I really enjoyed the 2017’s “It”. I thought it was fresh and clever and scary in an unexpected way but also had a sense of Goonies-esque fun about the whole thing with a young cast of talented actors who brought a genuine and organic chemistry to the “Losers”. “It: Chapter 2” has some impressive moments in its unnecessarily long two hour and fifty minute run time, but unfortunately it doesn’t come close to the first instalment. A lot of what was dynamic and interesting in the first film is somehow stale and unimpressive in the second, there is a distinct lack of a cohesive story but to me the biggest failing of “It: Chapter 2” is its underutilisation of Pennywise the clown.
“It: Chapter Two” begins twenty seven years after the events of the first, each member of the Loser gang has grown up with varying degrees of success. Unexplained murders have started up again and Mike contacts the rest of the crew for them to make good on their oath twenty seven years earlier to kill Pennywise if he ever came back. The gang gets back together, and after catching up on old times, set off to find and kill Pennywise once and for all. The grown up Losers have actually been matched up to their younger counterparts pretty well, particularly James Ransone as Eddie and Bill Hader as Richie. I thought it was a sensible idea to have the flashbacks of the kids back in the 80s, because the grown up actors just don’t have the chemistry that the kids do and it works as a reminder of the dynamic of the original group.
The screenplay was probably limited to some extent because of what happens in the book, but I was surprised but how unimaginative and pedestrian the story was in this film. I liked each of the Losers going off to confront Pennywise and their fears individually, particularly a scene in which Beverly is confronted by a possessed old lady who lives in her old apartment, but that is only about twenty minutes and is the only real part where the film evokes some of the suspense and polish of the first film. The fact that a significant portion of the film is the Losers returning to the creepy old mansion and basically playing out exactly what happened in the first film was disappointing and underwhelming. It was the same old scares and the same old tricks and the same old struggle to overcome their fears to defeat Pennywise, except they’re all grown up this time.
They had defeated the clown once already, so from the get go Pennywise just isn’t as intimidating and instead of enhancing what made him scary in the first one, the filmmakers for some reason made him more comical and ridiculous so that there are no stakes in the expedition at all. There is one sensational scene where Pennywise lures a little girl away from her family under the bleachers of a football game, similarly to Georgie in the first film. That was what makes Pennywise terrifying; when he was smiling and talking sweetly and you’re not sure at what moment he’s going to flip the switch, not by transforming him into a giant or a spider. Clowns are scary enough, and Bill Skarsgard is so impressive as Pennywise that he should have been left alone to do his thing without all that unnecessary CGI.
Then again there’s all the bizarre subplots that feel wedged in and add nothing to the story. Pennywise doesn’t need to be explained; he’s a scary clown that eats kids and we as an audience don’t need an origin story to work that out because the mystery is all part of the fun. All the Aztec elements and the ritual to kill the clown out of place and unnecessary, especially with a run time as long as this one.
While there are certain parts of this film which are done well and the performances aren’t bad, the whole thing ultimately felt unnecessary and like a wasted opportunity. This is especially disappointing when the property itself and Pennywise as a villain holds so much potential that with the right director and a decent screenplay, “It: Chapter Two” could have been something impressive.
By Jock Lehman.