle. There are many things to like about the first film-but at its core-the appeal comes from how perfect the kids are and how well they work together. In a ‘Stranger Things’-era world, it was perfect timing for an eighties-era “kids on bikes” movie that felt timeless and fresh simultaneously. Aging the kids up for the sequel presents the basic conundrum of: will these six actors have the same charisma as their younger counterparts. Simply put, they don’t. Part of the problem is baked into the story; the losers gang has grown up and apart. They don’t have the same rapport as they did in 1989. It is somewhat compelling to watch these characters get to know each other again, but right when they start acting like the group we love, they split up. The adults are cast just as well as their younger counterparts, with some heavy hitters in the midst (James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader), but one could argue the added star power hurts the film more than it helps it. Each of the new actors have to have their own moment to shine rather than melding into a cohesive group as the mostly unknown kids did. This is the case for every actor in the movie except for, the real star of the show, Bill Hader.
“Bill Hader is, without a doubt, one of the ten best actors working today.”
I have said this before, but I shall say it again, louder, in case those in the back couldn’t hear it. Bill Hader is, without a doubt, one of the ten best actors working today. He doesn’t get the respect he deserves because he’s never lost fifty pounds to play a slave-owner or spent a year living in the Congo for a role in a desperate Oscar attempt. His range is truly incalculable. He has played more unique, fleshed out characters than one can count, each with their out intricacies and motivations. While he does get plenty of respect for his comedic chops, not enough is given to his emotional capabilities. The man has some of the most genuine pathos I’ve ever seen, which is in full display in this movie. Not only does he perfectly capture Finn Wolfhard’s (stranger things kid and breakout star of the first film) mannerisms down to a tee, he adds his own take on the character that elevates every scene he’s in. I haven’t seen enough people acknowledge the fact that without this presence, It Chapter Two would be ninety-percent more boring. I hope he has a good chiropractor, because he will need it after carrying this movie for two hours and forty minutes.
I would be remissed to discuss the acting in It Chapter Two without bringing up Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. He is the glue of the first film and brings the same energy to its sequel. I loved that they allowed Pennywise to be funny again, the only problem is Pennywise isn’t really in the movie that much. There’s one scene that featured Pennywise talking one on one with a kid that absolutely ruled, but by and large, most of the film’s “scares” come from an amalgam of lame zombies. Most of my problems with the movie originate from the way it handles its horror sequences. The first film was never all that scary, but it wasn’t necessarily trying to be. This movie really leans into jump scares and CGI imagery, to the point that you might experience whiplash by the end of the runtime. There’s an exceedingly long sequence-that felt like an hour in the theater-in which each individual character goes on an individual mission to remember something from their past. The younger version will walk into a room, turn around and be startled by something scary, then the older counterpart will enter the same room, turn around and be startled by the exact same thing. Rinse. Repeat. I use the word startled because once the loud noise you’re dreading has happened, the scene really isn’t scary anymore, since most of the computer-generated creatures in this movie look fake. All I know is I could have used more of Pennywise and less creepy lepers. But hey, that’s just me.
When it comes to It Chapter Two, it feels like they wanted to have their cake and eat it too. They wanted to be a big silly scary movie and a serious fantasy epic, but neither side worked out. There are parts of the movie that manage both at the same time, which is where I’m on board, but mostly it feels like an atonal mess. It’s a lot of movie and certainly could have been cut down. Like way down. I would say I enjoyed the movie more than I disliked it, but I doubt I’d ever want to watch it again. It’s got some very solid moments but ultimately fails to rekindle the magic of its predecessor.