The first part of this adaptation of It was a very pleasant surprise. Whilst I hadn’t read the book or seen the original miniseries, I knew it by reputation and I didn’t have the highest hopes for the film. However, it ended up being a very effective horror film, buoyed by a strong young cast and a brilliantly creepy performance from Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise. As a result, I was excited for the sequel and seeing how the story would conclude. However, whilst I did think this was a pretty good film, it wasn’t as good as the first one.
Taking place 27 years after the first film, the film starts with Mike, the only member of the Losers to remain in Derry, calling back the other Losers (Bill, Bev, Richie, Eddie, Ben and Stan) back to fight It (who I will be calling Pennywise for then rest of the review) who has returned after being defeated by them in the first film. Whilst Stan killed himself rather than face Pennywise again, the other Losers return, finding that they barely remember their time growing up in Derry. In order to defeat Pennywise for real, Mike tells the Losers that they need to recover their memories and gain artefacts from their youth, in order to start a ritual to seal Pennywise away. However, Pennywise is still after the Losers and is trying to stop them from completing the ritual. Now the film does a good job at carrying over the story from the first film and there are interesting ideas brought up in relation to the nature of memory and how people can block out unpleasant memories which, by extension, blocks out pleasant ones. This thematic core of the film I thought was a strong way to allow the older cast to embody the spirits of the younger cast and showing a natural growth of the characters. However, I did still have some problems with the film, mainly in relation to the pacing. The film is nearly 3 hours long and there are points where the film drags a bit. There’s also the issue I had in that we don’t really know much about the lives of the Losers after they left Derry, which I felt would have given the film more stakes for when they return. In particular, it feels like there are elements set up for Bill and Bev with their partners that could have been explored more but couldn’t be to pay off the love triangle set up in the first film (which I found to be the weakest element of the first film).
The cast meanwhile are pretty solid for the most part. Jessica Chastain as Bev does a good job at showing her lingering trauma over the abuse she suffered and her growing courage over the film whilst James McAvoy as Bill is solid at showing his guilt over the death of Georgie and his desire to stop Pennywise before more children are killed. Isaiah Mustafa as Mike does a good job showing how he still remembers the events of the first film and how broken those memories have left him and his desire to do anything to stop Pennywise, although the lack of character development for Mike in the first film does harm the character here, whilst James Ransone as Eddie shows the hypochondriac tendencies of the character well, along with his growing self confidence over the course of the film. Jay Ryan as Ben meanwhile, whilst working well with Chastain, I found to be pretty bland and I doubt I’ll remember much about his character in the future, and Andy Bean as Stan makes a solid impression in his brief appearance. The MVP of the Losers, and the film in general, is Bill Hader as Richie. Now I knew the character would be funny because of the excellent comic timing Hader has but Hader also brings a great sense of pathos and pain to the character, especially at the end of the film, and Hader makes the character so much more compelling here than in the first one. An issue I had with the film though is the chemistry between the older Losers. Whilst it is there, it isn’t anywhere near as strong as the chemistry for the younger Losers, which is highlighted by the flashback scenes with the younger cast, who bounce off each other with so much more ease than the older cast and I just kept wanting to see the younger cast again. Outside of the Losers, Bill Skarsgard is still creepy as Pennywise, working well with the make-up to have Pennywise be a creepy presence throughout the film, making it clear that Pennywise pervades the whole film, even when he’s not on screen, whilst there are fun little cameos from Peter Bogdanovich and Stephen King which, whilst a bit distracting, I found entertaining, whilst Jess Weixler as Bill’s wife could have been a strong presence, if she was in more than one scene.
On a technical level, the film is a mixed bag. Once again, the production design for Derry is excellent, even if I wish more had been done to indicate the passage of time, creating a strong world for Derry, with the creepier elements of Derry still having the power they have in unsettling the audience. The atmosphere that is created in the film is strong and adds to a sense of unease, aided by the music throughout the film. Where I say the film is a mixed bag is with the CG. Some of it is pretty good, but there are some points where it looked a bit fake to me, especially when it combines with real performers who are working well at using their body language to make their characters creepy, but the CG goes too over the top and distracted me from the film. There are also more in-jokes here, with a reference to The Shining and one moment lifted directly from John Carpenter’s The Thing which, whilst fun, were a bit distracting to me.
Overall, whilst It: Chapter 2 is a good film, it doesn’t have the same impact as the first film. Whilst there are interesting elements in the film and the cast do work well together, whenever the film cut back to the younger cast, I just kept wanting to spend more time with them as they were the ones with the more interesting characters and dynamics. Whilst some characters like Richie and Mike are given more development here, which works especially well with Richie, I overall found the character dynamics and writing lacking compared to the first film.
My Rating: 3/5