When you’re left with a newfound appreciation for the IT mini-series, you know something has gone terribly wrong with IT Chapter 2, the concluding chapter in Warner Bros.’ big-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s terrifying best-seller. Continuing 27-years after the previous chapter, the now-adult ‘Losers’ must fulfil their childhood promise by returning for a final confrontation with the malevolent Multiverse being, Pennywise, better known as ‘IT’.
Without going into spoilers and to the film’s credit, IT Chapter 2 opens with a pivotal scene from the novel that perfectly sets the ensuing horror in motion. However, much like the death of little Georgie Denbrough, the climactic moment is marred by very poor digital effects, killing any chance for a genuine scare; and unfortunately, this is the pattern throughout the film. I feel director Andy Muschietti has embraced a style of in-your-face horror that has sadly become an accepted standard by mainstream audiences. Moments of subtlety, while creepy, are short-lived in favour of overly loud, bombastic and CGI heavy tantrums from the titular antagonist, derailing what are otherwise powerful and important sequences from the source material. Many of us were taken by surprise at the reveal of a 169-minute runtime, practically three hours. I partly welcomed it, considering the book’s size, whilst being a little weary. Much to my bewilderment, this was the film’s biggest foul-up. With essentially only one half of the story left to focus on, significant portions of the film are very rushed, more so than the made-for-TV adaptation from 1990, which is really saying something considering the numerous restraints of network television. Character development is the biggest casualty with our beloved ‘Losers’ being pale incarnations of what fans of the book have come to know so well, and it’s a real shame because there’s genuine talent among the cast. James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain and Bill Hader are great performers, but they don’t have a lot to work with. Bill Skarsgård, who is clearly very capable as Pennywise is greatly hindered by the abundance of computer enhancements. If he were given the option of a more organic performance, the film would have been a lot better for it. Trickling down even further, IT Chapter 2 fails to get into the metaphorical nitty-gritty of King’s classic, exploring Derry itself, a town under IT’s veil of influence. A lot of which should have been reflected through Mike Hanlon, who is portrayed as a recluse and borderline madman, rather than the upstanding historian and de facto leader he should be. On a more positive note, yes there is some, the film is shot exceptionally well with establishing shots of Derry evoking a warm feeling of familiarity despite knowing what lies beneath. Seamless and clever transitions from childhood memories to adulthood echo the bittersweetness of reminiscing while on a walking tour of a place we once called home. While they were fleeting moments, I was at least able to briefly connect with the story.
IT Chapter 2 is deeply flawed and mostly devoid of emotion, resulting in what is essentially an empty shell of a horror film. With all the tools and resources of a big studio production, the potential was there for it to be something really special.
IT CHAPTER 2
(2019, dir: Andy Muschietti)
production stills sourced from IMDb