Watch this as soon as you can…
The first It is overrated. Funnily enough, It: Chapter Two seems like will suffer from the opposite problem, going by the critical consensus. Of course, this film has its flaws. The second act and its over use of the flashback are great hindrances slowing this movie down so that it is nearly three hours in length. Yet, the film still feels like an improvement. The threat is greater and the cast is better. This is underrated second part that gives you more reason to love the franchise as a whole.
The premise of the second part is great, but exploited. The second film is about the Losers’ Club remembering their past. It is a quest narrative, but they are uncovering artefacts from their past. Dealing with their repressed childhood trauma and horrifying memories, according to Mike, is key to defeat Pennywise permanently. Interesting take on the quest narrative. Instead of horcruxes, the group are hunting for memories. However, this premise is also the film’s main downfall. Such a set up requires flashbacks, but Muschietti includes too many that are too long and not always relevant enough. Yes, some of the flashbacks are integral to character development, but many of them feel like they have been done for the sake of nostalgia. Do we really need to see the child version of the Losers’ Club re-enter their old den? We already know the setting’s significance to them. This film is nearly three hours, which is not a problem in itself, but it feels like most of this runtime is dedicated to reusing scenes from the first film, or flashbacks. This film could have done with a more ruthless editor, or Muschietti should not be so reliant on nostalgia. The first It milked society’s fond remembrance for the 1980s, whilst the second one milks nostalgia for the first It. The third act of this film feels like a complete re-tread of the third act from the original too. It: Chapter Two keeps going back almost as a constant reminder that this is the second half of that really popular horror movie from 2017.
Further, the use of the flashback technique is overused. There are other ways to engage with the past using cinematic techniques: a look from an actor, or a piece of music from the past. We do not need an entirely new scene every time a character remembers something. The fact every character has to undergo this process of finding an artefact and remembering their childhood self makes for a really repetitive second act. It plays out like a series of vignettes about each character rather than a cohesive narrative. There are exceptions. Will engages with the past not through flashback, but through a child who reminds him of his dead brother. He becomes obsessed with saving this child because he thinks it will make up for failing to save his brother right at the beginning of the first chapter. This is one of the most interesting parts of the second act by virtue of breaking from the formula of flashback followed by flashback followed by flashback.
However, this film is a huge improvement on the original because Pennywise feels like a much greater threat this time. The second It depicts more death in its opening act than the first It does throughout its entire movie. Perhaps Muschietti should have re-structured the source material so that some of these deaths were in the first one instead. There is a twist towards the end which fits with the theme about failing to grasp with the past properly, whilst also demonstrating Pennywise cannot be killed so easily this time around. Further, the monsters he turns into this time around show off some great character design and impressively rendered CGI. One of the highlights is the granny monster that attacks Beverly. The eyes. The throat in the mouth. Bravo to the designers behind this messed up creature. The stakes are much higher in this film, and that makes it much more gripping.
The second chapter of this adaptation also benefits highly from being about the adult versions of the Losers’ Club. The first one was about children, and it would need a dark, twisted and bold director to depict multiple child deaths, which is likely why Pennywise does not kill many people in the first one. Muschietti is not that director. Killing adults is something Muschietti is a lot more comfortable with, allowing this film to have greater stakes. Further, the fact the characters are adults now allows for a stellar cast. The casting director has done a fantastic job. This chapter boasts performances from the likes of Bill Hader, Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy. All of actors have impeccable timing, balancing the humour they find together as a group and their outright terror in response to Pennywise. Also, they are all utterly convincing as their characters. They look and act like the child actors from the first film, making it seem like Muschietti actually waited 27 years to film this second part with the same actors. Of course, he did not. The casting director found a remarkable cast to make up for that, though.
This film is a huge improvement on the first movie. A rare sequel that surpasses the original. Whilst the premise of characters remembering the past, and the use of flashbacks, are overused it is almost excessive, It: Chapter Two improves upon the original film by giving us a more threatening Pennywise and a star-studded ensemble cast to make up for it. It is ironic. For a film about the past, and a film where the past is used to exploit our nostalgia for the first part, its best moments come when it finally moves onto the present.