SPOILER FREE OPENING: To elaborate, what a disappointing mess. I am a King fan, having read 64 of his books, including IT four times (the last time, just this month). Like the 2017 film, I went in not wanting a faithful adaptation of King’s book but a good movie. Please, people, understand that it’s MORE IMPORTANT for a film adaptation be a good movie than to be exactly like the book, to get every detail right. Want to alter the timeline, setting, a character’s race, age, noserings? Go for it. Just make a good movie.
Slavishly sticking to the book makes for tedious films. Kenneth Branagh did a full text film of Hamlet and it’s a overlong disaster. The Mel Gibson or even Ethan Hawke versions were better movies, and the latter one had Bill Murray in it. Yeah.
I wanted IT: CHAPTER TWO to be the best movie possible. It’s not the worst movie possible, but it sure is a muddled mess. About half is crap; cut that out, you get a good ninety-minute movie. Most criticisms will focus on how the movie is epic length but the real problem is tone. A three hour film can’t sustain a single tone, and horror films need to have their quiet, their mythological rules, their tension, and characters we don’t want to see get mauled and die. Horror may be the last genre where modern audiences will tolerate a slow, quiet, deliberate pace (to build mood and atmosphere).
This movie doesn’t do any of that. SPOILERS HERE ON OUT.
The characters are a mixed bag. The rules, if any, aren’t adhered to or even stated. (Does Pennywise want to eat only kids? Why did he call the grown ups back? How come he never once tries to kill these people? Seriously, he just fucks with them. Like, they beat you once already, dude. Kill them the second you have the chance!)
IT doesn’t do the slow quiet thing. It might seem like it does when it’s Horror Scene Time, but every other scene (and there’s lots) is shortish and noisy. Lots of noise. Lots of talking. Many, many scenes where the camera is still (good), the frame is handsome and uncluttered (also good), but the dialogue never stops, the soundtrack builds to predictable crescendos, the editing is done to a pulse beat, here comes the scary score, so the Spooky Clown will jump out in 3, 2, 1 …
Every time. I wasn’t startled once.
“But Pennywise kills a little girl and a little boy!” Presumably. We don’t see it. We don’t see the visceral gore of the kill. We see gory apparitions that Pennywise conjures up, young Stan’s head as a spider and so on, but we know that’s illusory. It needs to happen to the characters, and we need to see it.
More importantly, we need to see the aftermath. That’s what sells the horror — its impact on the world of the movie. Where’s the shots of shocked parents discovering the dismembered corpses of their children, mom falling to her knees, crying? Shots of the cops wiping brows and looking frustrated?
Director Some Guy built those kid victim characters up right (particularly the girl with her facial scar) and the child actors are good — this director can get the best out of children. They played the scenes straight, without awkward comedy (see below). We see Pennywise lunge, big swell of noise, then an indistinct fissure of blood spray and the scene ends with black. We never hear about them again.
You want to scare audiences? You SHOW THE HORROR. You SHOW THE REACTIONS of the survivors. Kudos for the director keeping the intro homophobic murder sequence — its gratuitous and un-PC and (for this film) unnecessary plot-wise but it establishes a tone that this movie WILL GO THERE, it will shock and horrify you. We see Adrian Mellon’s boyfriend fall to his knees and cry. This is a terrible tragedy, perpetrated by normal people acting like monsters … until the REAL monster shows up at the end. It’s an effective way to open your scary movie.
There’s nothing with such serious punch in the rest of IT: CHAPTER TWO.
The town of Derry feels empty half the time. Not one person works in that hotel? Not one reaction by a maid to all the guests cursing and so on? The Losers trash the private room at a swank Chinese restaurant and the cops aren’t called? Where the hell ARE the cops in this movie?! The audience NEEDS this information in the background, this feeling that what’s happening is real. I’ve never made myself a drink at a hotel bar. That’s not real.
Most of that subtle but vital detail comes from simple reaction shots from survivors and bystanders. We don’t any of that. Four guys murder a gay man and there’s a carnival in the background but no one hears it? We don’t even get a reaction shot of Stan’s wife opening the bathroom door to find her husband dead in the bathtub. Stan is one of the seven main characters. We NEED to see his death had immediate impact on the world. That’s a criminal omission in any movie, much less an IT movie.
