It All Ends
Set 27 years after the events of the first film, Mike Hanlon [Mustafa] is the only member of the losers club who has remained in Derry, working as the librarian. When he learns of mysterious deaths in Derry, he believes the creature they fought as children has returned and he must reunite his friends, who have all but forgotten the experiences of their youth. Upon arrival the now adult misfits must retrace their steps to restore the missing memories and deal with the threat for good.
It is my opinion that this movie will not be especially divisive. The flaws are quite transparent and incontestable but they don’t impact the film enough to make it arguably any less enjoyable, just a little flat in places. The CGI, much like the Chapter One, has an oddly jarring quality to it and the more you look at it, the more silly and significantly less scary it becomes. I can’t quite decide whether this is a conscious choice to illustrate the nature of adults interacting and combating childish fears or if it is simply a misjudged decision and subpar effects. But for all the faults and flaws of the computer generated elements, they seem to strive for something original. With such a heavy focus on the mix of practical and computer effects, I think enough attention isn’t given to the incredibly inventive direction and editing that is used throughout this film. It would have been so very easy to shoot this in a bland fashion but the creativity on display is genuinely welcome in this genre. I could say the same of Benjamin Wallfisch’s score which at times is eerie, suspenseful and atmospheric but at times veers into surprisingly uninspired. The whole thing makes for a mixed bag that leaves Chapter Two feeling acceptable but short of its predecessor on a technical level.
Casting any dual role is extremely challenging and I think it’s fair to say every member of the cast gave a perfectly fitting symbiotic recreation of their counterpart’s performance; case in point, the reunion scene in the Chinese restaurant illustrates this fantastic chemistry. As with Chapter One, this instalment retains the good use of levity but with adults as the central characters, there is a slight tonal shift to accommodate for the time period and characters aging up. This, as with the CGI, could be construed as a negative but I feel that is more a commentary on the nature of how we perceive change; specifically that the events of our lives shape us as adults, so I wouldn’t expect the central characters to have the exact same mannerisms and charm because they are jaded and guarded – which is the very nature of adulthood. Despite this, two performances in particular genuinely stand out from the others and that is those of Bill Hader as Richie and James Ransone as Eddie. Both as a continuation of the familiar and as performances in their own right, Hader and Ransone are a joy to watch from start to finish and bring a level of soul that the characters may not have possessed in the book.
One particular performance that, while perfectly capable and serviceable in its own right, is that of Teach Grant as the adult Henry Bowers , who has spent time in an asylum for the crime of killing his parents. Midway through the film It summons Bowers, prompting him to escape from prison and hunt the losers down. Initially he appears to be imbued with supernatural qualities but it later becomes apparent that this is not the case and can be killed like any mortal. The problem seems to be that the character is so easily dispatching and doesn’t really move the story along, other than to serve as another brief obstacle that it becomes ultimately pointless, which is extremely unfortunate. The other performance to discuss is that of Bill Skarsgard, returning as Pennywise. When the initial footage went up of the evil creature’s clown form, people were sceptical but what Skarsgard brought to the performance was so memorable and chilling that it struck an immediate chord with audiences. As with the first part, Pennywise is just as unnerving and sinister but as with a lot of the film, because we are dealing with adult versions of characters, the foreboding presence of the clown itself is robbed of its power and menace.
A repeated observation throughout this review is that this movie doesn’t have the punch of It Chapter One but no less impressive. In truth, it’s not even particularly scary. The jump-scares are predictable, the visuals aren’t particularly monstrous and the imagery doesn’t stay with you as long as it should; the most disturbing thing is how realistic the homophobic attack is at the start of the film and the fact such an attack in a 1985 setting has just as much resonance with a 2019 audience. But this brings me to the point I’ve been alluding to from the start, this film inherits all the flaws of the book in that the kid’s story is much more entertaining. And while the adult element is a fantastic place to take the story, it also feels like a retread and shifts the tone of rationality and plausible acceptance. For example, not one character suggests shooting It, there’s simply a childlike regression with lines like “this kills monsters if you believe it does.” I get one of the themes of the book was the nature of the loss of childlike innocence and how it can never be reclaimed but this never really came across. Instead, recalling the group eats a lot of the runtime and slows the pacing to a crawl, only to then be replaced with a memory quest that becomes very formulaic very quickly. Furthermore, the impact on their adult lives isn’t especially well felt or communicated because outside of the initial setup, we never see any follow-up or impact; as if the events in Derry, both past and present, exist within a bubble, leaving the entirety of the story ending on a less than satisfying dreamlike note.
Ultimately, the flaws lie with the structure of the novel itself but as a single story, rather than two separate standalone entities, these adaptations of chapters one and two work perfectly but with a slightly stumbling finale but still better than the egg laying, catatonic Audra being brought back with a bike ride nonsense of the source material. The real question is how would this movie have been received if dramatic changes had been made from the events of the book (more so than currently on display here), my guess is badly.
07 September 2019
The Scene To Look Out For:
To establish that Bill went on to have a successful film career, we cut to him on the Warner Bros lot desperately trying to write script pages for an amended adaptation to his best-selling book. I hate this scene. I hate it because everyone involved has been on a film set and this doesn’t really feel like a film set, more a projected nonsense reality. Yes, I know troubled shoots have rewrites on the day and chaos ensues when no one knows what is happening but according to the director (who was Peter fucking Bogdanovich by the way!) they literally have no idea what the ending of this movie is but are apparently filming it in a matter of hours. What’s more, this serves to enforce the point I made earlier about the “real world” having almost no impact or relevance because it is never established what happened to either that film or indeed Bill’s wife. I mean, I know the film is already quite bloated but this kind of disconnect is extremely unhelpful.
Other than those listed above, I was very pleased that the young cast came back without noticeable differences. In fact, one of the standout moments for me was the young Stanley at his Bar Mitzvah ceremony challenging everyone present. A solid reminder that these kids were and are phenomenal choices for these individuals.
“People want to believe they are what they choose to remember”
In A Few Words:
“Technically, an inferior feature to its predecessor but when watched as a whole, hard to argue it’s anything other than a genuinely solid (and likely eventually considered classic) adaptation”