Adapting any novel over 1,000 pages to film presents some serious challenges. With a book as weird and sprawling as Stephen King’s killer clown epic It, things only get harder.
Director Andy Muschietti pulled off the first part of the story: 2017’s It was fun, scary, and mostly covered its faults with outstanding cast chemistry. While It: Chapter Two isn’t exactly “bad,” the movie struggles to wrangle the source material and ultimately suffers because of it.
This thing clocks in at a whopping two hours and 50 minutes, but the runtime is just a symptom of the disease. It’s not like 2019 audiences can’t handle a long movie (see: box office record-breaker Avengers: Endgame). The problem is that Muschietti, writer Gary Dauberman, the producers—whoever—tried to cram 900-some pages into one picture while somehow cutting major developments.
It: Chapter Two shows creepy-ass clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) awakening after 27 years to once again feast on the citizens of Derry, Maine. Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa), the only member of the grown-up Losers’ Club to stay in their hometown, calls up the rest of the gang and reminds them of the pact they made to stop It should It ever return. The Losers have mostly forgotten what happened back in the day, but their return to Derry—and their proximity to Pennywise—brings the past rushing back.
As basic popcorn horror goes, It: Chapter Two does deliver some terror. Jump scares and gross monsters abound, so if that’s all you’re looking for on a Saturday night, you’ll probably enjoy this movie. Bill Hader steals the show as Richie Tozier, while James McAvoy, playing Bill, once again proves he’s a top-tier actor. But even diehards will be yawning by the time they hit the third hour.
Beyond that, there’s little resolution where it counts. If you haven’t read the book, chances are that Pennywise’s powers and actions, as well as the Losers’ heavy plot armor, still feel a bit nonsensical. The first movie allows for some horror genre handwaving; however, the complex backstory presented does nothing but complicate matters.
What’s more, the separation from King’s broader mythology somewhat diminishes Chapter Two’s impact. You can see why the studio might want to leave, for example, a giant cosmic turtle (seriously) on the cutting room floor. Keeping these movies self-contained is the right move; you just have to wonder why they didn’t chop more. One storyline follows the kids’ old bully, Henry Bowers (Teach Grant/Nicholas Hamilton), as he escapes from a mental institution and tries to kill the adult Losers. It adds virtually nothing and eats up who knows how much time—just some of the fat that could’ve been trimmed.
In the end, It: Chapter Two isn’t so much bad as it is disappointing. Apparently, there was some discussion about making It a trilogy. Given the success of the first movie and the sheer volume of insane shit that happens in this one, it’s kind of baffling that the Powers That Be went this route instead. We’d probably have gotten two more good movies instead of one that’s just OK.
IT: Chapter Two
directed by Andy Muschietti
area theaters, now playing