It, an 80s horror tale about shared trauma, the loss of childhood innocence and evil dancing clowns, became a modern pop culture phenomenon in 2017 with the release of Andy Muschietti’s film adaptation. The iconic novel has been in need of a screen retelling that served it justice. While the 2017 adaptation wasn’t without its flaws, it was a charming thrill-ride that was quickly named one of the best Stephen King adaptations to date.
The long-awaited sequel, It Chapter Two, was recently released to record-breaking box office numbers as soon as the pre-sale went live. It Chapter Two takes place 27 years after the events of the first film and sees the self-proclaimed losers club head back to Derry — a place all but one of them have mysteriously forgotten — to free the town from the death grip of evil one final time. Unfortunately, to preserve the magic of the first film, It Chapter Two would be better left out of the book.
With a runtime of two hours and 50 minutes, multiple moments of It Chapter Two could have easily been abandoned by the editors at no detriment to the plot. Scenes from the first film are spliced throughout, hitting viewers over the head with reminders of plot points they’re undoubtedly familiar with if they’re seeing the sequel to begin with, especially when these plot points have already found a place in the narrative of It Chapter Two. Entire subplots could have been cut, such as the inclusion of a minor villain who contributes nothing to the overarching story and the entire opening sequence depicting a violent murder by Pennywise, forgotten after it happens and therefore having no impact, unlike the unforgettable opening of It.
The entire plot is as easy to poke holes in as one of Pennywise’s signature red balloons. Towards the end of the movie, the losers set off on individual journeys to their old Derry haunts in hopes of finding tokens from their childhoods. Pennywise himself is in possession of one of these tokens, yet willingly hands it off to the loser who encounters him with no tricks — why? Roughly five hours of screen time have been used to set up how Pennywise operates, only for spare moments and even the final battle in It Chapter Two to knock down the lore completely.
While 2017’s It benefits from comedy and horror, It Chapter Two felt ruined by the inclusion of inappropriately placed humour. The film set up many moments of intensity and fear that were brought down by misplaced jokes. Now, hear me out: I’m not asking for realism in a film about a shapeshifting alien clown who feeds on the fear of children, but it takes a viewer out of a film when the character’s reactions are disproportionate to what’s going on around them. After a big scare or brutal attack, no matter how on edge the character in question seems, they’ve always got a witty one-liner at the ready. Some are funny, sure, but it’s as if the writers forgot that the intent behind a horror film is to keep the audience scared. Reliance on cheap jump scares that often earned laughs from the audience certainly didn’t help.
At the very least, It Chapter Two was home to some fantastic performances by the cast. Now in their 40s, the losers were portrayed by a brand new, all-star cast. For the most part, the adult losers nailed even the smallest of mannerisms performed by their younger counterparts. Standouts among the cast are Bill Hader as Richie, who easily gave the most emotional performance of the film, and James Ransone as Eddie, who nailed every neurotic idiosyncrasy Jack Dylan Grazer lent to Eddie in the first film. Bill Skarsgard gave another career-defining performance as Pennywise, going full monster even when stripped out of the signature clown makeup. Due to Pennywise taking many monstrous forms portrayed by other actors, Skarsgard himself felt rather underutilized in this film. It’s his performance that often makes interactions with Pennywise deeply intriguing.
As a diehard fan of the first film and the book, finding so much to despise in It Chapter Two is painful. Maybe another 27 years from now we’ll get the adaptation It deserves.