Review by Michael Lewis
Sometime during the second act of It: Chapter Two, my mind started to drift to a couple of things: first, where was my drink order? And secondly, Stephen King truly is one hell of a storyteller. The skeleton of this tale and all the lore that goes with it is utterly fascinating to me. It’s a perfect blend of Lovecraftian horror and Bradbury’s iconic dark fantasy that conjures up plenty of childhood nostalgia while exploring some significant themes – memory and the consequences of remembering or forgetting the past, loyalty to friends in dire times, and the inevitable confrontation with what we perceive as evil. Unfortunately, reflecting on these ideas and having a beer on a Friday night gave me more enjoyment that actually watching the film. Due to the size of the narrative, cast, and general use of CGI, It: Chapter 2 collapses into itself, leaving behind a smoldering heap of great ideas and lost potential.
Chapter 2’s significant issue is length and flow. There is no doubt the casting was phenomenal, at least in terms of character appearance. Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy helm a troupe that is littered with star power, but lacks the essential charisma the Losers Club requires. It feels as if the script forced many of the interactions apart instead of bringing them together, and it would have been intriguing if the cast had more opportunities to bond as the story played out. Instead, each character seemingly goes down their own path of remembrance as they explore the town they once grew up in, obviously coming into contact with Pennywise along the way. Reflecting for the last couple of days, I wonder if the It franchise would have benefited from being made into a miniseries akin to The Haunting of Hill House, where each character had dedicated plot lines and character development while also building towards a climax that required the whole. While the film does do this to an extent, the dedicated time an hour-long episode provides may have been more beneficial than fifteen minute segments. Ultimately, while the cast looks like their younger counterparts, I wasn’t convinced that the script gave them every opportunity to be them during each shot.
For my own personal tastes, I’m dubious heavy CGI in horror is a favorable tactic. Most, if not all, scenes in this movie could have used more practical effects or a change in writing that nullified the use of it in the first place. For example, multiple scenes setup Pennywise preying on unassuming children, and while brutal and violent, it is this particular trade-off that feels disingenuous. At times, I found myself either wanting less violence and more scenes teeming with apprehension. One final thought on this: It felt like a cop-out to only show Pennywise’s final form as a hybrid monster/clown. This was a missed opportunity to try and redeem the 90s version by providing the audience with a unique imagining, even if for a few moments. Not all is bad, however. As expected, Bill Skarsgard’s portrayal of Pennywise is exceptional. He commands scenes just as he did in the first movie, if not with more vicious conviction. There is little to be critical of when viewing Skarsgard’s portrayal. The Losers have their moments, both old and young, and there are numerous scenes that will make you smile. It: Chapter 2 is a big-budget horror flick, and it should be treated as such. The scares are minimal, the cast larger than life, and epic in length, but it feels as if the writers had difficulty managing the magnitude of the story. In the end, the aforementioned shortcomings matter little, as It is far too beloved throughout the horror community to garner much negative traction. Still, with such a beloved menagerie of characters, It: Chapter 2 feels incomplete. Considering the story is about confronting our greatest fears and banding together to overcome them, feeling incomplete seems to be the ultimate disservice.