What Went Wrong With… It Chapter Two?

A review of It Chapter Two (2019) by What Went Wrong Or Right With...?

Set 27 years after the events of It Chapter One, It Chapter Two finds the members of the Loser’s Club all grown-up. Set in 2016, the group meet once more to defeat Pennywise The Dancing Clown, the personification of kid’s nightmares (or so I thought – more on that later). If you recall the 1990 TV-made version, you’ll remember that it was the second part where It faltered; the adults acted in a soap opera-esque way, it wasn’t as much fun or adventurous as the first, and oh yes, the goddamn giant spider finale. With references to “bad endings” everywhere in this latest adaptation, you’d think that by acknowledging the problems of the ’90s version, the filmmakers would have fixed what was wrong but alas, they haven’t, in fact they’ve made a film that is much worse than its miniseries predecessor.

First let’s run through the cast: James McAvoy plays the older Jaeden Martell (Bill Denbrough), Jessica Chastain plays the older Sophia Lillis (Beverly Marsh), Jay Ryan plays the older Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben Hanscom), Bill Hader plays the older Finn Wolfhard (Richie Tozier), Isiah Mustafa plays the older Chosen Jacobs (Mike Hanlon), James Ransone plays the older Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie Kaspbrak), and Andy Bean plays the older Wyatt Oleff (Stanley Uris). In a Face/Off-type way, those that come before set the characters’ mannerisms in stone and those that come second have to imitate the first. That being the case, I have to say, almost all of these actors do a fine job of “acting” like the children from Chapter One, even though some of them (especially Jessica Chastain) look nothing like their younger self (her only matching characteristic is red hair).

Aside from the performances however, very much like Ma, the actors who play the adults vary in age which is bothersome to say the least. Remember that the Loser’s Club were in the same year at school but they’re now (inexplicably) anywhere between their mid-30s to their mid-40s and the difference is quite noticeable. Andy Bean is the youngest actor at 34 and the oldest is Isiah Mustafa who is 45. Bill Hader is apparently 41 but he looks more like 51. Okay, so there’s a joke about how bad his character looks but still, what the fuck happened in Hader’s life that he looks like that? And why has Henry Bowers turned into a Jim Davidson impersonator?

There’s another problem, also to do with age. Kids grow up pretty fast and the actors from the first movie have aged to the point that they no longer look like Middle School children. So, in the flashback scenes, most of them have been de-aged presumably using Lola, but it’s done quite badly (think the removal of Superman’s beard in Justice League). A talented filmmaker would have composed both scripts at the same time, filmed the younger characters during the first film’s production and then edited that footage into the sequel but no, we now have to contend with smooth, rubbery-looking Ben, Richie, and Eddie.

Bill Skarsgård reprises his role of Pennywise, but once again there’s too much reliance on CGI rather than acting abilities. For me, Skarsgård is not a patch on Tim Curry but he’s a talented actor and he puts his own stamp on the “scary” clown (making him too cute for my liking). Oddly, there’s not much of Pennywise in this movie but even when he does appear, he’s so CGI’d that Bill’s performance is almost unneeded.

This sequel-slash-follow-up is once again directed by Andy Muschietti (Mama) and once again it’s not scary… at all. I didn’t find the first film to be that much of a horror but this is on a whole new (lower) level. There’s parts of this movie which shows that Andy has, at the very least, watched decent horror flicks but he’s so inept at film-making that he can’t translate what he’s learnt. Aside from the Stanley-spider-head (which looks very much like John Carpenter’s The Thing), the scene where the skateboard rolls down the hotel stairs is trying ever-so hard to be The Changeling, but unlike the classic it tries to reference, there’s absolutely zero mood created here. And remember the old woman (Mrs. Kersh) who lived at the Marsh residence in the 1990 version? That was one of the scenes that actually came across as eerie. In this latest film adaptation however, Mrs. Kersh does some kind of jig in the background (at which point lots of the cinema audience members burst out laughing). Then, Kersh transforms into a very fake-looking CGI giant that resembles Gollum from The Lord Of The Rings; not frightening at all (just like the huge Paul Bunyan statue that also features in the film). And whilst on the topic of Muschietti-related issues, why play “Angel Of The Morning” during the leper-vomiting scene? Is this supposed to be a horror or a comedy because it sucks either way?

