It: Chapter Two
Anyone who is familiar with Stephen King's It
from the made-for-tv version from the '90s won't find too much new stuff here. Which is to say while it's a well-executed remake like 2017's Chapter One, it spends half its running time reassembling the characters so they can pretty much redo what they already did in the first part. It skips some of the corniness of the '90s part two and has some meta commentary that is fun.
27 years ago the seven kids known as the Losers Club tracked the mysterious It to its sewer lair and destroyed it by merely facing their fears, since it was a creature of living fear, it seems. Now they have moved on with their lives and moved away from their hometown of Derry. When It snatches another kid, Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa), the only Loser to remain in Derry, starts making phone calls to bring the gang back together. This part gets a bit repetitive as we see all six Losers in their new lives, all receive a phone call, struggle with the fact they have repressed all memory of the childhood event, and finally decide to return to Derry. I wish they had combined or skipped a couple or maybe flashed back to these later. One thing they did add that wasn't in the previous adaptation was that when young Beverly was caught in the Deadlights at the end of part one she was able to see the future. We see a repeat of a scene from part one where the kids make their pact to return if It ever returns and then Bev tells them that in the future they will all live happy lives. All except Stanley, she avoids telling him his fate. We find out why quickly in part two. He is so afraid to go back to Derry that he would rather kill himself. There's a follow up to this at the end of the movie that tries to make it a heroic act but I'm not sure the logic follows.
The grown-up Losers are fairly well-cast. Bill Hader may have the most to do as Richie Tozier, who always has a one-liner ready but also gets to be genuinely afraid and also shows some heart. James McAvoy as Bill Denbrough at least gets to fight guilt over the death of his little brother. Jessica Chastain as Beverly Marsh doesn't get the emotional heft that her younger counterpart got to play in part one. James Ransone as Eddie Kaspbrak gets to be neurotic either to comedic or annoying effect. Jay Ryan as Ben Hanscom is mostly aloof and sticks to the background. Mike Hanlon is there to dump exposition.
In part one, the meat of the story was the kids discovering the nature of the threat and tracking It to its lair in the sewers. That's not necessary to repeat since they all know where Pennywise is hiding. So we get a new semi-quest where each Loser has to track down a personal totem that will help them cast a spell to banish the evil. That was a new piece for this adaptation, more backstory on where It came from and how to banish it for good since they didn't do it last time. Richie voices some alarm at the idea of everyone splitting up for this quest, since they are stronger together, and I'm not sure why the others are so quick to dismiss him. They can't quest in pairs?
I was happy to see that the adult Henry Bowers (Teach Grant), the Losers' childhood bully, gets to do something in this version. In the 90s version I think we only see him for a moment but he never escapes the rubber room. I was sad to see he didn't do more as he gets dealt with rather quickly. I suspect in the original novel he may have had more to do. Like Ace Merrill in Needful Things,
some of these secondary characters get their parts cut for the movie.
Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) is still appropriately creepy. He probably has less to do than in part one. Maybe it's just me but it limits how scary he can be when he never seems to kill anyone. He keeps scaring people over and over but he never finishes them off. Then suddenly he does, and you wonder why he doesn't kill the Losers more quickly, especially when they almost kill him. He just keeps jump-scaring them.
The original adaptation in the 90s ended with the Losers chasing Pennywise back to his lair where he turns into a giant spider. They simply roll him over and rip his heart out. It was a bit of a "huh?" moment and a bit easy. The meta joke early in this version has Bill Denbrough on the set of a movie based on one of his books and the director telling him they need to change the ending, the ending of the book was weak. And so when the Losers confront Pennywise this time they do reference the spider bit but they take it further, add a bit more, make it harder.
Stephen King must not have minded the razzing over his ending, as he appears for a cameo.
All in all, it was entertaining. A bit long, perhaps. Part Two runs about 2 hours and 50 minutes bringing the entire adaptation to over 5 hours.
I'll admit I've not read the novel, but from the synopsis I've heard, I wonder if both adaptations miss the point. Supposedly in the novel it begins with the adults and as they return to Derry it sparks hidden memories. They don't remember how they met as kids until they meet as adults. They don't remember what happened in the sewers when they were kids until they return to the sewers as adults. Filming it that way might have reduced the feeling of duplication between parts one and two.