The Losers Club returns to Derry 27 years later to face Pennywise once more in the second part of Stephen King’s masterpiece IT. The film starts with a bang, returning to troubled Derry with a vicious hate crime that ends with the return of Pennywise. In this opening sequence the stage is set for an almost 3 hour mixed bag.
What seemed to make sense and breaking King’s 1,400 pages book into two feature length films at times still feels rushed while finding plenty of times to feel meandering. The kids have grown into (for the most part) wildly successful adults who still feel empty inside. With the first film showcasing the kids relationship together, this film keeps the Losers apart on their own journey for the majority of the running time which is a major drag even with the great cast.
Speaking of the adult losers, the actors here are fantastic even if they are under utilized through most of it’s running time. In particular we have a strong performance by Bill Hader as Richie. Unfortunately for the adults, they aren’t given the time nor character depth for us to know who they are 27 years later. Instead the film turns back time to the first film to fill in holes of who they were then and how that Summer shaped them. I really wanted to see more than a single scene of each character in their current day lives but the film saved those minutes for a giant, Paul Bunyan version of Pennywise.
As for the horror, well that’s interesting as there really isn’t a lot of actual scary moments here. We have a series of bloated set pieces that seem to care more about the comedic moments than the horror of it all which proves once again that bigger isn’t always better.
For all it’s woes there is still a good time to be had here. Even with the film having more comedy than horror that comedy tends to work out fantastically. I was geedy when both the future and past versions of the Losers shared scenes together as their chemistry is undeniable just few and far between.
The film adapts most of King’s novel with literally but when it comes to commenting on social issues Muschietti and company feel lost and often too scared to make the actual statement. Spoiler Warning: In King’s book it’s alluded that Richie loved Eddie more than just a normal friendship and he may in fact be gay. This was only hinted upon and never clear in the book. What Muschietti decides to do here is gives us a single scene in Richie’s past where he wants to play a second game of Street Fighter at the arcade with another boy. The scene is awkward and quickly becomes moreso when the scene is supposed to show us that Richie is questioning his sexuality instead it feels uncertain and scared to actually say something about being a child and discovering your sexuality. It continues to mishandle their relationship throughout the film never fully giving us the reality of Richie and Eddie’s relationship.
I believe we will see this story again in the future, likely done as an unrated mini-series that really lets the characters, both adults and children, really breathe and for us to truly fall in love with the losers enough to care for the horror at hand.
The climax of the story is one that is still love it or leave it for many people as it dives head first into science fiction territory as the Losers must once again confront their biggest fears. For me, the silliness of it all was enough of a shot in the arm for the last 30 minutes to fly by but after their final confrontation I was ready to leave these characters and Derry behind for good.
As I walked out of the theatre I couldn’t help but think about the original Nightmare on Elm Street. How perfectly tight the screenplay was and how frightening Freddy was in that first film. Then with each sequel how big and cartoony they went with the horror and Freddy. That is the same journey we are set on here as Pennywise becomes a caricature of himself. His horror much less horrifying and his dialogue much sillier and that’s Chapter 2 in the box. A bloated, Nightmare on Elm Street sequel and not one of the good ones (Dream Warriors I’m looking at you).