DIRECTED BY: Andy Muschietti
STARRING: Bill Skarsgard, Jessica Chastain, Sophia Lillis, James McAvoy, Jaeden Martell, Bill Hader, Finn Wolfhard, James Ransone, Jack Dylan Grazer, Andy Bean, Wyatt Oleff, Jay Ryan, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Isaiah Mustafa, Chosen Jacobs, Xavier Dolan, Will Beinbrink, Teach Grant, Jess Weixler and Taylor Frey
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.
Twenty-Seven years have passed since Pennywise the Clown haunted the members of The Losers Club growing up in Derry, Maine during the summer of 1989. With the rest of them all gone and moved away from Derry, Mike Hanlon is the only one that has remained in the town. In 2016, Mike hears of an incident that leads him to believe that Pennywise has come back and contacts the other Losers to fulfil an oath that made before that if it were to return, they’d come back to kill it.
It: Chapter Two is the followup film to the 2017 monster hit that was It. Andy Muschietti is back in the directors chair whilst Gary Dauberman is the sole writer to return to pen the script for Chapter Two (he co-wrote the It script alongside Cary Fukunaga and Chase Palmer). It’s been twenty-seven years since The Losers Club believed they stopped the entity that horrified them during their summer in Derry, Maine that they knew as Pennywise the Clown. Now Mike Hanlon, the only Loser to remain in the town as the rest left, believes It has returned to terrify the town and contacts the rest to conquer their fears and fulfil an oath they swore to uphold if it were to ever return…come back and kill it for good.
I very much enjoyed Muschietti’s take on It whenever it came out in 2017, as I believed it blended the coming-of-age angle with the horror theme effectively, particularly in how they handled the use of Bill Skarsgard’s performance as Pennywise. Here in Chapter Two, Skarsgard’s performance still remains one of the constant highlight throughout the film as he fully committed in the role in where he balances the fine line of being terrifying and hilarious at the same time. The main talking point leading into Chapter Two was how would the adult counterparts of the Losers Club fare here? Will they be just as good in their perspective roles as the young cast were? I think the ensemble were pretty good in their perspective roles and the film is working at its best when all the characters are bouncing off each other, none more so than in the Chinese restaurant scene where they meet for the first time since they were kids. While James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain are the so-called ‘bigger’ names out of the cast, really the film gives time for each of them to shine in the middle portion of the film as they have to go their own separate ways in order to retrieve and discover missing pieces of their past in order to take the last stand against Pennywise. Bill Hader will be the audience highlight here as the adult Richie Tozier, providing comedic relief throughout whilst adding real weight in the films more dramatic moments. Out of the ensemble that fits the tone of what their younger self acted like, I thought James Ransone was great as the adult Eddie Kaspbrak, his mannerisms of Eddie when compared with Jack Dylan Grazer is uncanny and his chemistry with Bill Hader is great to watch. I thought Jay Ryan was good as Ben Hanscom, who like everyone else has forgotten the memories of Derry…except for yearning to be with Beverly Marsh. I also really enjoyed Isaiah Mustafa’s performance as Mike Hanlon, the only Loser to remain in Derry and who has pretty much sacrificed any chance of living a normal life by dedicating it to learning everything he possibly can about the history of It and how they can stop it. The film has several scenes that I enjoyed in how it was built up and how they were executed, from the opening scene showcasing how humans can just be as terrifying as Pennywise (I’m actually surprised that they included that scene from the book), to Pennywise encountering other children in Derry, to the scene involving Beverly Marsh that has been used in the trailers. I didn’t think that scene would work as well as it did considering how it was used for the trailers but I found it to be very effective.
While I enjoyed the film for the most part, there’s a few details in the film that I wasn’t too keen on. Nothing against Teach Grant’s performance as the adult Henry Bowers here or the returning of another character from It, but how that was played out overall in the film here from the book I found it to be unnecessary and just didn’t work overall with the rest of the film for me. While I understand the frustrations have with how the adult lives of The Losers Club is briefly glimpsed at and then never really mentioned from their return to Derry on, particularly that of Bill’s wife Audra and Beverly’s abusive husband Tom. While their adult lives feels rushed in order to get them back to Derry, the middle portion of them having to each claim artifact from their past will feel too long and that a few of the characters story arcs aren’t as effective in reclaiming said artifact as the others, making the journey feel start-stop and repetitive. There’s a few CGI issues here and there, particularly in how noticeable it is used in de-aging Finn Wolfhard in the new scenes for Chapter Two, and that a CGI Pennywise just doesn’t feel as threatening as Skarsgards physical presence. The film takes a swing in its final act not in only in the final battle, but also in how it handles of the Losers stories and how both of them are handled will make or break the film for some viewers. Some will think, I get where Muschietti and Dauberman were going for, execution didn’t really land the distance but I respect the effort. While for others, the execution of the final act will bomb for them and judging by some views online, its pretty divisive. Initially I didn’t feel the films runtime on opening night, but on the repeated viewing this week, I definitely felt it during the middle act of the film.
It: Chapter Two is a sequel that I enjoyed, but didn’t love in comparison to the first one. It the film definitely has its moments, but it kind of lagged for me in the middle act as the film was more effective whenever the Losers would together on screen and Pennywise feels more of a threat when watching Skarsgard’s physical presence compared to being manifested in CGI. The ensemble here are the main highlight, Skarsgard of course, as well as Bill Hader and James Ransone. 7/10