Here’s our review of ‘IT: Chapter Two’ as the Loser’s Club returns to Derry to battle Pennywise the Clown one final time…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
Adapting Stephen King’s novels has been one of the most challenging obstacles for writers and directors for many years.
His sprawling, epic works enthrall his readers, which is why so many of his past stories have eventually transitioned into films as well as television and event series across numerous networks.
Unfortunately for the few hits along the way, there have been far more misses over the years, which is why it’s been so tough to create a worthy adaptation of King’s books for the big or small screen.
One such dilemma plagued one of King’s most popular novels for years as writers and directors kept trying to figure out a way to bring ‘IT’ to the big screen after previously being adapted in a made-for-TV miniseries back in 1990. At certain points it felt like an ‘IT’ adaptation would never happen, especially following director Cary Fukunaga dropped off the project that was supposed to see British actor Will Poulter cast as the new Pennywise the Clown.
That’s when Andy Muschietti decided to take a stab (no pun intended) at King’s classic novel — and what resulted was the most profitable horror film in history. ‘IT: Chapter One’ ended up grossing more than $700 million at the worldwide box office, which obviously greenlit the sequel that lands in theaters this weekend.
‘IT: Chapter Two’ picks up the story 27 years after the original film with the Loser’s Club reuniting to once again battle the evil Pennywise the Clown. The original book wasn’t split in two but rather a mix of present day and flashbacks but splitting the films into two different time periods made all the sense in the world.
The sequel still manages to include the younger cast, which received rave reviews with ‘IT: Chapter One’ landed in theaters but the bulk of the story is told by the new actors and actresses portraying the roles.
The result — much like King’s novel — is a massive, sprawling epic tale of horror that runs nearly three-hours long but doesn’t really feel that way once you get engaged with the movie. ‘IT: Chapter Two’ not only features more laughs than the first film but also manages to engage with some real life issues — hate crimes and plenty of post traumatic stress — while still sticking the core story which pits the Loser’s Club against Pennywise in one final showdown.
With that said, let’s get to our full review of ‘IT: Chapter Two’ in theaters on Friday, September 6…
27 years have passed since the children of the Loser’s Club defeated Pennywise the Clown and they are called back together, bound by an oath that they would return to Derry if the evil ‘it’ ever came back.
A series of brutal murders alerts Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) to the fact that the killer clown from his youth has returned to Derry. As the only member of the Loser’s Club to stay behind in their hometown, he’s the one tasked with bringing the group back together again to fight off the evil that has plagued Derry for centuries.
Perhaps as an after effect of the trauma they suffered together as children, the remaining members of the Loser’s Club struggle to remember the fight against Pennywise much less that they were best friends. But the call from Mike starts bringing back past memories and one by one, each member of the Loser’s Club begins showing up in Derry.
Not soon after the group returns, Pennywise begins coming after them again — looking to finish the fight that was started 27 years earlier. A bloody and deadly battle then ensues as the Loser’s Club looks to stop Pennywise once and for all.
ACTING, DIRECTING AND SCRIPT
First of all, the casting director for ‘IT: Chapter Two’ should get an Academy Award for the spot on choices made when finding an adult cast to take over from the children who kicked things off in ‘IT: Chapter One’.
Jessica Chastain is an award winning actress but she was a dead ringer for Sophia Lillis long before the first ‘IT’ movie was released. Landing her was a huge coup for ‘IT: Chapter Two’ and she brings all the gravitas that an actor of her caliber brings to every movie graced by her presence.
James McAvoy steps into Bill Denbrough’s shoes with real passion and an underlying sadness as the grown up version of a boy who never got past the death of his little brother Georgie, who was murdered by Pennywise the Clown.
The real star out of this group ends up being Bill Hader, who portrays a grown up Richie Tozier following an equally impressive performance from ‘Stranger Things’ star Finn Wolfhard in the original film. Hader is known for being hilarious — and he racks up a lot of laughs for such a weighty movie — but he also displays a ton of emotion in some real gut punching scenes in this film. Hader finally got the respect he deserved as an actor when he started doing ‘Barry’ on HBO — and this is no exaggeration — but he should seriously get some looks come Oscar time for his work in ‘IT: Chapter Two’.
He’s that good.
Meanwhile, director Andy Muschietti does a good job bridging the gap between the old and the new by making Derry look like the town that time forgot — a sleepy Maine village haunted by its dark past and a place that never quite moved into the future.
Muschietti understands how horror works best because he’s been diving into the genre for most of his directing career and those chops come in handy in a film such as this.
And finally the script does a solid job adapting King’s original work — keeping the important pieces in place while the changes that are made feel like it fits the narrative of the overall story. Of course if there’s one knock on the script it’s that perhaps they stayed too loyal to the source material, which can sometimes hinder a film because not everything in a 1,100 plus page book needs to be adapted for the big screen.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE MOVIE?
The ambition to follow King’s novel comes back to bite Muschietti a couple of times during ‘IT: Chapter Two’ perhaps most notably when he decides to follow many of the over the top sequences from the original book that could have been toned down slightly for the film.
That’s particularly the case when it comes to Pennywise because it feels like Bill Skarsgard doesn’t quite get the showcase in ‘IT: Chapter Two’ that he had in the first film despite this movie giving him more room to spread his horrific wings. Maybe the reason for that could be the surprise element of a terrifying clown is no longer in play after he already scared audiences half to death in the first film but it felt like Pennywise should have been more omnipresent in his clown form in the sequel.
As loyal as Muschietti was to the original book in both movies, there was one major plot point that got dropped involving a tertiary character that felt like it would have fit perfectly but explaining that in too much detail would give away spoilers.
‘IT: Chapter Two’ isn’t perfect but it’s a well-made adaptation of the Stephen King novel and great bookend to the first movie released in 2017. At some point a movie theater is going to combine these films into one massive movie and it honestly might play even better when viewing them back-to-back.
‘IT: Chapter Two’ hits all the horror notes necessary to make this an edge-of-your-seat scare fest while also injecting plenty of character development to help the Loser’s Club face the trauma of their formative years when finally reconnecting 27 years later.
‘IT: Chapter Two’ gets four out of five on the Skolnick Scale: