Movie Review: “It Chapter Two”
It Chapter Two
It has been 27 years since they defeated Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), and The Loser’s Club have since gone their separate ways. They have grown up and moved on from Derry, Maine. Yet, strangely, as they have left the town, their memory of it has become more and more hazy. Their memories of their respective childhoods are hazy, their memories of their friendship with the other members of The Loser's Club is hazier, and their memories of the monstrous clown and how he tormented them has all but vanished. As children, they made an oath that, should Pennywise return someday, they will all come back to Derry to stop him. Unfortunately, they do not recall making that promise.
One member of their group, Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), stayed in Derry and has spent the better part of his adult life studying Pennywise in the hopes of finding a way to stop it for good, should it return. When Mike hears the news of a dismembered corpse in town, he knows it could only mean one thing. He cannot stop Pennywise alone, so calls the other members of the club, asking them to fulfill their promise and return to help defeat the clown once and for all. They do not remember making the promise, but they all experience an overwhelming sense of fear that they cannot otherwise explain. Thus, Bill (James McAvoy), Beverly (Jessica Chastain), Richie (Bill Hader), Ben (Jay Ryan), and Eddie (James Ransone) return to Derry in an attempt to stop the clown for good.
The Pros & Cons
The Cast (+8pts)
Close Calls (-2pts)
The Horror (+8pts)
The Flashbacks (-2pts)
The Ending (-3pts)
Pro: The Cast (+8pts)
The filmmakers really did a fantastic job of casting the adult counterparts for the kids that made up The Loser's Club. Not only did they all have a shocking resemblance to their kid counterpart, but the adult actors brought great performances to this movie. Isaiah Mustafa (who played Mike), James Ransone (who played Eddie), and Jay Ryan (who played Ben) all brought great performances that fit their characters well and got me invested in their characters' stories. Taking nothing away from those three actors, as they really all did a great job, but as great as they were, the notable standouts were James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, and of course Bill Skarsgard.
I will comment on Bill Skarsgard later, as his performance as Pennywise deserves its own section in this review. James McAvoy brought a ton of depth and guilt to his portrayal of Bill and was always compelling to watch. Jessica Chastain played a character with a history of domestic abuse. Her performance of Beverly balanced on the line between fear and strength, which gave the character a complexity that I found to be very interesting. Then there was Bill Hader as Richie. This character, like the rest, has been traumatized but turns to a career in comedy. The character was very funny, but there was clearly a lot of darkness under the surface and Bill Hader portrayed this masterfully.
Con: Close Calls (-2pts)
This was an issue I had with the first movie as well, and I was hoping the filmmakers would fix it or explain in in this movie, but that was not the case. The number of close calls throughout this movie was insane. From being familiar with the book, I understand why Pennywise let the members of The Loser's Club escape so frequently. That being said, I disagree with the idea that viewers of the movie should need to read the book in order to understand something in the movie. To not include the reason for the close calls from the book, and to not offer an alternate explanation, is just lazy filmmaking.
I get that Pennywise sees scaring the kids as essentially "seasoning a good cut of meat", but the constant "close calls" made it seem like Pennywise was going for a conveniently large amount of "seasoning" for the main characters. I just do not understand why he needed to scare them so much, and do not understand why he was waiting so long before attempting to eat the main characters (other than to keep the story going). It just seemed oddly convenient that Pennywise had no problem eating other people in the town, without much "seasoning" at all, yet the members of The Loser's Club manage to escape so frequently. Nonetheless, this is a minor issue. The reasoning for him wanting to scare before eating makes sense, it just was not clear why he would want to scare some potential victims far more than he wanted to scare others.
Pro: The Horror (+8pts)
When I say that a horror movie is either "scary" or "not scary", I am not referring to whether or not I leave the theater freaked out, nor am I referring to whether or not the movie keeps me up at night. The way I see horror is that if you are a fan of horror, you are (by definition) less likely to be scared. It has nothing to do with how "scary" a movie is, and has everything to do with your enjoyment of horror. As adults, we know these monsters are not real. It is like spicy food. The more you like it, and the more you eat it, you build up a higher tolerance to it. Then as fans of horror, we are hoping to be scared by these movies, which means the movie will not be able to scare us because we are waiting for it to happen.
