And welcome to the review of a sequel to a movie that got me into horror movies (somewhat). This is It Chapter 2!
IMDb summary: Twenty-seven years after their first encounter with the terrifying Pennywise, the Losers Club have grown up and moved away until a devastating phone call brings them back.
Gary Dauberman, the writer of the first It from 2017, penned the script for the sequel, once again, using the original material by Stephen King. After watching the first It, I went out and got myself a copy of It, the book. Even though it took me a solid 4 months to finish the 1000 page long novel, I did enjoy a lot of it (minus some weird and now infamous sex scenes). Thus, going into this film, I could predict a lot of the story beats, yet so much of the plot was also changed and, dare I say, for the better.
Stephen King’s cameo in the film, as well as his stand-in character’s demeanor (Bill’s) towards the critique of the story’s endings, tells me that King himself might be salty about fans’ complaints aimed at his ending. Yet, while I do think that his extremely supernatural ending to It (the turtle) is an interesting choice, I feel like it kinda betrays the psychological concepts of the whole novel. Thus, I quite enjoyed the film’s ending where it’s the characters’ strength of will and personal overcoming of fear that defeats Pennywise. At the same time, while these psychological concepts are present throughout the film, I do think that the first It did more in exploring them. Chapter 2 seemed to be more plot rather than idea-focused. While the ultimate topic of the film remained the same as in the first one – friendship and human connection – the movie did have a lot of narratives to cover. Not only did it have to tell the story of the adult characters but connect it to the arcs’ of the younger counterparts of the first movie. This seems like an insurmountable task and I feel like Chapter 2 (and the writer) did the best they could with the task. Yes, the movie was quite long and full off sidetracks involving separate characters reliving their memories. But could it have done without them? I don’t think so. The characters needed their solo times and to be developed further, especially when the cast of the movie was so stellar. You just kinda naturally want to give them a lot to do.
Andy Muschietti directed a follow-up to his own movie and did a good job. I don’t think he managed to create as tight of a final product like last time, but once again, like with the writing, I don’t think he ever could have topped the first film. Chapter 2 was quite long (almost 3h) and while it did start out really strong and had a nicely paced second act, I felt like the different stages (like in a video game) of the third act were quite obvious and made the finale feel a bit formulaic, less like it flowed naturally. The film as a whole did have a nice flow to it, though – I quite enjoyed the visual transitions between the different characters as well as timelines. On the horror side, It 2 had everything: some psychological suspense, some gore, and some jump scares. For horror purists, this might be too much of blend of all the different things, but for me as someone who appreciates horror movies at a distance, the mix of the different horror techniques was cool and just what I needed to feel both uneasy yet comfortable watching the film.
Both the child and adult casts were stellar. I don’t know whether the filmmakers originally planned on including the children actors in the second film but I’m glad that they did: the child-actors have proven themselves so much in the first film and have only gotten better in the second one, even if they had less to do. Jaeden Martell, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Wyatt Oleff all did a great job. The adult cast – both the big names like James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, and Bill Hader and the lesser-knowns – Jay Ryan, Isaiah Mustafa, James Ransone, and Andy Bean (and this is a very subjective categorication btw) – did brilliantly. Not only did they look like the grown-up versions of the child actors but they truly acted like them too. My personal favorites were McAvoy and Hader. Bill Skarsgård came back as Pennywise and was amazing once again even though this time around he seemed to have fewer scenes. I feel like It Chapter 2 featured more of CGI Pennywise, with some of Skarsgård’s features (face or voice). The acting was truly the best part of the movie and saved or enhanced its other parts (mostly carried the writing).
In short, while not as good as the first film, It Chapter 2 carries the emotional weight of the first film that is sometimes lost in all the plot but found in abundance in the cast’s performances.
Trailer: It Chapter 2 trailer