Rated R for all kinds of supernatural violence and mayhem. It's a pretty gory movie. You know how there was a first one and that one was pretty gory? This one is like that. That's usually how sequels work. The goal of what I'm writing is to establish a standoffish tone for some reason, but I'm also trying to communicate that if you could handle the first one, you should be able to watch the second one. If you haven't seen the first one, you really shouldn't watch the second one because the second one HANGS on the first one. It's got some spousal abuse thrown in here. Bev's life will be terrible, regardless of her age. There's some hate speech in here coupled with hate crimes. It's a lot to take in, but the movie knows it is R and rides that pretty hard.
DIRECTOR: Andy Muschietti
MAN! I got his name from memory. I'm pretty proud of myself for that one. Again, I'd like to apologize for not writing earlier. I watched this a week-and-a-half ago, but I just got back from an impromptu vacation to Disney World. Yeah, I know. I really have no excuse. My life is charmed, I guess. I get to go to the House of Mouse and then get to resume a blog. That's a pretty sweet setup. I don't know how long that feeling of being blessed is going to last because I am going to be getting a large stack of papers to grade. Regardless, I do I want to talk about It: Chapter Two.
Sequels are, by and large, dependent on their predecessors. This isn't the rule, by any means. I can think of a handful of movies that completely stand apart from their foundational film. Sometimes, sequels are just sequels in name only. Halloween III: Season of the Witch, I guess. But the big reveal at the end of the first one was that It was actually informally named It: Chapter One. There was going to be a sequel, which made sense. After all, the first film was only part of the story of the original novel. Stephen King's book told the story of the Losers as children for the first half of the book and then had them return 27 years later to finish the menace of Pennywise. The book did it a little differently, bookending the novel with the Losers as adults and occasionally peppering in some of the adult stuff into the kids' portion of the book. But like how Tarantino wanted Kill Bill to be the the Whole Bloody Affair from the word go, It: Chapter Two desperately wanted to be tied together to the first movie.
I sympathize with Muschietti when making Chapter Two. It's a fine movie that can never actually hit the same stride that the first one did. The first movie had such an advantage to the movie. 2017 was the year where Stranger Things was taking over the world. It's still extremely topical, but we wanted more and more Stranger Things and this movie provided it. Finn Wolfhard in a movie that took place in the '80s? He got to be snarky and fight monsters? That's a little bit on the nose, right? Similarly --and this I never understood --the miniseries had terrified people for decades. It was this low-budget (comparatively) made-for-TV adaptation that had to pray that you were afraid of clowns before you watched it. Taking that nostalgia coupled with the fact that you could make Pennywise actually scary was brilliant.
But like The Lost World: Jurassic Park, we kind of got it out of our systems. We now know who Pennywise is. We know what he's capable of. He scared us before. Thus, we know what we're getting into. Horror sequels are tough. We want to go through that same fear again, but there has to be a change from what we saw before. I'll still swear to the grave that Friday the 13th is one of the greatest horror movies ever made. But the sequels were smart. Mrs. Voorhies wasn't the killer anymore. They teased Jason and gave us Jason for a sequel. And look what happened after that? I'll enjoy a good Jason movie, but I also acknowledge that none of them are real masterpieces. Pennywise was teased to come back. He came back exactly as before. The surprise was gone.
Suspense for a conclusion can sometimes hurt. Right now, "Crisis on Infinite Earths" is playing on the CW. They broke up the series into two parts, separated by Christmas break. I remember that people were buzzing over this series. We were left on a cliffhanger that was actually pretty good. But then...people stopped thinking about it. Other things happened. Marvel keeps the buzz going by never really stopping. Actually, it's weird that there hasn't been a Marvel movie in theaters for a while because I actually went from being really excited about Black Widow to barely remembering that the movie is on its way.
Sequels can generate buzz and get people excited. But It: Chapter Two really wants to be tagged along to It that it suffers for it. Much of the film, unfortunately, is reminding the characters that they need to fear Pennywise. It's a long movie. It's too long of a movie. When the first half is dedicated to getting the Losers back on board to fight Pennywise, that only hurts the film more. I praised the first film for setting up these ornate scares for the kids. The kids didn't know who Pennywise was, so when he orchestrated all these elaborate scenarios for them, it is really effective. Chapter Two takes the playbook of the first film and just applies it to the contemporary era. That means while we're ready for the Losers to take the fight to Pennywise, the film finds shoddy excuses to separate them just so they can be harassed by a demon.
And the movie wants us to remember how much fun the Stranger Things attitude of the first one was. There was all this talk about de-aging the kids, mainly because we are now using de-aging technology for cosmetic things as opposed to story changing things. But there was so much almost retconning of the first movie that the film kind of feels like the events of the first film weren't tight at all. Rather than play off of threads already established in the first film, the movie introduced important moments for the characters that would have been important to bring up in the first film. Knowing that Pennywise disguised himself as Bev for Ben is a huge deal for him. Also, Richie was laissez-faire towards the whole Pennywise hauntings until the end because he was never attacked...until Chapter Two retconned some things.
This all seems whiny because I actually enjoyed the film overall. But the big problem is that it comes across like the second helping at a buffet. I'm back on the diet post-Disney World, so I apologize for the analogy, but that first plate at a buffet is amazing. I tend to load up and take a little bit of everything. I want to know what's great so I can get it again. But I also fill up mostly on the first plate. The second plate is a little skimpy. I get the things I really like and then kinda sorta enjoy it.
When the movie focuses on the adult dynamic, it has a little bit more legs. But the movie really depends on the character development as children to sell the adult choices in the film. I know that people praised Bill Hader for his performance as Richie, which I will also do. But I really was most impressed with James Ransone for his delivery as Eddie. Oh my goodness, that guy nailed the concept of adult Eddie with keeping young Eddie in mind. (That's a confusing sentence, but I stand by it.) There's some cool stuff there. The problem with a lot of the story is that, because most of the Losers left Derry, they have no memory of it. I didn't really know that was a thing. There is some major character development in the first film. The Losers kind of strip their name because they get over their hangups in the first film. But by having them lose all of their memories of Derry, that means that they really haven't grown up at all. At times, that's funny, like Eddie's hypochondria. But with Bev, it's tragic. She goes from being a victim to being self-actualized to being a victim all over again.
We never get to see the kids really grow up in that way, I guess. Like most sequels, they tend to turn back the clock to a convenient internal conflict. That's why we watch movies, though. Imagine an ill-inspired sequel to A Christmas Carol. What if Scrooge was a grump all over again? It undoes so much of what makes the story great to begin with. If the movies were together, this problem probably wouldn't exist. But Chapter Two is ultimately a sequel and doesn't really have the gumption to do anything really new with the content. There's some building of mythos, but even that takes the fun mystery out of it. So what we are left with is a well-made horror movie that doesn't have any guts.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.