The biggest problem with It Chapter Two is that almost the entire film is constructed like this: a 2016 scene… a 1989 flashback, a 2016 scene… a 1989 flashback, a 2016 scene… a 1989 flashback …on loop for more than two hours. This formulaic yet completely tedious method of storytelling is the main reason I was so bored. At around the half-way mark I found myself yawning almost every 15 minutes or so. When the film ended there were so many audience members that immediately rushed to the exit that I thought there was a fire in the theatre.

As I pointed out in my review of It Chapter One, I haven’t read the Stephen King book so I’m not sure how faithfully this story has been retold and who is to blame for the various problems with the storyline and structure:

  • The backstory to Pennywise which shows us that he’s basically a million-year-old alien demon from outer space is firmly in ’50s B-Movie territory and also a huge let-down after watching Chapter One.
  • I assume that the gay-bashing scene during the opening has been added to this movie to fit into Hollywood’s sudden rush for fake-wokeness, because alongside this kind of minority-update, why did all of the Loser’s Club become relative hotshots but the black kid (who had crack-head, “druggie parents” no less) become a homeless librarian? Or is Stephen King one of those liberal racists?
  • And why add the “asking for handouts” comment when Mrs. Kersh speaks about today’s immigrants? Was that in the book? Regardless, isn’t Kersh a form of “It” – you know, the meteor-riding, three dead-light being that is apparently the “eater of worlds”? So why is he, she, or it a bigot?

These type of issues would be overlooked had the film been told in a succinct and atmospheric way. At 169 minutes long, the run-time almost reaches the entire length of the 1990 mini-series. But then again, even if this crap was edited down, would the plodding pace and dull and predictable plot come across any better? I doubt It.

It Chapter Two is an overly-long, unstimulating, cinematic bore. There’s some decent actors, the source material is apparently decent enough but Gary Dauberman (who’s been ruining the Conjuring Universe for the last five years) and Andy Muschietti (who’s been making disappointing horror movies for the past 11 years) have collectively made something so unsatisfactory that I want to immediately watch the 29 year-old miniseries. Even with its stupid spider thingumabob, that was the better film, especially now that we have the complete Muschietti version to compare it to. It Chapter One was a very overrated movie; it wasn’t very frightening but it was entertaining. This on the other hand…

Ain’t It.

Writing: 2/10

Directing: 2/10

Acting: 4/10

Overall: 3/10

9 replies »

  1. I was not surprised to see that you were one of the people that didn’t like IT Chapter Two. This movie has been getting way more negative reviews than the previous IT ever got.

  2. The “gay-bashing” scene is straight from the book almost to the letter — which was written in the mid-80’s. Definitely not an attempt to be more “woke”. On your other point about Mike, I’m not a fan of what they did to him in the movie. In the book, he’s much more grounded.

    • No mention of immigrants in the book version of the scene. Although, in the book there are other elements at play in that scene that were never referenced in either film adaptation (which I won’t spoil). The added immigrant reference feels very much at home in the reality of IT, though. Off-kilter statements like that give a clue that something might be amiss. And are just more evidence of the corrupted foundations of the town of Derry. It didn’t feel forced to me. I urge to read the book without reservation. It’s King’s finest work and is such a deep, sprawling masterwork that no cinematic representation could ever hope to match it — even with today’s cinematic advancements. For my money Muschetti’s version comes way closer than the terribly-acted miniseries but it’s not without it’s problems. It’s completely botches the ending and their final confrontation with IT. Just as badly as the mini, IMO. Someday, someone will get it right. Currently Muschietti is trying to get a 5-hour “supercut” together that will properly intertwine the past and present narratives like it’s presented in the novel. Maybe he’ll fix the ending, too.

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