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‘It Chapter Two’ (review)

Produced by Barbara Muschietti,
Dan Lin, Roy Lee

Screenplay by Gary Dauberman
Based on It by Stephen King
Directed by Andy Muschietti
Starring James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain,
Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan,
James Ransone, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgård

 

After the tremendous success of 2017’s It, Warner Bros. did not hesitate to announce a sequel was in the works.

Two years later, we now have It Chapter Two on our hands, which sees The Losers’ Club reunite as adults to face the evil entity most commonly manifesting itself as the nightmare-inducing clown Pennywise once more, this time seeking to end the terrifying reign of It once and for all.

With the chemistry of the young cast of the 2017 film having been integral to the success of the first half of the new adaptation of Stephen King’s nefarious classic, significant pressure was placed on the production to ensure that the casting of the adult versions of the Losers would live up to the pitch-perfect casting of the iconic group of teenage outcasts.

Thankfully, the casting for the second chapter is almost eerie with how well-matched everyone is to their younger counterparts in terms of both physical traits as well as how the actors portray the various quirks and personality traits of their respective characters.

A surprisingly funny film at times, the sassy exchanges between Eddie and Richie once again ensures a certain degree of levity throughout, which balances out the bleakness of the horrors unfolding without undermining their impact. In fact, out of all the Losers, Bill Hader undoubtedly delivers the most noteworthy performance as he continuously steals scenes as an adult Richie who is both snarkily witty as well as vulnerably human.

However, as good as the casting choices are, the adult Losers are at times lacking the appeal that made the teenage Losers so endearing and relatable.

While the drama is at times a little stale, this is not so much because of the efforts of the adult cast lacking as it is a case of the threats seeming lesser when adults are at risk; it is simply harder to believe that these very capable, successful adults are as threatened by It as a group of kids who had no autonomy and therefore nowhere to run as they were stalked by an entity that has children as its preferred prey.

The young Losers were forced to take stand; the adult Losers choose to come back and fight.

As a result, the scare factor of the film is somewhat diminished compared to its predecessor, however, that is not to say that It Chapter Two is in any way lesser than It in terms of unsettling scenes.

Once again, the creativity with which the horror is executed sets the film apart from most contemporary horrors as it has a distinct visual style that is not only deserving of its R-rating, but also grotesquely stunning in portraying the warped terrors It orchestrates in order to generate that tasty, tasty, beautiful fear in the children of Derry.

Needless to say, Bill Skarsgård once again leads the way in creating nightmare fuel with his performance as Pennywise.

Having laid naysayers to rest with an engaging and unnerving performance in 2017, Skarsgård is allowed significantly more screen time in the sequel. Throughout the film, the actor maintains his fearless investment in creating a delightfully terrifying interpretation of the character, expanding on the grotesqueness of Pennywise to such an extent that it is safe to say that Skarsgård’s Pennywise is now as iconic as Tim Curry’s version, albeit the two interpretations are obviously unforgettable for entirely different reasons.

While there is no doubt that Stephen King is a master of creating haunting, yet believable worlds inhabited by characters who can range from bone-chillingly terrifying and grotesque to fully realised, flawed individuals who depict humanity with an often unpleasant type of realism, anyone who is sufficiently familiar with King’s work can attest to the fact the author also has a knack for adding very eclectic, other-wordly elements to his stories, especially in his endings.

Additionally, anyone who has seen the 1990s miniseries can also attest to the fact that the more unusual trademarks of the author does not always transfer well from page to screen, but in It Chapter Two, the ending is allowed to be as eccentrically King as possible without becoming so ludicrously preposterous that it loses its grip on the audience.

Live action adaptations of Stephen King’s works are so plentiful that they are essentially a genre in their own right, as films and series based on the author’s works have been released on a frequent basis for decades. While that has at times meant sitting through some awful drivel, 2017’s It reminded audiences of how emphasizing the humanity in King’s works when adapting them for the big screen can result in an unusually engaging narrative set in the world of horror cinema.

Similar to how the second half of the 1990 miniseries was decidedly underwhelming in comparison to the first half, 2017’s It is also the better film as a whole compared to the 2019 sequel. Obviously, it goes without saying that It Chapter Two as a whole is leagues better than the second half of its 1990 counterpart, as it yields a much more satisfying take on the final showdown than the laughably poor execution we were presented with in the miniseries.

In spite of being somewhat flawed in other areas, such as the sense of threat and having uneven pacing over its hefty runtime of nearly three hours, Andy Muschietti’s second take on the King classic nonetheless remains afloat, leaving audiences with an eerie, entertaining conclusion that almost, but not quite lives up to the standards set by its predecessor.

Verdict: 7 out of 10.

 

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