Sunday, September 8, 2019

It: Chapter Two - Review

Sequels often fall into the trap of supersizing the elements of the original to make the follow up bigger and better. Being a Part 2, or in this case Chapter Two, doesn’t make that general rule any different. Where the first Chapter in 2017 was a fantastically crafted and atmospheric horror film with a sizable budget, the follow up, It: Chapter Two, misses the mark and bloats to a near three hour runtime that it just cannot justify in the slightest.

Defeated by members of the Losers' Club, the evil clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) returns 27 years later to terrorize the town of Derry, Maine, once again. Now adults, the childhood friends have long since gone their separate ways. But when people start disappearing, Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) calls the others home for one final stand. Damaged by scars from the past, the united Losers must conquer their deepest fears to destroy the shape-shifting Pennywise -- now more powerful than ever.

Of course, the elements of this massive film are not all ill-fated. The talents of a dynamite ensemble cast shine through brilliantly. Bill Hader, Jessica Chastain, and James McAvoy are the highlights, mainly due to the focus their characters get throughout the film, but James Ransone as an adult Eddie is pitch perfect casting. All of the members of the Losers Club have great chemistry and an introductory scene of them together showcases how much better the film works when they’re together rather than flying solo.

Bill Skarsgård returns as the creepy Pennywise, though in a far less intensive role this go around. He still delivers the best performance of the film, and his job as Pennywise over both films is something to behold. If the character wasn’t rooted in source material, watching Skarsgård’s Pennywise terrorize a town over multiple films like horror icons Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers would be a fun horror franchise to watch.

The production value of It: Chapter Two remains impeccable. It’s design work and general aesthetic makes it feel like more than just a horror film, even when there are more jump scares than you can count. But where this sequel falters is in the baffling choice to make this nearly three hours long when it definitely didn’t need to be.

It’s easy to see the logic behind the thinking of director Andy Muschietti for giving this film an epic runtime. Other films have done it and really succeeded in wrapping up a story well. However, It: Chapter Two struggles to find the material to actually fill two hours and forty-nine minutes. It essentially means that the themes of childhood trauma and memories shaping who we become has to be beaten like a dead horse. As a result, the pacing is completely off, with some story beats and characters being forgotten for huge chunks of time before suddenly reappearing.

It: Chapter Two is by no means a bad film, just a missed opportunity more than anything else. It manages to capitalize on assembling an all-star ensemble, giving most of the actors at least one moment to shine, even if the film forgets them more than a few times. While some of the craft is still there, particularly in the production design and cinematography, it lacks some of the heft in the scares department. Outside of a few moments of good creature work, the horror doesn’t stack up to the atmosphere established in the first film. In the end, it’s a decent follow-up, and when taken as part of a whole, It: Chapter Two concludes the story well enough and makes the whole venture a worthy adaptation.

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