Spoilers ahead. The movies. The book. All of it.
I really wanted to like this film and in a small way, I guess I do, but as a whole I have to say that IT: Chapter Two was not the great film I thought it would be. Were my expectations too high? Maybe a little, but with the punch the first film packed I guess I expected the same. No, I expected more from a film that had a near three-hour runtime and a behemoth of a novel as source material to work with.
IT: Chapter Two has its good going for it. The actors and actresses are great and perfectly fit their roles. Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise is truly frightening and his performance helps to start the film off with a bang by hooking the audience, while appealing to fans of the novel. As a fan of the book, it was good to see the death of Adrian Mellon start the film off because I always felt, even as a child, that this part in the book not only showed the return of Pennywise after 27 years, but also the deep rooted evil that has always been a part of Derry. In the novel, the bullies that beat Mellon and dump him over the bridge harbor the same evil that Henry Bowers possesses and would eventually use against the Losers.
Adrian Mellon’s death gets our story started, sparking Mike Hanlon, the only Loser to remain in Derry, to reach out to all his old friends. In the first film the children promised to come back should the killings start again. With so many years gone by since the Losers disbanded, it’s just too bad the movie fails to give more time to these pretty damn important phone calls. With a near three-hour runtime, the importance of the calls gets lost, creating a missed opportunity for what could have been a great chunk of character development and backstory. What's worse is Mike’s calls being undercut by bad attempts at humor and an even worse case of rushed pacing.
More time should have been given to the calls specifically when dealing with Eddie and Richie's scenes. Both scenes could have been more but are reduced to either a build up for meh humor or a gross out, sacrificing any kind of deeper development or backstory. That's not even the worst offense though. Stan’s phone call is so brief that it forgets to establish just how important his call really is to the film and merely tries to explain it off in the end as foresight. While the film does make changes to Stan’s storyline for the buildup in the end, more detail should have been shown during his call and after. It's unfortunate because Stan's chapter feels like it wraps up rather quickly. As a whole, the small bit of movie dedicated to calling the group back together felt like unimportant glimpses into the lives of our now grown up Losers.
With the calls made and the old friends traveling, all but one Loser makes their way back home to Derry. After a reunion dinner that ends in tricks from Pennywise and the destruction of a banquet room that appears to be oddly soundproof, our group learns from Mike that they need to find artifacts from their past to destroy Pennywise. This change to the story is not bad. It's smart and it could have been the set up for some really good scares but the slow pacing and the filler did not allow this to happen. Instead the seach begins for the tokens and prior to that, Henry Bowers is introduced again as the antagonist that never pays off. From here until the start of the end, the movie begins to fall flat and give way to more unnecessary humor.
Like an opposite of the phone call scenes, pacing towards the middle of IT: Chapter Two slows down to a snail’s pace. The scares that come slowly during our Losers' separate searches to reconnect to their pasts, are few. The moments intended to be scary and frightening, like the old lady Kersh and the leper, are hindered by either bad attempts at humor, or cartoonish special effects. The scene with the leper terrorizing Eddie in the pharmacy, digs its own grave mostly with the horrible choice to include a really quick, uncalled for piece of music. The brief moment comes off as an editing mistake, like the sound editor forgot to delete something he was toying with. It completely brought a halt to the film that Eddie's annoying mouth makes worse, as it mostly does throughout the movie. His dialog is mostly made to be snappy and filled with one-liners. It leaves the audience to wonder, why is Eddie now the witty, foul-mouthed comedian when Richie is supposed to be the funny one? The special effects, the bad humor and blending of character traits all just stand out like a sore thumb. Much of it is as bad as, or worse than the rock fight scene in the first film.
That’s not to say that the middle of IT: Chapter Two as a whole is bad. The middle does have its good moments and I did enjoy the scene with Richie and the Paul Bunyan statue. I felt it was a fantastic use of Chekov’s Gun, while also providing the much-needed presence of clown form Pennywise. Seeing the statue in the trailer did build my hype and that scene did meet my expectations greatly. Another cherished moment was when Bill, just like in the novel, stumbles upon an old, rusted companion from his past at a secondhand shop. The scene provides some wholesomeness to the film that makes the audience ponder just how much they can truly forget about a place they have not remembered in so long.
