There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.
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 most of them have moved on from Derry, Maine. Yet, strangely, as they have left the town, their memory of their time in Derry 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 even hazier, and their memories of the monstrous clown 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 he has spent the better part of his adult life studying Pennywise in the hopes of finding a way to stop it for good. When Mike hears the news of a dismembered corpse in town, he knows it could only mean one thing. However, he knows he cannot stop Pennywise alone, so calls the other members of the Loser’s Club, asking them to fulfill the promise they made when they were children. They do not remember making said promise, but when they are told Pennywise has returned, 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 killer clown for good.
The Pros & Cons
|The Pros||The Cons|
The Cast (+6pts)
Close Calls (-4pts)
The Horror (+8pts)
The Flashbacks (-2pts)
The Ending (-3pts)
Pro: The Cast (+6pts)
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 each have a shocking resemblance to their kid counterparts, but the adult actors brought great performances to this movie. Isaiah Mustafa, James Ransone, and Jay Ryan—who played Mike, Eddie, and Ben respectively—each brought great performances that fit their characters well and got me invested in their characters' stories. Yet as great as those three actors were, the notable standouts were James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, and of course Bill Skarsgard, but I will comment on Bill Skarsgard later, as his performance as Pennywise was deserving of its own section in this review.
First there was James McAvoy, who brought a ton of depth and guilt to his portrayal of Bill, and he was always compelling to watch whenever he was on screen. There was also Jessica Chastain, who 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, who had been traumatized like the rest, but he turned to a career in comedy to cope with the darkness within him. The character was very funny, but there was clearly a lot of darkness under the surface and Bill Hader portrayed this masterfully. It was interesting to see these three characters’ stories, as they were people who felt a great darkness, even though they did not remember the past that gave them that darkness. This made them interesting characters on paper, and James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, and Bill Hader brought them to the screen in a compelling way.
Con: Close Calls (-4pts)
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, was just lazy filmmaking, and it left the audience thinking Pennywise did not really want to kill these characters at all. I get that Pennywise saw 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. I just did not understand why he needed to scare them so much—other than for the filmmakers 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 he kept letting the members of the Loser’s Club escape, even though he wanted revenge.
Pro: The Horror (+8pts)
As fans of horror, we are hoping to be scared by these movies, which means we are less likely to be scared, because we are waiting for it to happen. When I say this movie had good horror, I do not mean I was checking under my car when I left the theater. I also do not mean I had trouble sleeping, because I was still freaked out. I simply mean that the horror in this movie was pretty intense while it was happening, and it kept me on the edge of my seat in anticipation. It Chapter Two had plenty of intense horror, I cared about the characters, and Pennywise provided 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.
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 got 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 kid versions of the characters. The filmmakers kept cutting back and forth between the characters as adult and the same characters as kids. When we were following a kid version of one of the main characters, we knew Pennywise would not seriously harm them, because we had just seen them as adults, so we knew they would be okay during the kid scenes.
Pro: Pennywise (+8pts)
Pennywise had the ability to shape-shift. This contributed to the character’s unpredictability, and it kept the horror feeling fresh, as the audience got an assortment of different monsters—at least visually. While the character’s ability provided a lot of unique scenarios, it was the character’s personality that makes him so captivating. At times, the character acted like a child. At other times, the character was a ferocious, man-eating monster with an insatiable appetite. Regardless of which version was on screen at any given time, Pennywise was very clearly having fun through it all.
There is no doubt about it, Bill Skarsgard did an absolutely incredible job playing Pennywise. He mastered this role, because he really effectively balanced the character’s innocence with its madness. He also balanced the character’s desire for fun with its sadistic hunger. This varying attitude made Pennywise an unpredictable character, and Bill Skarsgard had the talent and charisma to make Pennywise the captivating enigma that these two movies needed him to be.
Con: The Ending (-3pts)
I found it a little funny that I did not like the ending of a movie in which the main character, Bill—an author—was consistently criticized for writing bad endings. Although to be more specific, I did not like the ending of the movie's climax. During their final fight with Pennywise, the members of the Loser's Club had 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 he did not do that because that would have ended the movie too soon.
Rather than write this scene in a way that made sense, 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 it would not have been so worried about how the group tasted—as it had been in all of its encounters with the group leading up to that point. Pennywise was, in a sense, fighting for its life and it did not make sense for the character to refrain from killing them anymore. Did 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 plenty of moments in which it felt like Pennywise was holding back just for the sake of keeping the movie going.
Grade: B+ (88pts)
It Chapter Two was a strong follow-up to the last movie. Bill Skarsgard was back in the role of Pennywise, and he was as captivating as he was in the last movie. Pennywise is such a great horror monster, and Bill Skarsgard mastered the role. The movie was not perfect, however. There were a ton of close calls, which somewhat made sense if you are familiar with the book, but it just feels like lazy writing for the filmmakers to not really explain it in the movie. The flashbacks did not seem to have any stakes, because we knew the kids would make it to adulthood, and the ending could have been executed better.
As I have already mentioned, Bill Skarsgard was outstanding in the role of Pennywise, and that really cannot be understated. Additionally, this movie brought a stacked cast to plays 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. I also liked Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, and James Ransone, who each delivered strong, interesting, and entertaining performances. This movie had a lot of intense and unique horror that I—a fan Stephen King and the genre—thoroughly enjoyed.