Instead, when I say a movie is either "scary" or "not scary", I am referring to the intensity of the horror and if the movie is able to keep me on the edge of my seat. It Chapter Two had plenty of intense horror. I cared about the characters, I thought Pennywise was captivating, and Pennywise was able to provide plenty of unique horror scenarios due to his shape-shifting ability. If you liked the horror in the last movie, then you will certainly like the horror here, and there was even more of it this time around. If you are looking for a movie with plenty of intense horror that will have you on the edge of your seat in anticipation, then look no further.
Con: The Flashbacks (-2pts)
For the most part, I enjoyed the flashbacks because they were an excuse to throw some more Pennywise into the movie. We get to see the iconic clown tormenting the kids and we get to see him tormenting the adults. Unfortunately, my issue with these flashbacks was that I never felt concerned for the child counterparts. The filmmakers kept cutting back and forth between the characters’ adult and child versions. As a result, when we were following a child version, we knew Pennywise would not harm them because we had just been following their adult versions, so we knew the kids would always make it out okay. To be honest, this is just me nitpicking. There really was not much that I did not like about It Chapter Two.
Pro: Pennywise (+8pts)
Pennywise has the ability to shape-shift. This contributed to the character’s unpredictability, but also kept the horror feeling fresh, as the audience got an assortment of visually different monsters (even though it was always the same monster). While the character’s ability provides a lot of unique scenarios, it is the character’s personality that makes Pennywise such an effective character. At times, the character acts like a child. At other times, the character is a ferocious, man-eating monster with an insatiable appetite. Yet Pennywise is having fun through it all.
There is no doubt about it, Bill Skarsgard has done an absolutely incredible job playing Pennywise. He has mastered this role, and balances the character’s innocence with its madness. He also balances the character’s desire for fun with its sadistic hunger. This varying attitude and behavior makes Pennywise a truly unpredictable presence and Bill Skarsgard has done such a great job of bringing all of this to the screen. The character is an effective one on the written page, but Bill Skarsgard has made Pennywise a truly fascinating enigma to watch.
Con: The Ending (-3pts)
I found it a little funny that, for movie in which Bill (an author) is regularly criticized for writing bad endings, I did not like the ending of the movie. More specifically, I am referring to the ending of the movie's climax, not the falling action of the movie. During their final fight with Pennywise, the members of The Loser's Club have quite a bit of luck. It felt like Pennywise could have killed them at any time leading up to the climax's final moments, but did not kill them yet because that would end the movie too soon.
Rather than write this scene in a way that made sense, for Pennywise to not have the opportunity to kill them, the filmmakers went in a different direction. There were several times where Pennywise almost killed them, but stopped just shy of doing so. This felt like it did not respect the character. Pennywise was desperate in this scene, so would not have been so worried about how the group tasted, as he had been in all of his encounters with the group leading up to this point. Pennywise was, in a sense, fighting for its life and I did not get the impression that the character would refrain. Does the group defeat Pennywise without any casualties? You will need to see the movie to find out, but despite the characters' final outcomes, there were still a number of moments where it felt like Pennywise was holding back, just for the sake of keeping the movie going.
Grade: A- (92pts)
It Chapter Two was a strong follow-up to the last movie. Bill Skarsgard is back in the role of Pennywise, and is as captivating as he was in the last movie. Pennywise is such a great horror monster, and Bill Skarsgard has mastered the role. The movie was not perfect, however. There were a ton of close calls, which somewhat make sense if you are familiar with the book, but just feels like lazy writing if you are not. The flashback sequences then do not seem to have any stakes, seeing as how we know the kids make it to adulthood, and the ending could have been executed better. Regardless, all of my issues with this movie were minor and, to me, its pros far outweighed its cons.
As I have already mentioned, Bill Skarsgard is outstanding in the role of Pennywise, and that really cannot be understated. Additionally, this movie brings a stacked cast for the adult versions of The Loser’s Club. James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, and Bill Hader all gave great performances that added a lot of compelling depth to their characters. However, do not let that take anything away from Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, and James Ransone who each delivered strong, interesting, and entertaining performances. I do not think it is possible to scare adult horror fans to the extent that it keeps them up at night (by wanting to be scared, you are less likely to be scared). This movie did have a lot of intense and unique horror that fans of the genre, and fans of the previous movie, will eat up (pun very much intended).