IT Chapter 2
Warner Brothers Pictures/ New Line Cinema
Written by Gary Dauberman (Based on the novel by Stephen King)
Directed by Andy Muschietti
Starring Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgard, Jaeden Martell, Wyatt Oleff, Jack Dylan Grazer, Finn Wolfhard, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs and Jeremy Ray Taylor
Synopsis: Defeated by members of the Losers’ Club, the evil clown Pennywise returns 27 years later to terrorize the town of Derry, Maine, once again. Now adults, the childhood friends have long since gone their separate ways. But when people start disappearing, Mike Hanlon calls the others home for one final stand. Damaged by scars from the past, the united Losers must conquer their deepest fears to destroy the shape-shifting Pennywise — now more powerful than ever.
In my previous review of chapter one of IT, I qualified it with the revelation that I have read this book every year since I was 13 years old. I know this story backwards and forwards from the plot to the side characters. That being said, I wondered going into Chapter 2 how director Andy Muschietti and writer Gary Dauberman could condense and conclude the massive world of these characters. The book shifts in time between the Loser’s Club as kids and their reuniting as adults to fight the malevolent Pennywise one last time and I was impressed at how the filmmakers were able to focus the first film on the kids and make it interesting.
I had my concerns about how they would capture that same magic with a new cast. Could they maintain or expand on the interesting character dynamics between them and deliver a group that felt like they could be believable as old friends that come together with a purpose? I also wondered how they could make Pennywise scary again given the fact that we have seen the clown in action in the first film. They managed to do things I didn’t expect and that made the film more interesting to me as a fan.
Dauberman and Muschietti take the story of the adult Losers and gives it a new twist. Rather than just taking the characters and have them come back to fight IT again, the story takes them on a journey through their own trauma and makes overcoming that trauma the catalyst for defeating Pennywise. If Pennywise is a creature that feeds on fear, then overcoming those fears is the perfect way to tell the story of the adult Losers as they come back to the place where those fears and that trauma took root.
There are a lot of cathartic moments throughout the film as the characters each have to face their individual fears in order to find the strength they need to fight. The film does a clever thing of making each character take the same solo journeys that they took in the novel, but the goal becomes about more than just remembering their childhoods in Derry, it becomes about finding objects unlocked by those memories that will help bring them back together as a group.
In regards to Pennywise, Bill Skarsgard delivers a performance that is haunting and sublimely scary. This Pennywise has vengeance on its mind, but always stays in control. There are some extremely scary moments throughout the film. As much as I enjoyed them, there were moments that I thought the focus on the characters was sacrificed for the sake of a new scare. Regardless, the film found some new and inventive ways to scare me through Skarsgard’s performance and some impressive visuals.
The acting from the rest of the cast was fantastic. Bill Hader stole the show as Richie Tozier. While every character was given moments of comedy, Hader commanded the screen. If there was one performance that turned me off, it was Isaiah Mustafa’s Mike Hanlon. While I tried my best to keep my fondness of the book out of my head, I couldn’t connect with Mike in this film. Even though he was the force to bring them back together, he was portrayed as more of a hindrance to their mission than an asset. It was the only disappointment I could find in the transition of the characters from kids to adults.
IT Chapter 2 takes some interesting twists and turns in its plot and they work in context of condensing a massive novel into over two and half hours of screen time. The acting is great overall with some great standout performances. Pennywise is scary as hell and the new ending to the story is much more cinematic and reflective of the theme of overcoming trauma which permeates this film. Definitely worth seeing.