“IT – Chapter Two” (2019)

Horror

Running time: 169 minutes

Written by: Gary Dauberman

Directed by: Andy Muschietti

Featuring: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Jaeden Martell, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff and Bill Skarsgård 

With all the doom and gloom over the past ten years regarding the lack of audiences attending cinemas there always seems a need for something new to draw people in, that is why in the space of just two years the environment that this second part of “IT” (2017) the aptly titled “IT – Chapter Two” (2019) has been released is almost entirely different, much like this new instalment that in ways is a nice bookend to one of Stephen Kings more revered books but also disappoints in ways only a movie like this could with all the build-up as well as the promise of a truly satisfying ending to something most people didn’t even realise they needed. 

The original arrived in an absolutely dreadful Summer at the US box office, the King horror redeemed it somewhat as the prestige film season began in earnest – that is the horror remake/adaptation of one of Stephen Kings most famous (and largest) novels, ‘It’ written in 1986, adapted once already as a television mini-series in 1990. Whilst the miniseries was set up in the present and told in flashbacks that featured the now infamous ‘Pennywise the Dancing Clown’ played with inimitable ferociousness by the great Tim Curry – leaving a mark on a generation as one of the most terrifying clowns in either TV or cinema – this new movie tracks slightly differently in tone as well as its narrative structure.

How times have changed as this new movie arrives in one of the better Summer movie seasons ever with box office returns in a healthy position after a run of massive movies that have also been very good for blockbusters, with the vast majority being produced by Disney. Now with “IT – Chapter Two” which seems the antithesis of a Disney movie, Warner Brothers have offered an R-rated scare fest not made for an audience of children, even though they feature throughout. This new movie also is unable to ride the success of previous 1980s themed movies and shows as it is very much set in the present, it has to earn its scares as well as its narrative shaped around a plot that feels much like a re-tread of the first movie. While the first movie lived up to the hype with great reviews and a bumper box office this new movie seems like it has attempted to up the game by lengthening the running time to almost three hours, stunt casting instead of character casting and at times seems a little to smart for its own good. 

“It – Chapter Two” is set in 2016 Derry, Maine, Adrian Mellon is beaten and thrown from a bridge, then killed by Pennywise. Mike Hanlon overhears the incident on a police scanner and rushes to the scene. Upon realizing that It has resurfaced, he calls the other members of the Losers—Bill, Ben, Beverly, Richie, Eddie and Stan—back to Derry. All are amnesiac about their childhoods and disturbed by the calls, but agree to return. Stan, however, commits suicide. The remaining members reunite at a local restaurant, but the night goes horrifically when monstrous conjurings and taunts emerge by It, before they are informed of Stan’s suicide. Richie and Eddie decide to leave while Mike reveals that he met with a Native American tribe who showed him the Ritual of Chüd, a way of destroying It once and for all. Bill and Mike convince Richie and Eddie to stay and finish what was started. A flashback shows Henry Bowers escaping the sewers but getting arrested for the murder of his father. In the present, Bowers is in a mental hospital and escapes with It’s help.

Originally set up at Warner Bros. with Cary Fukunaga as the both writer and director, after his huge success with the first season of HBO’s “True Detective” (2014 – present) he was the top choice, as well as Will Poulter as Pennywise this seemed like a slam-dunk. But as with many modern big budget films, or when studios have second thoughts Fukunaga left over differences, Poulter quickly followed suit, it looked like the project may be dead, but in stepped relative newcomer Andy Muschietti and Pennywise was recast with another gamble in the form of Bill Skarsgård. The challenge was always going to be how to condense a thousand page book into a possible two hour running time, but this I am happy to say has been solved in what must be one of the greater leaps of faith for a studio to make with unproven talents in front and behind the camera.

The plot has been split between the younger and older selves of the book with the first film serving as a period piece set in the 1980s and this sequel is set in modern times (2016) with a few flashbacks to either add to the modern story or to remind viewers about previous key events. 

This is actually quite a unique film, particularly in the horror genre in that it has a large budget (compared to the cost of modern Horror movies), is based around children, but does not treat them as such, in fact they are for all intents and purposes the adults of the film – as well as all of this the film is aimed at an adult audience not the PG soaked one that has to be pandered to with only small amounts of violence, gore and coarse language. One other aspect of this film that I loved was the choices that each of the protagonists makes, they seem to be honest, as well as real in terms of the world they are inhabiting, something that is from the novel as well as the miniseries. If you have seen recent horror movies like “Annabelle: Creation” (2017) you will know about illogical, nonsensical decisions that are the inciting incidents that make absolutely no sense.

This film is well directed by Andy Muschietti, whose only other movie was the 2013 horror hit “Mama” produced by Guillermo del Toro based on his own short film. Here Muschietti must bring a well-loved book to the screen with not only a sense of style, but an inexperienced cast as well as having one eye on the future, but always maintaining that this movie live in its own present. He has done an excellent job by marshalling his cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung, who brings a fresh originality with his work on his South Korean movies that mix genres as well as acting and directing styles. The film is not without its tropes and this is probably as a result from a mix of screenwriters that have taken passes at Fukunaga’s original script to try and boost parts that the studio thought were appealing – luckily though this is a visual film with many thrilling elements to hide any narrative flaws, which do exist.

“It – Chapter Two” is the very definition of an ensemble film with the adult cast made up of character actors or aspiring leads who all have to fight for space, although this is much easier as this sequel is much longer than its predecessor. Most obviously the leads are Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy who both are coming off the disastrous”X-Men: Dark Phoenix” (2019), here they show why they both in demand, although their child counterparts seemed to be more present in their roles, I found myself wishing for more time with them than their adult versions. This is something I found for most of the film, it was not just a longing for the child actors but for the first movie as a whole which generally I found tighter, more logical and it also had more of a plot.

This movie works well, although not as well as the first one, it feels overlong, bloated and a bit more showy seemingly feeling the need to make an excuse for audience to not only come to this one but for it to seem bigger, which in my opinion was a mistake. The entire movie seems forced, especially in marrying the child actors to the assault ones which needed to occur but with a subtly that is lacking here.

I do recommend “It – Chapter Two” to you if you love Stephen King, horror movies or just a good film; it looks great on the big screen with performances that really jump off the screen with scares as well as humor. What this isn’t is a stand alone movie, it requires the first one to set it up, but does so clumsily and attempts to shoehorn in far to much from the original novel, some of which did nothing for the plot, the same can be said here.

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