IT Chapter 2 was released last week from Warner Brothers and New Line Cinema. Fans of the Stephen King novel knew going in that there would be differences between the book they love and film so I decided to lay out five changes in the film that really enhanced my enjoyment of it. Fair Warning: There will be spoilers throughout this article about both the plot and the themes explored in the film. If you haven’t seen the film, I highly recommend that you do as well as read my review of Chapter 2 here.
What Worked in IT Chapter 2
5. Getting the band back together sequence
In a long form novel, the writer and the reader have the luxury of being immersed in the minute details of how a character comes to a decision. A film (even with a two hour and 48 minute runtime) doesn’t have that luxury. When the murders in Derry begin again with Adrian Mellon and others, Mike Hanlon is reluctant to call his friends to come back. He takes his time in order to prove to himself that IT has returned, but also as a way of trying to keep these friends that he remembers safe and happy in their collective forgetfulness. When he finally starts making the phone calls, each character is given an entire chapter to explore both their memories and what will ultimately prompt them to return.
Director Andy Muschietti has a clever and effective way of powering through all of those calls and moments with a sequence that showcases the characters connection to each other. Starting from the first call to Bill Denbrough, the sequence weaves in and out of the other character’s lives seemingly connecting them both metaphorically and metaphysically. It does a great job of bringing the characters to a place where our memories of them from the first film connect with them as adults.
4. Stan Uris’ final message
Stan Uris’ death is given new meaning and purpose in the film version. In the novel, Stan kills himself rather than go back to Derry to face Pennywise again. In the film version, Stan does the same, but he never completely disconnects from the group. At the end of the film, Stan’s widow sends letters to the rest of the Losers written by Stan the night he killed himself. In the letters, Stan acknowledges his own fear and how that fear would be a liability to their mission. It adds an extra layer to what in the book could be reduced to a cowardly act of fear. Stan’s suicide is given meaning with his final message to his friends.
3. Beverly Sees Death
One of the changes from the first film resonates in the new one. In the first film, Beverly is taken by Pennywise and brought down to its layer to lure the rest of the Losers. When Beverly tells the clown that she isn’t afraid of him, he shows her his “Dead Lights” which put her into a catatonic state. It’s up to Ben to break her out of the creature’s spell with a well placed kiss. In the new film, Beverly still feels the effects of her time in the Dead Lights and that experience will affect her when she returns to Derry. With everyone, especially Richie and Eddie working on ways to get out of town, Beverly tells the group that she has seen their deaths, a side effect of her time in the Dead Lights. That revelation is what keeps the Losers in town so that they can face IT for the last time.
2. Maintaining Their Connection
One of the more tragic aspects of the novel is that after building memories through their shared experience and having those memories re-ignited by Mike contacting them to return, after defeating Pennywise the adult Losers not only forget about their past again, but they forget about each other all together. It’s a sad and bittersweet conclusion to the novel.
In the film, the conclusion of their fight with Pennywise allows the Losers to retain their memories of each other. It gives the characters a more positive conclusion and allows the viewer to retain the bond they’ve created with the characters because they maintain those bonds with each other. It’s gratifying to see Ben and Beverly together. It’s good to see Bill find peace and seeing Mike finally leave Derry is a nice touch as well.
1. Horror as Therapy
One of the new themes introduced in the new film is that the characters need to do more than just return to Derry to face Pennywise again. This film takes a therapeutic approach to the character journeys in the film. More than finding out how to kill IT for good, the film has the characters face their childhood traumas as adults when they return. In order for them to find the totems necessary to reconnect them to each other, they must face their trauma and overcome it. There is an additional level of character development on screen that the book can allow to take place over several chapters, but film wouldn’t be able to allow for.