The first half of the It saga released in 2017 was a smash hit, both critically and commercially. Director Andy Muschietti did a brilliant job of bringing Stephen King’s classic novel to life. He managed to create a film that was truly scary, rather than just injecting jump scares, but never lost the heart of the film, and the stories of the seven Losers and their growth throughout the film.
So expectations were obviously sky high for the second installment where the Losers return to Derry in order to try and stop It/Pennywise once and for all. Now the general towards the story seems to be that the second half of the book focusing on the adult is far weaker, and sadly that proves to be true with this film as well. It certainly doesn’t help that It Chapter 2 run time comes in at just under three hours, over half an hour longer than the first installment. Whilst there have been plenty of great films around the 3 hour mark, with It Chapter 2 you really feel the length, as the middle of the film just descends into fetch quest, although these are most of the best scenes.
And a huge part of that is probably because the atmosphere of dread and terror that made the first It so scary is just missing from this sequel. Some scenes and sequence of the film are tense or creepy, but for the most part it just isn’t scary. In fact some of the great sequences that the trailers showed end up losing their edge as they get extended more and more. It certainly doesn’t help that so often It/Pennywise just ends up taking the form of some giant monster, and all the fear factor drains away as scenes turn into something akin to Godzilla or Pacific Rim.
The other great strength of the first It was how Muschietti successfully managed to blend the horror with the touching and rich human story underneath. But in this second part the two never really mesh. Instead it only really feels as though you’re getting one or the other, and any switch between the two takes away from either the scary moments or the emotional ones. All that just leads to It Chapter 2 feeling disjointed, and not a cohesive whole.
But it certainly isn’t all bad, with the performances of the cast being the real standout from the film. The adult Losers are all really good, particularly Bill Hader as Richie, the character Finn Wolfhard played in the first. Hader obviously nails the sarcastic comic side of the character, but he also has the most emotional and powerful scenes. James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Jay Ryan, and James Ransone are also great, while Isaiah Mustafa and Andy Bean as Mike and Stanley still feel like the most background characters, as they did in the first.
The true star though is Bill Skarsgård as the main form of It, Pennywise the Dancing Clown. His incredibly alien and unnatural take on the character is fantastic, and he deserves recognition for one of the iconic horror movie villain performances over these two films. Not everything that was done with It/Pennywise in this film worked, but that was never down to Skarsgård’s performance, he is what kept this film from being utterly forgettable.