I also enjoyed seeing Henry Bowers in the Juniper Hill Asylum, even though the character in both of Muschietti’s IT films is basically useless, or used as a jump scare. Seriously, Henry Bowers could have been a way better character if he was written more like he was in the book. Even the TV miniseries got Bowers right and the hatred he had towards Mike and the rest of the Losers was frightening. The new Henry Bowers never really comes off as a threat or young psychopath, even when he kills his father in the first film. He becomes less of a nuisance in this film and really provides no danger as the Losers find their tokens to the past.
The search for tokens that our characters embark on is a rewrite to the original story and while it works and serves purpose, it slows the film down. Some tokens are more fitting for their characters than others. Ben’s yearbook page signed by Beverly or Georgie’s boat as Bill’s token are fitting. Others tokens like the ones for Richie and Mike feel badly made up and serve as weak excuses for objects to battle Pennywise. I understand why Richie’s item is a game token. I get it, but Richie’s glasses would have served as a better token and told a better story than a game token. It wouldn't have the same message but Richie discovering his taped-up glasses somewhere would have been easy to explain with Richie getting contacts before moving away from Derry. The discovery would bring back memories of how Bowers and others used to brutally bully Ritchie and break his glasses. It even gives us a more dangerous antagonist in Henry. Some of the tokens fit, others don't and while I like the idea as a whole, some of it had me scratching my head.
While the token search definitely slows the film down, some of the scenes do provide good moments. Audience members don’t have to keep their eyes too peeled for the cameo from author Stephen King. It’s a fun scene and above all else it feels natural and is a great moment for a little bit of humor. In the book we got a lighthearted bit between Bill and a young skateboarder. A scene between Bill and a kid on a skateboard named Dean, will have book readers drawing parallels between the novel and film. This high emotion encounter also sets viewers up for a good funhouse scare later, that the trailers didn’t exactly keep secret. This funhouse scene and a baseball scene, help to establish the terror and threat that Pennywise truly is to children, while giving us more of the shape-shifter in its clown form again. Pennywise as a scary clown is a factor sorely missing from much of the middle of the film but going into the end we get a bit of a return.
It is a running joke throughout the entire movie, beaten more than a dead horse should ever be beaten, that Stephen King can’t write endings. So much the beaten joke that it winds up as a trait of grown up Bill, who becomes a published author. IT: Chapter Two does improve on the ending offered by both novel and the TV miniseries. It does this by incorporating the new token aspect of the plot, and altering the boss mode appearance of Pennywise, though it is still not enough Pennywise for this fan. The end battle as a whole is much improved from the source material. Moments in the fight between the Losers and a frocking huge spider-Pennywise, felt tense. While the battle still has its flaws like Beverly suddenly realizing her love for Ben, and Eddie’s battery acid moment written out, the film keeps the victory well-paced and simple. By having the Losers remember that they can’t harbor any fear of Pennywise in order to beat him, we get an ending better than that of the novel's which saw eggs being destroyed and Bill fighting his way inside of Pennywise to destroy the heart. With that said, the ending in IT: Chapter Two works and it’s easier to follow than the novel’s slaying of Pennywise, and it’s not as cheesy as the miniseries ending.
I can’t say IT: Chapter Two is bad, it isn’t. It's not the great scary movie I thought it was going to be either, but I can't say I left the theater thinking my time had been wasted. Sure, the film is slow at times but there are just enough moments in between to jolt my waning attention and keep me going until the end. If rumors are true and a four-hour cut is on the way, I hope, for my sake at least, that it is cut up and edited more to fit the flow of the source material and the films not pressed back to back. If you haven’t seen the film yet don’t let this review keep you from seeing it on the big screen. Overall, I am glad that I saw the film. I'm a fan of anything Stephen King, why wouldn't I see it? At times I was wishing the conclusion to our Loser's story was shorter but in the end IT: Chapter Two was still an okay chapter in the saga directed by Andy Muschietti.