It Chapter Two (2019)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
The anticipation for this rivals some of the biggest excitement for any movie slated to come out in 2019.
The cast of the adult incarnations of the members of The Losers Club is hard to pass over and Bill Skarsgård continues to be a diabolical menace as Pennywise the Clown.
With an increased reliance on jump scares this time around, It Chapter Two is going to make you jump, jolt, and feel a fair amount of anxiety as to what might be coming next.
There is no reason this movie needs to be 169 minutes, even when adapted from a 1,138 page novel.
Like my friend Matt Oakes pointed out, this feels like a condensed version of an episodic television series. And that’s not a compliment.
About the best I can say about It Chapter Two is that this is really just a wandering, meandering mess. It will make hundreds of millions of dollars and there is enough “Gotcha!” moments to have people talking, but this movie has very little to say and when it tries to be topical and emotional, it cannot even properly determine the message it wants viewers to go away with.
A doozy of a sequel, It Chapter Two is 169 minutes long and feels like seven or eight episodes of an “It” television series crammed into one overstuffed package. When you crack It open this time around, you find more blood, more violence, and more intricate set-ups on how Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) infiltrates the lives of those trying to stop him, and a convoluted understanding of just what is actually going on here.
And yes, I understand. A horror movie about a dimension-traveling demon, masquerading as a menacing clown and able to take the form of anything it wants to, at anytime it chooses, every 27 years, doesn’t inherently make logical sense.
It’s literally a movie, Mike. Come on already.
Sure, but whereas It initially doubled down on world building and allowed us a chance to understand the ramifications and motivations around how this group of seven “Losers” came together and found each other, things are different this time around.
At the outset of Chapter Two, we see Pennywise has returned, 27 years after the events of the first film, to ransack Derry, a small Maine community, where the clown feasts on children to remain viable.
That premise is thrown out the window though, when the evil clown’s first victim is not a child, but rather a gay man (Xavier Dolan), brutally beaten and thrown off a bridge following a horrendous hate crime.
I guess Pennywise is visible by adults now?
Nevertheless, Mike (Isaiah Mustafa as an adult, Chosen Jacobs as a child) is the only “Loser” to have never left Derry. Once he realizes the murder of the young man is in line with Derry history, he calls in the blood oath the “Losers” all took at the end of the first film: If Pennywise were to ever return, the seven of them would all come together and defeat this nightmarish clown once and for all.
After 27 years, Mike finds that amnesia or selective memory loss has affected his fellow Losers. They remember Mike (though amusingly some do not at first), and while none of them apparently have spoken since the blood oath (which is frankly hard to believe), everyone but Stanley makes it back home for a makeshift reunion.
Director Andy Muschetti has opted to embrace an episodic nature for his sequel. Vignette-style scenes reoccur frequently: When we see what the Losers’ lives are like in 2016, when they must face their fears once again, when they scheme together and apart to try and vanquish the now larger-than-life, shape-shifting clown-like figure who has haunted their dreams for nearly three decades.
Richie (Bill Hader | Finn Wolfhard) is now a caustic stand-up comic, while asthma-afflicted Eddie is now a risk assessor for an insurance company (James Ransone | Jack Dylan Grazer). Bill (James McAvoy | Jaeden Martell) has become a best-selling writer (snicker) who cannot come up with a good ending to any of his stories (snicker and eye roll). Ben (Jay Ryan | Jeremy Alan Taylor) is no longer obese, he’s ripped and a calendar-pin up-ready architect. Beverly (Jessica Chastain | Sophia Lillis) is married to an abusive husband and emotionally unsettled.
All of them leave these lives behind to meet Mike and realize that he has spent pretty much all their time apart preparing to defeat Pennywise upon his eventual return. Once Mike comes clean, and shares why everyone is actually back together, a reunion dinner at a Chinese restaurant is taken over by a fortune cookie plate turned into a horrific post-meal experience that reminds everyone just what they are up against.
Fair enough. Very quickly though nothing seems consistent with how things worked in the first film. Complicating matters, we have Bowers (Teach Grant | Nicholas Hoffman), the first film’s unrelenting bully, commissioned by Pennywise (via a singular floating red balloon) to do his bidding. He breaks out from a mental hospital, pairing up with Hockstetter (Owen Teague), a zombie-like accomplice. None of this goes anywhere.
There is a Native American tribal ritual that is introduced in such a convoluted way that Mike’s explanation to his fellow Losers was absolutely lost on me. The “Ritual of Chüd” proves important, as it requires each of the Losers to return to a moment from their youth and grab an artifact, symbolic of the terror they experienced from Pennywise. However, articles are already popping up on the internet trying to explain how the Ritual even works, so this is likewise poorly plotted and a source of frustration.
To build to this Ritual, we sit through an unending series of scenes, some taking place in the present, others taking place in the past, where each Loser must face their terror of Pennywise again. This is where that dead-eyed grandmother (Joan Gregson) from the trailer comes into the mix.
Gary Dauberman’s screenplay seems absolutely lost in trying to marry the trauma of his characters’ pasts to their circumstances in the present. On a surface-level, it is all there. Over the course of 169 minutes though, we should have ample time to really explore the pain, suffering, and anguish these people have experienced. After all, your villain supposedly feeds off of that. Your characters are victimized by it - both literally and figuratively!
There is no depth to any of this. We should better understand why Beverly, a victim of physical and sexual abuse as a child, now exists in an abusive relationship. Richie has a secret he has tried to suppress for about 27 years or so, but the movie has no interest in exploring this until it is too late to mean anything. Ben, bullied and attacked for his weight, may have got thin, but we have no discussion on how the psychological damage he experienced influenced who he has become.
Muschetti’s film has an aggravating crisis of conscience: Pennywise gets more bloody and gory kills, but the audience is left having to fill in the gaps as to why the Losers are who they are all grown up. Nevermind bridging these two films together. Apparently, when the writing gets hard, double down on the clown selling all the tickets, I guess?
Good performances from Hader and Chastain are wasted. Skarsgård, so masterful and frightening the first time-around, is undercut again and again by simply uttering catch-phrases and pithy one-liners. I am confounded how It built so brilliantly on anticipation and fear, but the sequel opts to rely on so many cheap jump scares and telegraphed moments.
It Chapter Two proves disheartening and frustrating, a movie built on the concept of overcoming childhood trauma but lacking any conviction or responsibility in standing behind its own premise.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Bill Skarsgård, Andy Bean, Jaeden Martell, Wyatt Oleff, Jack Dylan Grazer, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Teach Grant, Nicholas Hamilton, Javier Botet, Xavier Dolan, Taylor Frey, Joan Gregson, Luke Roessler, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Jackson Robert Scott, Owen Teague, Peter Bogdanovich, Stephen King.
Director: Andy Muschetti
Written by: Gary Dauberman
Based on the novel “It” by Stephen King
Release Date: September 6, 2019