Instead, we got an infinite series of horror vignettes with one adult and/or kid character versus some spooky and/or reused setting. All of these moments have awkward humor, always the joke to shatter any tension. When the jokes fail — they often do — it pulled me out of the movie completely.
Locked up father-murderer insane guy Henry Bowers stabs Eddie in the face. IN THE FACE. And Eddie makes a mullet joke. Bev visits her old house. The creepy elderly woman dances naked through a doorway. What? Is this the gag reel? Oh it’s the movie.
Richie jokes that he hopes IT comes back as a dog, a Pomeranian. That does happen but the dog turns into a monster after ten seconds just like you’d expect. I feel like that gag was only funny cuz it was set up and paid off (y’know, like jokes are s’posta be). It could’ve been a real Horror Movie Moment though. In a NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET movie, the dog would’ve acted friendly, lured them away. Something tense and unexpected would’ve happened. Nope, in a Spooky Scene edited in perfect 4/4 time, the IT dog turns into a monster on cue, swell of music, RHEE RHEE RHEE.
If there’s one thing an epic-length horror movie DOESN’T need, it’s dread and tension, right? Guess I should be happy the Pomeranian didn’t piss on Richie’s leg.
This movie also didn’t need the word “fuck” said 200 times. “Look who the fuck it is!” = “Oh I was just getting the fuck outta here, how the fuck are ya?” = “I’m fuckin’ great, I fucked your mom!” = “You fuckin’ fuck!” = “Oh my fucking God, what the fuck is going on with the fuckin’ fortune cookies?!”
I am no prude, and my novel has its share of profanity, but this felt desperate. Your horror movie has no direct gore, virtually no nudity, but tons of “fuck” and “faggot” lines. Was is this, a David Mamet play? Is Some Guy trying to make a Tarantino horror? Nah, if those things happened the jokes woulda landed.
It’s fine that characters curse but whole scenes play out where “fuck” is in EVERY LINE … and it’s only our heroes in the hotel bar talking. Not panicking and running away. Just talking. “Fuck fuck fuck.” That bored me to where I stopped caring about the characters. If these lines were improvised, then boo to the director not pulling the actors back a bit.
I won’t blame the actors, though. They all tried. They didn’t all succeed, but they did their best. Still, I hated adult Eddie. It never felt like a character, more like an actor doing an impersonation of the kid from the first film. The endless running time made Eddie’s skittish “fuck fuck fuck” lines grating. I couldn’t wait for him to die. The director didn’t help him by having that pop song play for one second over the black tar vomit scene. Seriously … why did no one kill that in editing? It’s like a YouTube parody clip made it into the final cut as a prank.
James McAvoy is not Bill Denbrough, the leader from the first movie. Adult Bill constantly runs off to have his scenes and does no leading. I never saw McAvoy as Bill, just saw a Scot doing a good Yank accent. When Bill does have a scene with another Loser, it’s often Mike, whose adult actor looks a lot like the laconic kid version but acts way different: manic, stumbling over words, unsure and insecure. Bill is supposed to stutter but Mike gags on words in his chittery delivery the whole film, and I wanted both characters to shut up.
I love Mike in the book. He’s my favorite character. What a shame.
I don’t watch TV and have little prior experience with Bill Hader. He’s fine as adult Richie. There’s subtle shades that he’s repressed his sexuality. He’s sarcastic and maladjusted. Hader is fine and shows his character growing a bit. None of the others do. I know, right? Talk about the most “shocking” thing in this horror movie.
Adult Ben is boring as shit and has no character moments, though he does look like the kid actor around the eyes. The script needed more for Ben to work off. Young Ben got bullied at school, can’t impress the girl, and gets called fat by the spooky clown — the kid actor has LOTS to work with and does great.
