It Chapter Two (2019)

Director Andy Muschietti surprised me with It, as I thought Mama was halfway decent but not anything too new or special.  Muschietti did quite a bit with a relatively low budget, telling the half of the story involving the Losers' Club as children wonderfully.  It reminded me of why I stayed up until the middle of the night reading the book when it came out. 

Still, there were problems.  I hated most of the CGI; it does the usual of giving us rubbery monsters with tons of teeth.  Bill Skarsgård was able to be frightening enough just through his voice and the makeup and whenever Pennywise transformed into something else, especially that dance he does toward the end, it just takes away from all the tension and fright that was built up.  Happily, the ensemble child cast worked well together. 

There were also a number of changes to the story, but most I didn't mind.  The time period made sense, due to the fact that otherwise Muschietti would have had to put a lot of money into emulating both the 1950s and the 1980s, and there are parts of the book that could not be filmed without either making the kids quite a bit older in order to be able to even insinuate what happens to bond them together.  Still others I did mind - no Maturin (the giant space turtle) in the first part, and Henry Bowers, who is as important a villain as Pennywise, was barely in it. 

At nearly three hours I was hoping that It Chapter Two would remedy some of this with the flashbacks, as well as include the parts that were left out of the television version, such as Maturin and the destruction of Derry. I understood why so much was left out of the miniseries, particularly due to budget and the restrictions of what could be shown on television at the time, so I was really hoping It Chapter Two would not hold back. 

27 years after the events of It a homosexual couple is assaulted in Derry on a bridge over one of its canals.  One of the men is thrown in the river.  He survives the initial assault, only to be met with something worse.  This alerts Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) that Pennywise (Skarsgård) as returned once again to prey on Derry's children before going back into hibernation.  Hanlon contacts the other grown-up members of the Losers' Club to remind them of their vow and bring them back to destroy It forever. 

Hanlon is the only one remaining in Derry, and also the only one who remembers what happened.  Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy) has become a famous horror writer, Richie Tozier (Bill Hader) a stand-up comedian, Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain) a clothing designer, Ben Hanscom (Jay Ryan) an architect and Eddie Kaspbrack (James Ransone) a risk adjuster for an insurance firm.  While Stanley Uris (Andy Bean) doesn't make it for the gathering, the rest are not pleased with Mike when they begin to realize what it's for.  They initially intend to leave, but events unfolding in Derry lead them to stay.  In the meantime, aided by It, Henry Bowers (Teach Grant) escapes from the mental hospital to kill the Losers before they can finish the job they started as children.  

While I largely thought the length of this film fit what it needed to do (even though about 10 to 15 minutes could have been trimmed near the end), it still had many of the same problems as the first.  Bowers, who is extremely important in why the kids are friends in the first place, is still barely used.  He has a place in the plot of the film, but it's there and gone.  The computer effects are no better than in the first and, though it is always nice to see Javier Botet show up to do his thing, it makes the Witch and the Leper both look like rejected ideas from The Conjuring.  A scene where a statue comes to life is similarly fake-looking, with Pennywise's appearance on its shoulder and the sudden behavior of people in the park proving more effective at building suspense.  With the money the first one made I would expect these problems to have been solved, but if anything they look worse this time around.

In addition the story was altered to a larger degree for the sequel.  Bill's wife Audra (Jess Weixler) is barely in the movie, where in the book and the miniseries she was an important part of It's manipulation of the adult Losers.  Maturin never shows up, although a turtle on a desk is a definite reference, and instead of him informing the childhood versions of Club about the Ritual of Chüd it suddenly becomes a Native American ceremony.  The reasons for Stanley's death, which come at the beginning of the book and set the tone for what is to happen, are drastically changed, and once again a major piece of the story - Derry's destruction during the final battle with It - is left out.  That isn't to say all the changes are disappointing; there is a scavenger hunt for "tokens" that takes up a good portion of the middle of the movie, and many times Muschietti does a good job of building up the tension as the adults have to revisit the fear they left behind when they moved away from the town. 

In large part I still enjoyed It Chapter Two, and I do think that despite its many flaws it has been unnecessarily savaged not by those like me that are upset about changes to the book, but rather those who never read It or saw the miniseries and were expecting something different given the buildup in the first movie.  A good portion of the movie is spent on building tension, and it succeeds, which is no small feat since a good portion of the story was told in the first film.  I just would like to have seen, given the budget and the freedom, a lot more of the depth that made the book such a wonderful read.  Maybe in another 27 years or so we'll get it. 

It Chapter Two (2019)
Time: 169 minutes
Starring: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Jaeden Martell, Wyatt Oleff, Jack Dylan Grazer, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Bill Skarsgård
Director: Andy Muschietti



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