Your favorite flesh-eating clown is back! After 27 years of hibernation, Pennywise terrorizes the town of Derry once more and it is up to the adult-version of the Losers Club to stop him. It Chapter Two does everything the first chapter did right, but I think I liked the kids more.
The first film was funny, frightening, and had a great ensemble of child actors; the second film is funny, frightening, and has a great ensemble of experienced actors. The 2h 50m runtime may seem daunting, but for those who sat through the slog that was Avengers: Endgame, you should be fine; It Chapter Two is an entertaining and intense rollercoaster ride that will wear you down. The visual effects seem to have improved, and the film is just as efficient at taking your breath away as the first. Having not seen the TV series or read the novel, I did not know what to expect heading into the second chapter, except Pennywise is more than just a scary clown. On that matter, I’ve heard the film is relatively faithful to Stephen King’s novel, but as someone with a fresh perspective, where loyalty to source material is unimportant, I found the film to be a mixed bag of surprises and things I saw coming.
Where It Chapter Two is weaker in comparison to its predecessor, is in the dynamic of camaraderie and friendship among the Loser’s Club; I can’t believe I’m saying it, but I will repeat myself, I thought the kids did better. In the second chapter, the casting to represent the adult-version of the Losers Club is done to perfection. James McAvoy fills in as the lead man, Bill, quite well while Jessica Chastain attests her talents as Beverly. Bill Hader steals the show as Richie; he is both hilarious and excels in the most complex performance of the film, having to maintain his joking manner while also showing fear and dealing with seriously difficult intrapersonal drama. However, despite the strong casting and acting, the chemistry between the Losers Club was more natural between the kids as they did not feel like Hollywood actors working together on set, they felt as if they were friends in real life. Chapter Two does not allow for as many moments for the grown-ups to connect. Beyond an early dinner scene at a Chinese restaurant, the group quickly focuses their attention on defeating Pennywise, which splits them up for a large section of the runtime; it isn’t until they regroup to finally take on Pennywise in the third act that we see the bond of the Loser’s Club back at its best, and even then, the final act is almost a replay of Chapter One’s final act, just bigger this time (and not quite as satisfying).
My other gripe with the film is it suffers from showing the monster, Pennywise, too much. Jaws taught us moviegoers that the scariest sight a film can produce isn’t on the big screen, but in your imagination. To maximize how terrifying your monster is, whether it be a clown, shark, or guy in a hockey mask, you want to put them in as little light as possible and let the audience’s imagination do the work for you. In It Chapter Two, Bill Skarsgard once again flourishes in the role of Pennywise, he savors every drooling moment he gets. And when he is at his best, he is primarily hidden, whether that be in the sewer or under the bleachers. There is one shot where he catches a lightning bug with his gloved hands, brings them back into the dark, and then lets the light of the bug reveal his face in a dim, yellow glow (you might’ve seen it in the trailer). This is super effective and one of my favorite shots in the film, and it begins one of the tensest sequences. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of these moments, and sometimes we even see Pennywise in broad daylight; he still looks creepy, but some of the mystique is lost.
I believe some critics are being too harsh in their judgement of the film, as It Chapter Two is fine popcorn-cinema and does the series justice by firmly concluding it. It just doesn’t float higher than the first. 8/10