It’s fair to say that IT Chapter 2 has been one of my most anticipated movies this year. The trailer, which I’ve probably watched just as many times now as I watched the Endgame trailer, gives me goosebumps every time, and I couldn’t wait to rejoin the losers club for another battle with Pennywise the clown. I was lucky enough to secure tickets to the immersive IT experience in London last weekend, adding further fuel to my excitement, and I decided to book the double bill showing of both chapters at the cinema in order to fully enjoy the complete story. Watching chapter 1 up on the big screen again proved to be just as enjoyable for me as the first time I saw it. Sadly though, I feel that chapter 2 didn’t quite measure up to chapter 1.
It’s now been 27 years since the events of chapter 1. One night, at the Derry funfair, a prolonged and brutal homophobic attack takes place, seemingly serving no other purpose than to provide us with a lengthy setup for the return of Pennywise. Yes, the clown is back and looking for revenge. It falls to Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), the only member of the losers club still living in Derry, to call on the others, to tell them they need to come home and to fulfill the oath they all pledged as children – no matter where they are, if “It” ever comes back, they’ll come back to finish it. They all take the call they never thought they’d get and immediately their lives feel the impact – Bill (James McAvoy) is now a famous writer and suddenly starts to regain his stutter, Beverly (Jessica Chastain) clearly hasn’t managed to escape a life of abuse, Ben (Jay Ryan) has managed to shed a lot of weight, Richie (Bill Hader) throws up before going on stage to perform stand-up, Eddie (James Ransome) simply refuses to believe what he’s hearing. And Stanley (Andy Bean), well he fully appreciates the horror that lies ahead of them all.
The adult versions of the losers club are all perfectly cast, and just as entertaining in adult form as they are as children. Any reviews you read for this movie will no doubt mention Bill Hader as adult Richie, and all praise for him is well deserved. Just as Finn Wolfhard stole the show as the young, wise cracking and potty mouthed Richie in chapter 1, so does Bill Hader here. But the entire adult cast is all simply spot on.
They all meet up at a Chinese restaurant in Derry, gradually recalling forgotten events from their childhood over a meal and falling back into old friendships once again. We get multiple flashbacks of them all as teenagers, new scenes that help to flesh out the story-line, and these continue throughout the entire movie. It’s a real nostalgic joy to revisit these younger versions again, and to immediately see how each flashback moment ultimately affects them as adults. The threat of Pennywise constantly lingers though, and they know they have work to do.
They go their separate ways, remaining in Derry but taking time to reacquainte themselves with the town and their own personal history there. Mike has a theory on how to defeat Pennywise once and for all, but first they must face him individually – grow stronger and more confident so that they can hopefully overcome him together as a team.
Unfortunately though, Pennywise never really feels as much of a threat as he did in the first movie. The slow brooding, creepy scares that worked so effectively then are all but lost here. There certainly are still a handful of those in chapter 2, and those do work extremely well, but they’re simply outnumbered by a constant barrage of jump scares and CGI monsters. I lost count of the number of times we got a random CGI creature rapidly approaching us and the over-reliance on CGI is noticeably jarring, even more so in the final act. The use of practical, psychological scares is sorely missed and the whole thing is nowhere near as scary as chapter 1.
The run-time clocks in at 2hr 50, compared to a tighter 2hr 15 for chapter 1, and it really notices. Admittedly, the Stephen King source material is pretty hefty anyway (so I hear), but at times this just felt bloated and messy in its interpretation, too much being thrown at you and not enough of it sticking. That CG heavy finale I mentioned is also way too long, and really drags. It’s a shame because I really enjoyed the introduction of the adult losers and the interweaving of their lives with the flashbacks from 27 years earlier. There’s talk of an extended cut being out there and potentially being released. Personally, I would prefer a much leaner, shorter cut.