It: Chapter Two (2019)
Written by Gary Dauberman
Directed by Andy Muschietti
I was never a massive fan of the first film in this duo. It is a decent horror flick, with lots of mystery and some genuinely scary moments, helped by featuring a cast of children, those who believe in horror more easily and are the most vulnerable to it. Right away, I want to say I did not like this sequel and I think it comes down the absence of Cary Fukanaga’s involvement. Fukunaga had initially been set to write and direct It but left the project when it became clear that Warner Bros. didn’t appreciate his creative vision. His script was tossed into the mixer with a new writer’s ideas, and thus we ended up with the 2017 hit. I tracked down a draft of Fukunaga’s original screenplay and read it two years ago and wish we could have that vision of the Stephen King novel on screen.
Chapter Two is a bloated, unscary, tonal mess of a movie. It’s not the worst film in the world, but I definitely have zero desire to ever sit through its almost three hours ever again. I would still rewatch the first installment though. The opening act of Chapter Two is rushed, we quickly meet the adult versions of our characters from the first movie and hurry them back to Derry, Maine to confront the latest return of Pennywise. Then we stumble through flashbacks for the rest of the film to incorporate the child actors.
The flashbacks are the worst part of the movie for several reasons. The first blight you will notice is the horrible CG used on some of the actors’ faces. Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Jeremy Ray Taylor have it the worst with glaringly obvious corrections made to their visages. I assume this was because they’d aged so drastically since the last film. They also have poorly dubbed ADR to make their voices sound younger, as they’d all been ravaged by puberty and have had their voices deepen. The face CG is near Henry Cavill in Justice League levels of bad. It was one of many moments where I was shocked that this picture was released to the public in this current state.
The flashbacks are also used as emotional crutches. We never get any development of the characters as adults. The implications are that they have been stunted as people since childhood? That doesn’t pan out because it’s made abundantly clear that since leaving Derry their memories have faded, so I don’t see how the absence of the trauma in their childhood would leave them mostly the same people. If I didn’t know better I’d think they all moved when they were fourteen but, other than Beverly, the boys stayed put in Derry until they graduated from high school, I guess. So, did they have a falling out in the following years? Did they grow apart subconsciously due to the way seeing each other brought back their trauma? The film never fleshes this out, so the adult versions feel incredibly dull.
Pennywise is incredibly dull and annoying throughout the movie. He never has a single scary scene, and when he shows up the “scare” beat is so telegraphed. Nothing unexpected ever occurs, and the result is that big moments feel lazy. There’s been a lot of critical discussions online about the opening scene where a gay couple gets attacked by Derry locals, presumably being influenced by Pennywise. I think the badness of the film goes beyond that scene though, it’s just the first example of a sloppy script that didn’t have real thought put into it at all. Instead, we get a marathon of plot beats to hit.
Henry Bowers, the bully from the characters’ childhood, is released from a mental asylum by Pennywise and accomplishes literally nothing before being killed. That character could have been cut entirely from this script, and it would have had zero effect on the story. I was very disappointed by this because Bowers was a genuinely terrifying element in the first movie, arguably scarier than Pennywise, in my opinion. He’s a kid who has been abused his whole life, turned into a burgeoning psychopath that has nothing to lose. Bowers should have been a tremendous tragic element to this story, a way to highlight one path trauma can take you down. Instead, he’s utterly meaningless to the narrative of Chapter Two.
The one highlight of the film is Bill Hader as the adult Richie. Hader is the only actor who is given real moments of emotional depth, and he does his best, even the material he’s working with is subpar. His character arc is the most complete, but he still doesn’t feel like a fully realized human, just an adult version of the character in the first movie. Who we were when we’re fourteen should not be who we are at forty, but the script here seems to think so.
Nothing about It: Chapter Two feels like a horror movie. As one review, I saw online summed it up, “This is a gritty reboot of Beetlejuice.” The influence of the entity on the townspeople is absent, save from the opening scene, and there seem to be no repercussions when the finale comes, and the villain is dispatched. If you were to examine this writing from the point of view of mental health, then it seems to be saying, “Trauma is really easy to get over, you guys.” Ultimately this is forgettable at two hours and fifty minutes not worth giving up such a big chunk of your day.