Movie Review | It Chapter Two
Movie 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. (IMDb)
The first It was very much a horror movie in the style of a roller-coaster, where the scares were thrilling rather than fear-inducing. In other words, it was a 'fun' horror movie that was there to entertain, rather than induce a sense of nauseating dread like Midsommar. I was hoping for at least more of the same from Chapter Two, but that didn't really work out.
The story picks up almost three decades after the first movie finishes and, despite the plentiful flashbacks bringing the child versions of the characters into this movie, this unfortunately causes a sense of disconnect between the two movies. Thanks to the way the story has been split across the movies, the adult characters feel a little too different to associate with the events of It.
This also has the knock-on effect of damaging the story, which doesn't have a particularly 'horror movie' set up: a group of adults return to their home town to vanquish an evil they first defeated as children. It all feels more like an adventure movie than anything else, with the adults feeling far less in danger than their childhood selves.
Chapter Two doesn't really help itself by mirroring the structure of Avengers: Endgame almost exactly, with the group coming back together by the end of act one; they are then sent to retrieve items from different locations in act two; and there's the final, climactic showdown to cap it all off. The reason it doesn't work here is that Endgame was supposed to be an adventure movie and this was supposed to be scary.
This movie also makes the mistake of the second act feeling very repetitive, as the Losers go somewhere important to them, something creepy happens and then there's a jump scare - this happens over and over again, making the final few feel utterly boring because you can safely predict what's going to happen. It was ultimately lacking the variety and long-term payoff that allowed Endgame to sidestep this particular issue.
To continue the Marvel Studios comparison, this movie could've been saved by the characters and how well they work together (like some of the lesser MCU entries) but the group of actors assembled here doesn't really mesh as well as the younger actors in the first movie. None of them are particularly bad, but they never really feel like friends - there's just no chemistry here.
Bill Hader is really the only one of the Losers to stand out, thanks to getting most - if not all - of the funniest lines which feel like natural reactions for his character, Richie, but even his performance is limited by what the plot demands of him. The only other note-worthy performance is Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise, who is entertaining to watch, if lacking in threat thanks to his main targets being the adult Losers, rather than just children.
Chapter Two could've also been saved by the visuals, if they hadn't overdone it with the CGI monsters. There's more than one occasion where practical effects would've made more sense and also provided a sense of physical horror rather than something that obviously can't exist. I think the movie would've still struggled with the finale and It's true form, but would have at least improved the earlier sections.
Speaking of the ending, the movie provides more than a few knowing winks about how hard it can be to write a good ending (a criticism often aimed at Stephen King himself) but this doesn't excuse what ultimately feels like a weak finale that also seems to send a very wrong message about bullying. It's very the final damp fart of a bloated, over-stuffed story.
To be fair, what I know of the source material (which I am still slowly working my way through) would've required the child and adult stories to run alongside each other in the book, and also asked the audience to make one hell of a leap with regards to the type of film the expected to see - Chapter Two comes close enough to tipping into full-blown science-fiction as it is.
The main problem this movie has is the running time. Chapter Two tries to be closer to the book in structure, but doesn't feel like it connects with the first movie as a result of how much gets stuffed in here. I think it would've been better to maybe move further away from the original story and make a better movie that doesn't outstay its welcome.
I criticised Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood for how long it was, but I'd absolutely prefer to watch that movie again over this one. It Chapter Two might not have empty gaps of movie where nothing happens, but there's nothing here that even comes close to approaching how good Once Upon a Time is when something's happening.
In the end, this feels like a very confused movie, wanting to remain as close to the book as possible and stuff in as much as it can, but then stopping short of going quite as far as it should've done. The problem is that the set-up for the adult stuff wasn't really set up in the first movie and means that you can pretty much ignore this movie if you want - you won't be missing out on much at all.
It Chapter Two is more than a disappointment, being overly-long and repetitive rather than scary or thrilling. This is a major step down from the first film and almost retroactively makes it worse because of how lacking in threat Pennywise proves to be. Bills Hader and Skarsgård try their best to elevate proceedings, but it never really comes together at any point.