Spooktober 2019 – IT Chapter Two

To be completely honest, I went to see IT Chapter Two before the calendar rolled over to Spooktober. But you know what? I’mma count it anyway. We need more spookles on this here website. The more the better, I always say.

I was very excited to go see the first chapter of IT back when it released in 2017. I liked the original TV miniseries version, so I was very eager to see what it would look like with an inflated Hollywood budget. And you know what? I ended up quite liking the new one too! The kids were darn good actors, and I was very impressed with the monster effects. When Pennywise’s lips start to peel back and reveal those rows and rows of teeth? I love that visual. And I’m the kind of person who minimizes his use of the word “love” as much as possible.

The thing that I didn’t know going into that film is that it was only part one of two. I mean, knowing the original story, and that they didn’t show any of the characters as adults in the trailers, one could have inferred as much. But I never heard anything pre-release about a plan for a part two. So it was a happy surprise when the title card came up at the very end of the movie and we got the “Chapter One” reveal. Needless to say, I didn’t waste any time booking my tickets for the sequel.

If you have no idea what these movies are about or need a quick refresher, here’s a very basic plot summary: Children are disappearing in the town of Derry, and seven weirdo kids known as The Losers Club decide to investigate and stop it. The culprit is a clown called Pennywise (also referred to as the titular “It”), who can shapeshift to take advantage of his victim’s greatest fears. The first film ends with the Losers defeating Pennywise, and the second picks up 27 years later when It returns to start snarfing children again.

Let’s get right to business: I didn’t like Chapter Two quite as much as I did the first. That’s not to say there wasn’t a lot to like about it! The lore! The effects! The final battle! Good stuff all around. One thing that really stood out to me, because it’s completely opposite of how these things usually go, is that I didn’t like the adult actors as much as the kids. Normally child actors are pretty bad, but these were some very talented and/or charming teens. It’s not that the adults did a bad job, they just didn’t absolutely kill it like the younger half of the cast. I have to say, though, that there was one particular moment with the grown-up cast, right after the climax, that really got me. I didn’t think that Bill Hader would ever provoke an emotional response from me, but you’d better believe it happened.

I had two fairly significant issues with IT Chapter Two, the first being that it’s about an hour longer than it really needs to be. The film’s run time brushes up against three hours, and there’s really no need for any movie to be that long (Avengers: Endgame, I’m looking at you). I have very complicated feelings about this, because a lot of the bloat is due to the fact that there are so many flashback scenes. Probably a third of the film is flashbacks. On one hand, you could trim a lot of them because they’re largely unnecessary, but on the other hand, they feature the half of the cast that I preferred watching. I can’t win!

There are plenty of other scenes that linger just a little bit longer than they need to, and all those little bits add up. And then there’s the whole second act, where everyone splits up and then each one has a flashback and then an individual encounter with It. This sequence starts to feel redundant pretty quickly, and I don’t think it added anything to deepen the plot or develop the characters. It actually felt a little video gamey, but in a bad way. Like, this was the film equivalent of finding the Triforce pieces in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Bill’s was the only segment that was truly worth a damn because it fully broke him (which is important) and we got to see Pennywise chomp another kid. Every scene where Pennywise eats a kid is gold.

I think it’s important to note that this movie isn’t scary. I never expected it to be, of course, but rest assured that it’s not. Except for the opening scene, which is my second major gripe. It’s terrifying and made me feel sick to my stomach, and it had nothing to do with any supernatural horror elements. To put it bluntly, a bunch of punks beat a man to death for the unforgivable crime of… being gay. Then they chuck him off a bridge and Pennywise eats his heart out. This scene is stupid because it doesn’t fit with the lore (Pennywise is a child killer), it means nothing to the story, and absolutely nothing comes of it. And worst of all, the punks get away with it! I can’t. I just can’t. I hated this scene, and it absolutely didn’t need to be there. There’s one part about halfway through the movie where Pennywise chomps a little girl, and I think that if they’d cut the scene with the punks out and had her get eaten in the opening instead, the entire film would have been better for it.

Anyway, despite my few misgivings, I did generally like IT Chapter Two. It’s a decent movie, but not a life-changer by any means. If nothing else, it’s a lot better than any the Netflix-produced adaptations of Stephen King stories. It isn’t exceptionally deep, and the tone is all over the place (is it horror? adventure? science fiction? kaiju? Who knows!), but I liked following these characters, they play well off each other. Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise is one of my all-time favourite movie monsters, and It’s got a fairly unique and interesting backstory. I had a good time watching all the different creatures that It manifested as, and really, that’s what I was there for.

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