It: Chapter 2 Review: A fitting and scarier end for Pennywise and the Losers’ Club
While Stephen King’s original novel and the 90s mini-series introduced plenty of generations to The Losers’ Club and Pennywise the Dancing Clown, the 2017 adaption of It brought new life to the material and broke box-office records. With great performances from a talented group of young actors and a standout performance from Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise, great moments of horror from director Andy Muschetti, and a great “Chapter One” add on at the end that signified fans that more was to come, there was a lot of weight on the shoulders of Chapter Two to deliver. Personally, It: Chapter Two delivers ten-fold on the scares, heart, and story of the original and outdoing it at just about every turn.
There’re very few beats missed between the older and younger cast and the resemblance in performances in uncanny at times. James McAvoy perfectly brings back Bill’s stutter and captures his desire to save those around him. Jessica Chastain brings out Beverly’s brokenness and how her abused history and re-entry into her past really affects her. Bill Hader is hilarious as an older Richie and showcases his ability to balance drama and comedy. With Richie, there’s an attempt to play with his sexual orientation that’s admirable and interesting given the kind of humor he has and how he uses it, but ultimately never adds much to the character. The film never fully commits on the idea that it’s going for and it ends up being just tossed on with nothing to say about it. The same can be said about the film’s opening and how it shows Derry’s homophobic past and present. There’s very little sense of subtlety to it and very little said or done to make these plot points have any depth to them to make them important.
For me, the real standouts were Jay Ryan as an older Ben and James Ransone as older Eddie as they really captured their respective character’s personalities. Ryan’s performance is just as wholesome and humble as Jeremy Ray Taylor was in the original and he easily became the character I connected to the most. Ransone is legitimately perfect as he captures Eddie’s germophobic behavior and mannerisms and it leads to an incredibly fun and funny performance. The only real weak link in the group is Mike as his character sometimes has too much going on in the background and isn’t delved into enough to leave a satisfying mark. None of this has to do with Isaiah Mustafa’s performance, it’s just that Mike’s psychosis on the situation and why he brings everyone back to Derry ends up being a little flimsy. He ends up being the hardest to connect to at times and there’s not even a moment that shows his younger self. Even his end doesn’t leave viewers feeling satisfied because the film doesn’t try to open his character to the extent of other characters.
The performances from the younger cast in flashbacks that fill in gaps from the first film are still great but are hard to fully enjoy because of some of the technical issues associated with these moments. Since the actors are at the age where they can look very different with two years gone by, they have to be digitally de-aged in scenes and it can be very distracting at times – especially Finn Wolfhard. It’s hard not to notice the synthetic quality of character’s eyes and skin and the audio dubbing, or whatever they’re doing to it, is really bad at times and I noticed that Eddie’s lines seemed sped up at times. The best performance, though, still comes from Skarsgard as his Pennywise performance legitimately gets better and better with each scene. He makes Pennywise both an emotional driven character whose charm is very hard to resist and a horrifying entity whose grip on reality and illusion is chokingly tight. The film legitimately lets him run wild with great sequences and if it already wasn’t such a tight race for awards season, I’d have signs and be screaming to give this man an award.
With Pennywise pretty much on loose both in the past and the present, there’re great sequences that end up being much scarier than the first film. Personally, other than the opening between Pennywise and Georgie and the projector scene, the first film contained more frightening moments rather than well-built scary sequences. Thankfully, Muscetti learned his lesson as there’s a lot of great sequences that legitimately made me jump. Rather than rush to its scares, there’s a great amount of suspense and build-up that ultimately results in much more satisfying scares and there’s even some great moments of misdirection that lead to some mind-bending and horrifying imagery.
What makes It: Chapter Two such an enjoyable ride, though, is how all this comes together to create a harrowing journey about delving into your past and facing inner demons. With some great callbacks to the past, smooth transitions from the past and the present, and a story that follows characters rediscovering themselves, It: Chapter Two works as a different kind of coming of age film. Honestly, the second they all met up at the Chinese restaurant, the chemistry was hard to resist, and it genuinely felt like old friends catching up. However, the real magic happens when characters are isolated and forced to face their inner demons as it’s actually pretty deep at times. It can seem cliché on paper, but the performances and great scene structure make them each facing their past very engaging and it’s actually so engrossing that the film’s lengthy runtime never feels that long.
I will say that some of the lines of the adults saying things about believing and hope come off a little bit cheesier than it would’ve for younger actors to say and how they defeat Pennywise doesn’t exactly sit well with me. While I won’t say how they do it, I will say that I felt it promotes this idea that in order to defeat a bully, you have to bully the bully and it isn’t a message or an idea that makes me feel comfortable the more I think about it. Honestly, it sometimes feels as if the film doesn’t exactly know how to end, just like Bill with writing his screenplays, and the end result feels a little forced and strange. However, this was slightly overshadowed, for me, by how strong the actual end is for the Losers’ Club and how emotionally driven it is because of how they utilize Stanley. If you know anything about the It story, you know that Stanley doesn’t exactly play the biggest role in the adult sections of the story. However, Chapter Two utilizes him in a perfect way to endcap the story and the strong performances from Wyatt Oleff and Andy Bean make the end a fitting and heartfelt way for the Losers Club to end their journey.
Even in moments where It: Chapter Two misses the mark, it easily makes up for it in excellent performances, great scares, and heartfelt character moments that make it match, if not outdo, the 2017 original. Although Bill and King, himself, have struggles in finding a fitting end to their stories, Muschetti and company find an ending that evokes emotion in its viewers and, ultimately, gives the Losers’ Club a great end that would make Pennywise dance with frightful delight.