Horror writer Stephen King has never had a perfect record with his book-to-movie adaptations. Other than the occasional hit, most adaptations have been critical and audience failures that were quickly forgotten. This mostly unsuccessful track record all changed in 2017 with the release of IT. Based off the 1,138 page novel, the film focused on a group of kids called the losers club who must face-off against a child-eating, shape-shifting monster disguised as a clown.
The film quickly became the highest grossing horror film of all time, making $700,381, 748 worldwide while in theaters. It was also well-received by critics and audiences alike and was immediately made a staple in the horror genre. Since the film only focused on half of the book, a sequel was inevitable. The sequel was released on Sept. 6 and follows the loser’s club as adults as they return to their home town of Derry, Maine to kill the monster once and for all. While IT Chapter 2 does keep afloat on its fun visuals and solid acting, messy pacing and a mediocre story weighs it down and nearly submerge it at times.
Running at 2 hours and 49 minutes, IT Chapter 2 can barely move at a fluent and balanced pace under its own weight. A rushed introduction to the adult losers catapults the audience into the main plot, but then suddenly takes a screeching halt for a slow and somewhat exhausting second act. Once act three rolls around, you’re almost so tired that you’re not sure if you’ll be able to make it to the end of the film, but luckily it picks up and sends the viewer into a joyride of a finale. With such awful pacing, even the entertaining “scare” scenes sprinkled throughout the film have a duller effect than they should. It also doesn’t help that the movie has a short and simplistic story that is stretched out to a nearly three hour runtime. I would say that at least 25 minutes could have been trimmed off this film and it would have made no difference on the story in any way.
Luckily, a fantastic cast is one of the film’s strongest aspects. Audiences responded with love and adoration to the child cast in the first film, so casting the kid’s adult counterparts was a colossal job. Fortunately, casting director Rich Delia put together a nearly perfect group of people to play the heroic losers. James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain play the leaders of the clown killing posse, Bill and Beverly, and do a fine job portraying them, but really don’t do anything special or unique in their performances. Jay Ryan plays Ben with a wonderful mix of awkward charm and loveable care for the rest of the losers, which makes him a very likeable presence throughout the film. Isaiah Mustafa plays Mike with an anxious-yet-determined personality that is plenty interesting, but is often squashed down by the constant exposition spewed by his character. Andy Bean (Stanely) does what he can with the short amount of screentime he receives in the film, but makes more of an impact with the lines he is given to say rather than his performance. James Ransome and Bill Hader, who portray Eddie and Richie, are the standouts of the film, and not only create the most comedic parts of the film, but also the most emotional and heart-wrenching scenes as well. There is,of course, Bill Skarsgård, who embodies the murderous clown Pennywise with amazing athletic and acting skill. Unfortunately, Skarsgård does not get nearly as much time to shine as he did in the first film, a major disappointment. For a film that relies so heavily on its characters, it’s a good thing that they got actors that could stand to the challenge.
It Chapter 2 was always going to be an effects-heavy film since the book featured cosmic situations with monsters only Stephen King could dream. Unfortunately, the special effects don’t quite live up to the book’s epic settings and scenarios. The majority of the film’s special effects are CGI other than prosthetics that the makeup team expertly, yet rarely use. For the CGI, what’s supposed to come off fairly realistic and scary ends up looking like a cartoonish, hyperactive mess of colors and shapes. Sadly, this not only harms the “spooky” moments of the film, but also the overall tone, making the film feel more silly and campy than serious. This is also strange because it creates a stark contrast with the opening of the film, which is a disturbing depiction of a homophobic attack on two gay men. Despite the mediocre CGI, the scenes containing it are still fun, especially if you accept its cheesy nature.
The other technical elements of the film are all fairly acceptable, such as the score composed by Benjamin Wallfisch. Though some tracks of the score just sound like loud sounds made into a basic beat, the quieter tracks like “Firefly” and “27 Years Later” stand out. Director Andy Muschetti has also created a unique and personal directing style that that is hard not to notice. In an age where it seems all the best cinematography tricks have been done to death, Muschetti rejuvenates them in a distinctive and striking look for the film.
It: Chapter 2 is not great. A film that was expected to be a home run turns out more like a dull hit due to cheap plotting, sloppy effects, and confused pacing. The film doesn’t completely miss its mark though, since a marvelous cast and admittedly enjoyable monster moments pull the audience through to the end. It: Chapter 2 is definitely a disappointment when compared to the first film and is hazardously put together, but is nowhere near as bad as it could have been when comparing it to the book’s conclusion. It still is hilariously funny and has enough Pennywise scares to make up for the horrendous pacing. The film is a must-watch for those who are a fan of the first film, but for casual fans of the first chapter, I suggest skipping it while it’s in theaters.