Though darker in tone with perfect older Losers Club castings and inventive scare sequences, Chapter 2 is an hour-overlong, ill-paced, closure-less slog with messy plotting, an underwhelming finale, and insufficient Pennywise exposition. 4.2/10.
Plot Synopsis: In the sleepy town of Derry, the evil clown Pennywise returns 27 years later to torment the grown-up members of the Losers’ Club, who have long since drifted apart from one another.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
IT. Stephen King’s sadistic scarefest broke records on its 2017 run with a wildly-scary, yet elegant/airy tonal-mixed Muschietti debut amongst the biggest breaths of fresh air this oxygen-deprived genre has seen as of late (CLC Score: 8.8/10). Thankfully choosing to separate halves of the classic Horror-master’s book to prevent overcrowding in plot, Chapter 2 was at or near most’s must-see list of 2019 films – especially after it’s spectacular trailer infamously introducing us to the Old Lady, perfect older castings (Bill Hader, FTW!) and what looked like an epic 3-hour finale to the clown-terror romp. The problem is.. themselves in a slew of self-induced problems wholly brought on by perhaps their own hubris in (trying to) fix something that wasn’t broken, perhaps ill-conceived studio direction I’m either-way stunned made it to the cutting room floor of what should’ve easily been another Muschietti home-run. Though darker in tone with perfect older Losers’ Club castings and inventive scare sequences, IT: Chapter 2 is an hour-overlong, ill-paced, closure-less slog with messy plotting, underwhelming finale, and insufficient Pennywise exposition for a wildly-disappointing wimper of an exit.
Darker tone and imaginative scares. From its opening look at the grown-up Losers 27 years later with one of them even choosing a bathtub grisly death over facing Pennywise again, one thing is bludgeoningly clear: this is going to be a way darker take than Chapter 1. And that’s a good thing the film’s risky bet pays off on (starting with the positives) – I applaud it’s ballsy embrace of a mature, despondency-rife, fatalistic tone for a film with as grim a premise as IT’s exploring heavy psychological themes from suicide to domestic abuse to self-worth exposition for an adult horror film that finds as much dread in realism and the PTSD/after-effects of the horror it spins as its sadistic scares carried out by.. you-guessed-it. Pennywise is back with a *vengeance*, armed with some even more sinister, creative set-ups again playing on each victim’s individualized biggest fears for tailor-made, psychologically-disturbing scares that at least deliver on IT’s central promise: inventive cognitive horror sequences. The Hoffsteader zombie, puppy-turned-werewolf, firefly-catch, Stanley spider (so messed-up), Old Tea Lady, and fortune cookie scare that will forever ruin Chinese food for you all dot the landscape of this effectively-foreboding, jump-inducing, ominous scarefest with more frequency in frights as well as a hungrier & more formidable antagonist/tone.
Perfect older castings with fine character development. Easily the biggest plus of Chapter 2 is the absolutely *perfect* older castings for The Losers Club. James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, James Ransone, Jay Ryan, Isaiah Mustafa, and the impeccable Bill Hader (MVP by far in effortless comedic relief as Richie you couldn’t possibly ask for a better casting) all carry the film with good performances doing wonders with the comparatively-thin plot they’re given. Of course – Bill Skarsgärd predictively steals the show once again returning as a Pennywise even more twisted/acrimonious/malefic bent on retribution for his humiliation 27 years ago, but given just as much attention as him is great character development for each member of the Club even further delving into their psyche’s and backstory than Part 1 for a caringly-crafted cast of heroes that does King’s story’s misfits as well as you could reasonably achieve across the two films. The finale – while problematic as I’ll address – at least ends on an emotionally-resonant, convivial note accurate to the book in sacrificial desolation while more fleshed out and nostalgic to their childhood selves, sending off each Loser satisfyingly character-wise after all the macabre they’ve witnessed.
The flaws: an hour-overlong, ill-paced slog of messy (chaotic) plotting. Chapter 2 is truly all-over-the-place in plot. It’s banded-together in places, thrown-apart in others, flipped upside-down, and added a complete rewrite of IT’s backstory and how stop him that makes.. little to no sense. A glorified scavenger hunt plot we’ve seen in 10+ action movies this year alone, the events for most of the film feel cookie-cutter and don’t end up even mattering in the end after an absolutely-nonsensical Scooby Doo-ish Mike plan whose entire premise for defeating an extra-dimensional godlike creature was just.. “believing” they could attain a different result than the Native Americans who tried (failingly) millennia before them? The film saunters snail-like between arcs feeling like it’s just simply trying to bide time desperately any way possible until the finale – that’s admittedly epic in final fight scene but a complete and utter yawnfest of slow pacing with the occasional interrupting jump-scare to get there. Ch. 2 might be one of the only films I’ve ever witnessed that feels an *hour*-overlong (not 10-15 minutes.. an entire HOUR) as an unforgivably ill-conceived oversight together with sluggish pacing feeling like perhaps the result of a studio-mandated 3-hour runtime for a marketing stunt to rival Avengers: Endgame’s finale (only one problem: that had a 21-FILM buildup full of hundreds of characters/threads to tie together, not a literal one-film build-up I cannot fathom who thought it was a good idea to stretch its few events into this level of time frame).
An underwhelming (intro +) end with insufficient Pennywise exposition. Opening with a copout throwback to Part 1 and virtue-signaling carnival scene you want to scream at the filmmakers for not using the perfect horror-surroundings RIGHT BEHIND THEM proved just months ago to be spectacular in Peele’s Us, it’s downright headscratching/disappointing they didn’t even attempt to one-up the iconic, internet-breaking Georgie Gutter Scene from Part 1. The film is thus built on a faulty foundation and sour fan-displeasing note from its very opening shot, not ending much better in fan-service either – although epic in final fight with a bosslevel- feeling spider-legged Pennywise teasing the book and Tim Curry original’s ending but (thankfully) rewriting it to be less goofy and hated as slyly-referenced even by a Stephen King cameo himself in-film – Pennywise goes out *pathetically* in a wildly-underwhelming bullying (yes, bullying. A demonic, child killing, god-powered monster is subdued by.. name-calling/TEASING) motif any fan will feel is a sacrilegious end to the indescribable creature maniacally terrorizing us these past two films. Speaking of indescribable, Chapter 2 fails – in perhaps the most unforgivable flaw of the entire film – to answer the ONLY question it had to: WHY Pennywise? How can you possibly not even think to address the origin of why the alienic light-force chose to take the form of a rando clown from the olden-days of Derry, or what happened that suspicious day at the carnival referenced by the book in Chapter 1 that killed all those residents (of all ages)? I cannot even find the words to describe how big of a disappointment excluding a backstory arc for the franchise’s star leaving the only character I was dying to know more of.. unanswered. Disgraceful.
Overall, IT: Chapter Two is a bloody mess that has its moments (+ scares) with a flawlessly-casted shell, but somehow manages to lose all steam and squander its impressive intangibles to end the series on a whimpering far-cry from its brilliant predecessor. Though darker with perfect older Losers’ Club castings and inventive scare sequences like the Fortune Cookie/Puppy/Firefly ones, this finale is an hour-overlong, ill-paced, closure-less slog with messy plotting, underwhelming end, and insufficient Pennywise exposition. I guess we’ll just have to imagine a better ending – maybe they should’ve floated back to the writers’ room on this one.
Official CLC Score: 4.2/10