A slightly repetitive story structure does not inhibit an entertaining time!
The kids from Derry, Maine, have left the town and grown up to have lives of their own. But Mike, who remained in Derry, contacts them all twenty-seven years after their traumatic experiences, and tells them to come home. The clown Pennywise has returned, and it was time to end it all.
The remake of Stephen King’s novel It, released in 2016, was a colossal hit and proved to be one of the biggest films that year. But that film was only half the story, telling story of how the Losers (Bill, Stan, Ritchie, Mike, Ben, Beverly and Ed) first encountered the monstrous Pennywise, a supernatural clown that feeds off of your fear.
What can be said about the first film, can be said about the sequel. It: Chapter 2 is perhaps one of the most consistent sequels we’ve had in years. We now have the Losers grown up, and played by a host of new actors including James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain and Bill Hader, with of course Bill Skarsgård reprising the role of the immortal Pennywise. The storytelling device of splitting the time frames over two movies is a clever one, as the audience feels stronger bonds of nostalgia along with our characters as they think back to the previous film. Our heroes must remember their childhoods, the good and the bad, if they are going to defeat their fear, and audiences can feel they are right there with the characters.
The cast are often quite impeccable. Bill Hader is fantastic as an older Ritchie (played by Finn Wolfhard originally) while James Ransone as the older Eddie is so perfect the filmmakers deliberate have a scene transition that overlays his face with that of Jack Dylan Grazer. McAvoy does well displaying the characteristics of Bill, although he is perhaps the toughest one to see past the actor.
The film’s personality feels a lot lighter and looser than the previous film. Without the kids at the forefront, we now have jaded, cynical, world-weary adults dealing with the horrors Pennywise summons. The film tackles the concept of “lost childhoods” with both hands; with our characters having to cope with the decisions, shortsightedness, troubles and treasures of youth that they had forgotten. It is truly surprising how meaningful things become with the characters, and how genuine they are by the ending. Despite them all being adults now, the film does not forget the child actors.
The film also looks fantastic. Exactly the same craftsmanship that was put into the first film is present here. Colours are vibrant, scenes are dramatically filmed and frequently transitioned beautifully. A transition regarding a sewer outlet pipe, and a scene with Bill Hader in a park are standouts.
Pennywise is still just as unpredictably bonkers as he was before, which is a real testament to the filmmakers for surprising audiences further. It is so difficult to predict what exactly he is going to do from one scene to the next. Bill Skarsgård is wonderfully warped, like a demonic version of Joker from DC Comics.
Of course, the second film owes quite a bit to the first; certainly the first entry is the stronger and more consist story. Here we have a screenplay straddling both the “present” as well as the “past”. Our characters must face their pasts alone (a slight contrivance to get the adults alone, but has merit) and as such, we have scenes set in the past too. The second act is perhaps the weakest with highs and lows. Jessica Chastain’s Beverly being haunted by a little old lady who strips naked and then scuttles about the house? Uh… okay?
The film was also a little heavy on the CGI. While the first film certainly had its share of CG, there was an overdose of it here for when scares were required. The finale is an exception, if you know what is involved.
The only other gripe present, would be how it plays double duty as a sequel and a standalone experience. The first act feels a little laboured by establishing story elements audiences would remember… mostly with that tried and tired excuse: amnesia.
Overall, it was a good time. If you are a fan of the first part, you should be quite satisfied with this entry. The film’s strengths are certainly how it is filmed, as well as the performances and how they tether wonderfully with the child actors’ performances. Even if there are moments that feel redundant, there are surprising times when the film’s characters are compelling, and their struggles feel real.