Jessica Chastain fares best as adult Bev, with plently of conflict to work with. She gives a fine performance, a great companion to the excellent turn by Sophia Lillis as young Bev in the first movie. Oh, in CHAPTER TWO, adult Bev can see how people die. At least, in the first act she can. Then it’s never mentioned again.
That happens a fair bit. Like, we met Bev’s abusive husband and Bill’s actress wife. They vanish and had no impact beyond the bruises seen fleetingly on Chastain’s arms. Again: many short, noisy scenes. No consistent tone or mood.
Adult Mike is unhinged, an attic-dweller obsessed with the past and the lore, like Gandalf if he was written as a Mary Sue by some teenager. Mike is the story’s Obvious Catalyst for Plot Points. The Losers need to reunite so Mike does it. The Losers don’t know where to go so Mike tells them. The Losers don’t get the significance of something so Mike explains it. The Losers aren’t sure what to do but Mike doesn’t either; this reveals his insecurity and they all wanna break up at the end of Act 1. It’s insanely forced.
Richie spends the whole movie saying, “I’m getting the fuck outta here.” Please. There’s the door. If he did it for laughs — something Richie Tozier would do! — then maybe …
As in Chapter One, Pennywise is the spooky clown. Bill Skarsgard did it his own way, and that’s aight. They fucked with the performance this time by constantly CGI-warping his face, giving him one lazy eye or making his eyes slope down to one side … all unneeded distractions from a decent and haunted acting job. Fellas, do what they do in Andy Serkis stuff — change the body and movement but LEAVE THE FACIAL PERFOMANCE ALONE. That’s what sells the character — the actor’s eyes, mouth, face. A lazy eye pulls us away from Skarsgard’s work.
“Yeah but it’s about the scares Morlock, shut up with your overthinking!” What scares? Where? Dark corner, character walks near it, says “fuck” a couple times, music swells, oh it’s the fake out jump scare. Two beats. MUSIC BLAST. Real jump scare: CGI thing flies out, shrieking and metal noises. Character screams “fuck,” runs away. Pennywise says a line. Character makes a joke. Scene ends.
Sigh. I was more scared during CAPTAIN MARVEL. When CHAPTER TWO went there and did that head-spider “homage” to 1982’s THE THING, I was scared there’d be more ripoffs of much better horror films ahead.
The kids are back for flashbacks, though they did some obvious de-aging. Again, young Mike Hanlon does nothing. The Stranger Things kid gets laugh lines that adult Richie would kill for. These were all shot for this film except for a recycled deleted scene from the first one when Stan gets brave at his bar mitzvah and gives an empassioned speech. This was a great acting moment for that actor (Wyatt Oleff) and a good character piece for young Stan, showing he does have SOME courage.
They ruin it, of course, at the end. Adult Stan gets the call to come back to Maine and kills himself. He can’t face IT again. The other Losers should lament his loss and wonder why he couldn’t summon his prior bravery. Ah, but in this movie, after getting the call, Adult Stan sits down and writes six letters to tell each Loser why he’s about to kill himself. This means Stan is of such clarity of mind that he has ideated his own suicide and won’t re-think his decision. That’s not the spur of the moment suicide the scene called for.
This also means Stan’s recalled ALL OF HIS KID MEMORIES, like the names and characterisitics of each Loser, something only Mike was able to do since he never left Derry. Then Stan left the letters for his wife (soon widow) to mail, assuming she would come up with the addresses and put return labels and stamps on them … she didn’t contact Mike or he would’ve said, but since they didn’t bother showing HER reaction to the suicide, why would they give as any whiff of her aftermath?
Do you see how goddamn stupid this is? The Losers get their closure moment at the end with their dead friend. The audience — who, remember, paid to see a horror movie — get a groaningly silly schmaltz ending. What utter crap. Remember the running gag that Bill can’t write endings? Even Stephen King in his cameo says it. Talk about trite.
The first film was pretty good. Not great but damn good. The story and setting was laser-focused and sharp, and the kid actors were all stars. I saw it opening night in a packed theater and bought the Bluray on release. I’ll watch it again sometime and enjoy the hell out of it.
I don’t need to see this one ever again. It can fade from my memory and just be a voice down the drainpipe.