Director: Andy Muschietti
Writer: Gary Dauberman
Starring: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader
Genre: Drama / Horror
Twenty-seven years after their first terrifying encounter with the shapeshifting clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), the members of the Losers Club all return to end Pennywise’s reign of terror over their hometown of Derry for good.
After 2017’s It became the highest grossing horror film of all time, planned or not, a sequel was going to be inevitable. Though it got a lot of high praise, I considered it to be an adequate and watchable (but not especially memorable) film with some good points and some bad points. Well, the sequel for me has the same amount of good points, but a fair few more bad points. I know a lot has been said about the 169-minute running time, and I have no problem with a film intentionally taking its time if that is a key part of the narrative’s core themes (Midsommar for example does this very well), and this may seem like a lazy and obvious criticism, but very few films can justify such a running time, and It Chapter Two certainly never comes close to justifying it.
I am all for a slow-burn character driven narrative, but there is just so much in this film that should have been left on the cutting room floor, as they add nothing to the film other than feelings of boredom, frustration and the occasional moment on unintentional laughter. What is even worse is that despite its bum numbing and bladder damaging running time, It Chapter Two still manages to include a few narrative strands and subplots that never truly get resolved to a satisfactory level.
This is all not only a huge shame, but also a massive waste of some decent work produced by its predecessor; this film has an advantage over many others in that from the very off it has a group of characters that the audience know, understand and can relate to, but it never truly utilises this. This film is of course (in my opinion) first and foremost a drama about its central characters rather than being just another conventional horror film. Indeed, by far the best thing about this film is the members of the Losers Club that it focusses on and their particular personal struggles and fears, both as individuals and as a group. The relationship the characters have with each other feel very genuine and convincing, and therefore allow the film to explore some very universal themes, and this means it does just about remain watchable as we do genuinely care about the characters and their relationships with one-another.
However, the film seems to seriously lose focus on what should be its core and intimate themes to just be a boring and repetitive mess. The filmmakers obviously thought the audience to be stupid, as the main character’s particular fears and anxieties are patronisingly rammed down the audiences throats again and again in very repetitive sequences involving each character or them as a group (either in the present day or flashbacks of them as kids). There are also scenes that add nothing at all to the story, such as a particularly nasty and unnecessary opening sequence. There is also a tendency for overblown CGI set pieces that are both ridiculous and laughably stupid; it is a well known concept that we fear what we cannot see, and it is impossible to have any fear for the bizarre CGI creations that appear in some of the scenes. I appreciate it is based on the character’s imagination and deepest fears, therefore a certain exaggeration may be inevitable, but they really do not fit with the film’s supposedly very stoic tone, and so when these scenes do appear they not only feel out of place, but end up being laughable and therefore undermine a lot of the film’s good work in other more low-key scenes that do create a genuine sense of dread.
As for the comedy factor; well, unfortunately the only laughs that come about are unintentional, as though the film does attempt to often add humour in the form of banter between friends, the poor script means that these moments are just met with a deafening (and also quite awkward) silence, and only serve to further undermine some of the film’s better moments.
The performances from the cast that includes a few big names are all perfectly adequate (though James McAvoy looks a bit bored), with the main standouts being Bill Hader and James Ransome, and as I previously said, I did genuinely believe in their friendship to one another, and the performances are the main reason for this. Likewise, Bill Skarsgård is absolutely fine as Pennywise, and has a suitably sinister grin. However, the performances are just wasted, especially as (despite the running time) none of the character’s actually have a satisfactory arc, as the narrative often decides to focus on stupid, over the top CGI dominated set pieces that are neither scary, thrilling or engaging, but just laughably dull. In the case of Bill Hader’s character there is an attempt at an interesting character arc of true catharsis, but it does not have as satisfactory a resolution as it should have done.
At least the film is consistent, as the finale to It Chapter Two is as repetitive, over the top and exhaustingly drawn-out as everything that has preceded it and just produces a viewing experiencing that is frustratingly unsatisfying.
An unnecessarily exhausting mess of a film that lacks any coherent focus; It Chapter 2 not only fails to capitalise on the solid foundations its predecessor set, it seems to want to destroy them, and so just about watchable, it fails to scare, thrill or engage. What a waste.