It’s not every day that you’re able to witness a successful remake of a classic property, but 2017’s IT was easily better than the original TV miniseries that wormed its way into the hearts of millions in the 90’s. Unlike that miniseries, IT was actually scary, sporting a solid cast with great chemistry and some standout moments. That being said, nothing stood out more to audiences than Bill Skarsgard’s turn as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. He made Pennywise into a true horror icon overnight and while I will always love Tim Curry’s take, Skarsgard is the stuff of nightmares.
It’s so rare to do horror right, but that’s exactly what IT did two years ago. It made a scary movie that blew up at the box office with an ending that confirmed the story of the Losers wouldn’t be over just yet. Now, almost two years to the day, IT: Chapter Two has come back with a vengeance like Pennywise to terrify audiences anew. The only problem is that IT: Chapter Two is not scary. Like, at all.
IT: Chapter Two
Director: Andy Muschietti
Release Date: September 6, 2019
It’s been 27 years since Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) last stalked the town of Derry, Maine, but he’s back and ready to kill once more. While the Losers have disbanded and went on to their own rich and fulfilling lives, Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) stayed in Derry to prepare in case Pennywise ever returned, becoming a hermit of sorts. When Pennywise begins leaving messages throughout the town, Mike calls the rest of the Losers back to Derry to stand up to Pennywise once and for all and hopefully finally kill It.
One of the most miraculous things about the first film was just how much content was cut in order to fit into the movie. Remember, both movies are based on a 1,100 page mammoth of a novel, and IT was very smart on what to remove and what to keep in. The movie felt like it was exactly as long as it needed to be and kept moving at a brisk and healthy pace.
IT: Chapter Two does not get that same praise. Clocking in at nearly three hours (!!!), this is a movie that just keeps going. And going. And going. And going. To call IT: Chapter Two bloated would be a gross understatement, stuffing as many character moments and scares into its run time as possible. In some instances, it succeeds. In most cases, it dragged more than Return of the King’s ten million endings.
All of the adult Losers, like their child counterparts, are very well cast and feel like natural extensions of their younger selves. Of all of the adult Losers, Bill Hader’s Richie steals the show at every possible moment. Not only does he break the tension wonderfully, usually with great visual gags, but he actually gets a lot more development than his character ever did in the first movie. He becomes the emotional core of the movie and he’ll be the one Loser audiences will be talking about afterwards.
The rest of the cast all do well enough, but don’t have too much going for them. James McAvoy’s Bill goes through the same doubt and guilt his character did in the first movie, making him one of the least compelling member of the adult cast. The worst distinction would go to Mike, who feels more exposition device than human at times. The rest are all fine. Not great, not terrible. What drives home just how inferior these adult performances are compared to the younger cast members are multiples flashbacks to the original time period. Watching the Losers hang out in their club house or mess around with each other feels natural and nostalgic and was one of the highlights of the original movie. Now, whenever those scenes pop up, instead of showing how much they’ve changed as they grew up, it shows just how much better the original movie’s cast was.
We spend so much time with the Losers as opposed to Pennywise himself. Pennywise never overstayed his welcome in the first movie, but he had a presence about him that loomed over the movie. It felt like no matter what the Losers did, they couldn’t escape from him. Even when he wasn’t around, he cast a large shadow over the group, motivating and terrifying them simultaneously. Now he pops up only a handful of times before the climax, usually just to remind audiences that he exists.
When Pennywise does pop up, is it worth the wait. Most of his big moments have been advertised to hell and back, but seeing them in context is just horrifying in the best way possible. Bill Skarsgard is still the best reason to see IT: Chapter Two and will be the source of my night terrors for the next few days. He really only has three solid appearances during the movie’s runtime outside of the climax, but they’re just as refined, and in some cases better, than any of his appearances in the first movie. It’s just a shame that while he’s still a monster in every definition of the word, he feels like an afterthought in his own movie.
The worst crime a horror movie can commit is for it to overstay its welcome. The longer we stay in the world of nightmares and terror, the easier it is for us to get adjusted to it. There is no reason for IT: Chapter Two to be as long as it is. There are numerous moments that could have been cut from the movie without anyone noticing. Each character has to undergo a fetch quest to find an item to sacrifice to defeat Pennywise, but that search feels like an arbitrary excuse to pad out the run time. Then you have the return of Henry Bowers (Teach Grant), who is built up to be a dangerous minion of It, only to have little to no impact on the plot. Without question though, the climax is the worst part of the movie due to how much character development and action they try to wrap up all at once.
It’s a tragedy that IT: Chapter Two ended the way it did, because the resolution itself is actually quite nice. It feels well earned and made me think back to just how much I enjoyed the original movie and parts of this movie. It’s just a shame that all that quality filmmaking is lost under the sheer mass of plot and character development shoved in. When I walked out of the theater, I wasn’t thinking about how scared I was. I was thinking about how much I needed to use the bathroom from holding it in for so long. Endgame didn’t feel as long as IT: Chapter Two.
All of the parts are here for a solid horror sequel, but they just simply don’t deliver. The cast is solid and Pennywise is as horrific as ever, but it’s all lost under the density of the plot. Even the flashbacks begin to feel unwarranted because it’s just adding another scene to get through. The very idea that a four hour cut of this movie exists is terrifying enough, and the sad part is that the original IT was almost as long, but it didn’t feel that way. All of the padding and drawn out scares ruin the rest of the movie. It’s still the best adaption of IT around, but this is easily inferior to the 2017 movie by far.