Sequels are a tricky thing to figure out. Often bigger isn’t always better. Often the sequel is devoid of something specific that made the first so special, a soul, a heart. The best you can usually hope for, realistically, is what we have here with IT: Chapter Two. To be fair to everyone who made the second chapter, the first possessed a lot of intangibles that simply happened because lightning was caught in a bottle so to speak. Not only to repeat the same quality of content but to improve upon it in every way simply isn’t realistic. This is unfortunately one of those situations when the hype machine wasn’t doing anyone any favors whatsoever. There was no way Chapter Two could live up to our hopes and expectations, but we hoped anyway.
Let me clarify and put to bed any worries for those who are actually reading this before they see the movie, it isn’t by any means bad, it’s simply not as good as the first. One thing I feared for the sequel is something that kind of came to fruition; the nostalgia or in this case lack thereof. Something about the camaraderie of the kids, the way they spoke to one another, the magic of cinema in that era, it all came together like one giant reminder of what made the 80’s such a memorable decade in the world of pop culture. Nostalgia is easy I admit but I also can’t deny I get wrapped up in it just like everyone else and Chapter One played into it perfectly. Without ever feeling heavy handed or over-the-top it showed what was and let us take ourselves back to our own memories making the first film something relatable, nevermind the horror of a murderous, ancient, shapeshifting clown.
I could see myself in this group of friends, I could see people I grew up with in this group which made it something personal and thus upped the tension levels as I truly feared for these characters. The second just can’t find the same kind of spark between its cast. Aside from lacking a true spark like Chapter One, the performances of the cast leaves something to be desired with the exception of Bill Hader who absolutely sticks the landing. He is brilliant as the grown up Richie Tozier. The rest of the cast isn’t deplorable, more like they kind of phoned in everything. James McAvoy was particularly off-putting simply because he’s usually the best part of any movie he’s in. Again, he isn’t bad per say, he’s kind of just there. I never fully bought into their fear and maybe that isn’t so much their fault as it is the use of Pennywise this time around.
Chapter One created a feeling of unease at every turn. Even in the tender moments you just knew that fucking clown was out there somewhere, lingering, plotting. I never felt his presence this time quite like the first. He wasn’t as ominous or intimidating. He’s still a formidable foe without question but his stature isn’t what it once was. I feel as if these issues are dominoes, each affecting the quality of the thing next to it and so on. What I mean is if I can’t care about the grown up versions of these characters like I did their younger selves, how scary can Pennywise truly be? I can’t place myself in their shoes like I once did and so that tension caused by incessant worry for their well-being is not there unfortunately. And all of these aspects are undoubtedly affected by some other issues I have with Chapter Two.
Particularly the editing and its lack of flow causes numerous issues involving character and pacing. Each scene precedes the next without a competent flow to any of it. Every moment happens and then the next thing happens without a kind of cohesion that blends everything into a moment in time, rather it’s seperate things happening under the same banner of Chapter Two. It’s the same movie because we’re told so, through characters and plot. It’s in the details that carry moment to moment that becomes messy. It didn’t always feel necessary and therefore created a limp in the overall stride of the film.
One domino fell into the next; messy editing into character issues into a lack of scariness. I compare the film to dominoes because if it were a house of cards it would have fallen into complete disarray. Remember, not bad, just not as good. And much like McAvoy’s Bill making his living as a fiction writer struggling to make a viable ending to his stories, the finale is a bit too reminiscent of the first but without any real sense of danger. It’s fine, it works, it’s not enough to bring down everything that works but at nearly three hours runtime a better closing would have been nice. Speaking of three hours, its greatest strength is managing a fast enough pace to keep everything from becoming completely stagnant. It definitely moves fast and with purpose. As I type this though I wonder how much I would actually like this movie had I never seen the first chapter. Not so much with the story or characters but the nostalgia of the first is referenced and showcased often in this new chapter and I wonder if this would work as well without the crutch of the first holding it all up. Almost as if to say, “Remember when this happened in the first one?! That was neat huh?” That happens a lot in Chapter Two.
All weaknesses aside Chapter Two still manages many moments of visceral scares. The cast is able to bring back some of the magic of the Losers making their relationships believable enough. The hopelessness of Derry, Maine is still every bit as present in modern day. The off-the-wall scenes of bizarre fucked up-ness that only Stephen King can provide are still brimming at every moment it’s all allowed to unleash itself upon this poor little town. Overall, IT: Chapter Two works for the most part, it just can’t quite capture that magic that made its predecessor something truly memorable. It’s good enough to wrap things up, we just wanted something better than sufficient.
Rated R For: disturbing violent content and bloody images throughout, pervasive language, and some crude sexual material
Runtime: 169 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Starring: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Bill Skarsgård, Isiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean
Directed By: Andy Muschietti
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4/ Acting: 3.5/ Directing: 3.5/ Visuals: 4.5
OVERALL: 3.5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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