It’s back. Twenty-seven years after the shape-shifting, child-killing clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) was seemingly defeated by the Losers Club of Derry, Maine, the now-grown up group of outcasts must unite once again to truly obliterate the threat which haunted their childhoods.
Directed by Andy Muschietti, who helmed the previous film, It Chapter Two certainly feels like an authentic continuation of the It story, inspired by the book written by horror legend Stephen King (who makes a charming little cameo appearance). The film follows both the 1989 and 2016 versions of the characters, with the time-lapse connected through a series of flashbacks. Muschietti generally manages to tie the separate periods together satisfactorily, although some cut-scenes serve only as largely unnecessary recaps.
The success of the continuity owes substantial credit to the outstanding work of Rich Delia et al. in the casting department; each of the seven main protagonists from It are splendidly portrayed by their adult counterparts, with Bill Hader (as the older Richie, originally depicted by Finn Wolfhard) and James Ransone (as Eddie, Jack Dylan Grazer plays the younger iteration) providing standout performances. None of the principal actors can be faulted, although the group dynamic amongst the adults is somewhat more disjointed, despite the best efforts of Gary Dauberman’s screenplay attempting to reignite the on-screen spark that the young actors had.
In the same way the previous instalment was more of a coming-of-age film than a horror, Chapter Two is funnier than it is frightening. A rather meta running-joke, digging at King’s reputation for contentious endings to his books, provides the best payoff, but this film – like its predecessor – forces itself into a corner with its reliance on jump scares, albeit Pennywise is arguably more fearsome here. Still, Muschietti delivers an excellently potent psychological examination of the minds of the principal characters – especially so with Bill (James McAvoy/Jaeden Martell) who struggles to shake feeling responsible for what happened to his brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) in It.
Yet, clocking in at 2 hours 49 minutes, Chapter Two may switch some viewers off with its supererogatory duration. It suffers from a considerable pacing issue in the middle act, as Muschietti reinforces the significance of Pennywise’s reign of terror from the last film. In this instance, the flashbacks become a repetitive yet oddly necessary drag, capriciously chopping between individual stories across the two time-frames to remind viewers of what’s already happened, whilst also trying to build on the teenager’s narrative. It’s uneven, and it’s where the film stumbles most.
The unavoidable fact of the matter is that the book is over one-thousand pages long in most print editions. Quite simply, It would have benefited better as a limited series, similar to the highly It-influenced Stranger Things, but more immersive than the Tim Curry led interpretation in 1990. Muschietti makes this version the best it can be, but unfortunately, film just isn’t the right medium to truly make this story float.
Instead, it’s like one of those fairground rides you went on as a child, which kept you entertained at the time, but left you wishing it was just a tad more thrilling.
Image Credit: Movie DB