Spoiler Free until the end
Following up on the highest grossing horror film of all time is no easy task. However, the Stephen King-based blockbuster from two years ago was merely the first half of a much larger story. In a strange way, It: Chapter 2 isn’t necessarily a sequel, rather it is the highly anticipated conclusion to a film audiences adored. So, in order to analyze it properly, we must keep this fact in mind.
Much Harder Task
Chapter 2 had the much harder objective of living up to all the hype generated by the first film two years ago. It’s always much easier to build anticipation than it is to deliver a satisfying payoff. This has been a common theme among the works of Stephen King. While he is no doubt a beloved author, many have criticized some of his books as being better at the setup than the payoff (which this film pokes fun at in the most meta way).
And historically, “It” has been no different. For most who read the book, or even watched the original 1990 TV Miniseries, they tended to enjoy the part of the story involving the children, but were underwhelmed by the adults. Fortunately, director Andy Muschietti was up to the task and succeeded in his cinematic delivery…for the most part.
Without a doubt, the film’s greatest achievement is its casting. Not only was the challenge to find middle-aged actors who resemble the brilliant child actors from the first, but they needed to feel like the same people as well. Their banter feels natural and it’s as if we’re watching the children actually grown. If we didn’t know any better, we might even say they actually waited 27 years to film and used the very same actors again!
Between James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Jessica Chastain, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, and James Ranson, they truly captured the spirit and chemistry that the children had and ran with it. Each character had their own moment to shine as they dealt with the traumas of their past, and each one had an arc to show them overcoming their childhood fears.
Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise once again relished in spreading fear and terror. In many ways, he seemed more menacing than before, because he was no longer dealing with children and toying with them. This iteration of Pennywise has gone through another cycle of hibernation, all while he waited for the Loser’s Club to return to finally kill them.
Definitely Not a Sequel
As previously mentioned, it would be unfair to call It: Chapter 2 a sequel. In fact the only other film to really compare it to would be Kill Bill Vol. 2. Both films are merely continuations of a larger story that the first films intentionally only told half of. That being said, this film was still made two years later and it seems in some cases, director Andy Muschietti listened to certain fan criticisms.
For example, Pennywise is much more charming when approaching a young girl, rather than overload her with creepiness the way he did Georgie. There are also far fewer random musical cues that distract from the plot (except for one). The use of deleted scenes from the original only helps to make this film blend perfectly with its predecessor. And one day, the two films could even be edited together into one for one cohesive (and epic) movie experience!
Does the Payoff Work? (Spoilers Ahead)
The ultimate question however, is whether or not Chapter 2 serves up a satisfying ending to Stephen King’s most iconic novel. While it still has some of the over the top cheesiness of the first, this film (for the most part) stays true to the source novel, so fans of the book will be pleased. The only major departure will certainly be controversial.
As the Loser’s Club takes on Pennywise in his “final form” we see the clown itself grow legs like a spider and move around as one, all the while still maintaining his clown body. It doesn’t look quite right, and the CGI could have been better. Ultimately, it does make the final battle a bit difficult to take seriously.
The novel has the malevolent spirit turn into a giant spider, and it’s clear that the filmmakers wanted the clown aspect to still be part of it, but this was not the way to blend them! But this one cheesy aspect shouldn’t derail the rest of the film, which worked very hard to build up anticipation for this battle.
Overall, It: Chapter 2 does a great job of staying faithful to King’s book, while also giving horror audiences something to terrify and entertain them. It absolutely nails the casting, and if there was an Oscar for Best Casting, it would be as shoe in! It could never replace the campy charm of the original miniseries, but it concludes this solid adaptation of King’s work that allows itself to be taken seriously (most of the time).