It is not really accurate calling this second chapter to Andy Muschietti’s immensely successful 2017 film IT: Chapter One a sequel. Instead, I prefer to think of it as one whole monster of an adaptation of Stephen King’s mighty horror tome IT, a novel many think of as the legendary author’s magnum opus. However, after the first half of the story conquered the box office and won acclaim from fans and critics alike, this second chapter always had serious hype to match, not to mention wrangling the more problematic – and fantasy driven – end of King’s narrative to the big screen (see how the 1990 miniseries version suffered with its second half). Miraculously, Muschietti’s It: Chapter Two stands side by side with his first chapter beautifully and advances the past as well as the present.
To say the film’s hefty (just shy of) 3-hour running length has been hotly debated, this film fills every inch of this time and if anything, there could have been a trilogy here instead of a two-parter. There is an awful lot to take in and – as feedback has already denoted – this finale to the story will prove very polarising (they even make a joke of that fact constantly onscreen). Fans of King’s literature however will be thrilled by how boldly close Gary Dauberman’s screenplay has stuck to this horrific and fantastical tale. There are of course tweaks but they are very smart alterations and the crux of the story remains there for all to experience.
These bizarre, impressive and faithful beats of this chapter could put off the casual viewer and at times there is a bigger showier approach and a lot of mythos crammed in to keep up with, as well as a fragmented plot that leaps between character’s youth and adulthood constantly, alongside some backstory for the central bogeyman Pennywise that was undoubtedly cut as there are hints of more to come (Muschietti has confirmed a home video extended cut may be released and expand on this point). But it is all so interesting to submerge into and as the plot is littered with worthwhile themes of friendship, the power of the past and contemporary themes of identity, it is commendable they even had time to insert some great references to horror classic like John Carpenter’s The Thing and to elements of the source material, as well as King’s other written work. So much so, that his many fans may well declare this the ultimate Stephen King movie (for many reasons!).
This all being said, despite some claims to the contrary, the film is filled with intense scare sequences, that are superbly directed from beginning to end, with some of Checco Varese’s cinematography being absolutely dazzlingly aspiring and Benjamin Wallfisch’s score continues to sustain the atmosphere from the first chapter. Overall this is a visually flummoxing achievement with some scene-to-scene transitions that dazzle and superb editing from Jason Ballantine, with a dedication to the craft that results in a movie that is savage yet heartfelt, while often hilarious yet atmospherically high stakes.
The casting is literally perfect, with every adult actor portraying the grown up versions of the characters from part one with remarkable accuracy. Before everyone is confirmed by name onscreen, you know who is who and the characters are each so well developed, with their various stories tying together and uniting ‘The Losers’ as a cinematic kinship with few equals. The chemistry among the cast is fantastic and it gives scenes like the Chinese restaurant get together a connective and relatable quality.
It is hard to pick out a highlight, as all of the actors are fabulous, though perhaps Bill Hader’s Richie is the biggest show stealer, with his exceptional comic one liners and emotion, while the character’s arc is satisfying and very meaningful to see flourish. While Bill Skarsgård’s return as Pennywise is just as sensational as before, even without the monstrous CGI accompaniment (which is perhaps too heavily leaned upon admittedly but still effective), he chills you to the bone, see one particular scene in the film with a young girl that absolutely entrances.
This wildly weird and epic haunted house rollercoaster ride is horror on a seriously grand scale, perhaps grander than ever before. I only hope we see more horror movies given this huge and swarming a scale! Funny, horrific, meaningful, emotional and divisive, this second part of the story floats just as highly for me as the first did.