Down to Clown
‘It: Chapter Two’ is a Bit Much
Stephen King’s It dangles a unique value proposition in the horror film world, yet also a dilemma. It’s a story that very much terrified us all when we first read the best-selling novel, and again when it aired on television in its 1990 miniseries adaptation. But there’s simply no way to put it on the big screen and do it justice without splitting it into two parts, both from a thematic standpoint and a matter of sheer volume of content. It also contains some of King’s trademark “unfilmable” ideas.
IT: CHAPTER 2 ★★★ (3/5 stars)
Directed by: Andy Muschietti
Written by: Gary Dauberman and Stephen King (based on the novel by)
Starring: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, and Bill Skarsgard
Running time: 169 min
With these source material realities in mind, faulting director Andy Muscietti’s 2019 attempt at sticking the landing on a new two-part adaptation seems unfair, but the fact remains that It: Chapter Two feels too long. If you were to include the first film’s runtime, you’ll have invested just over five hours—two hours and fifty minutes coming in the back half—into a modern update of a story many already know by heart. Evil clown kills kids. Kids try to kill evil clown. Clown comes back. Kids, now adults, have to do that shit all over again.
While Chapter One did a lot of the groundwork in establishing the premise of a group of social outcast teenagers facing off with an ancient evil in 1989, It: Chapter Two brings us 27 years forward for what’s to be the epic final showdown with the iconic Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Both parts owe a great deal of their successes to the ensemble breathing life into the personalities of the Losers’ Club, and to a faithful imagining of some of the sheer wickedness and brutality King put forth in his novel.
The first chapter edges this one out simply by virtue of its perfect portrayal of foul-mouthed underdog teens in the 80s without sugarcoating it like, say, Stranger Things. This foundation that gives Chapter Two an opportunity to hit the ground running once all the adult members of the Losers’ Club reunite. Their first time all onscreen together taps into some of the magic set forth by Finn Wolfhard and Jack Dylan Grazer. It’s remarkable to see Bill Hader and James Ransone slip into the established roles of Richie Tozier and Eddie Kaspbrak so seamlessly.
Hader owns the screen any time he opens his mouth, while James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain solidly embody adult Bill Denbrough and Beverly Marsh. Bill Skarsgard seems to have more fun with Pennywise this time around. A scene about halfway through the film (so at the four-hour mark) reminded me very much of Tim Curry’s take on the conversation with Georgie even more so than Skarsgard’s own storm drain scene in Chapter One.
From a horror standpoint, It: Chapter Two delivers similarly to the first chapter in terms of jumpscares, monstrous creatures, and different iterations of Pennywise’s form. More importantly, it captures the existential feelings around returning to your hometown and friends, of returning to a past that demands reckoning.
Some of us take too long to face our fears, our secrets, and our aspirations, if we ever even try. This film took two hours and fifty minutes to do it, and it almost put the clown to rest for good.