Sunday, 22 September 2019

It Chapter Two (2019)

Director: Andy Muschietti
Running Time: 169 Minutes
Rating: 15
Starring: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Bill Skarsgård, Sophia Lillis, Jaeden Martell, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Jack Dylan Glazer, Wyatt Oleff, Javier Botet, Nicholas Hamilton, Teach Grant


Adapted from Stephen King's lengthy tome, 2017's It was a mainstream hit which showed there was still life in adapting the prolific writer's works. Two years later, Andy Muschietti returns to direct the adult section of the story, widely agreed to be the weaker parts of the unforgettable novel, and it's TV miniseries adaptation. Sadly, the same can be said of these big screen features, as the second chapter is a mixed bag overall.

27 years after defeating Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård), The Losers Club have gone their separate ways, apart from Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa), who has remained in the town of Derry, Maine. When people start disappearing, it's clear that Pennywise has returned, and Mike calls the others home to finish what they started.

Considering Stephen King's original novel ran for over 1,100 pages, it's understandable there needed to be more than one feature length film to fully adapt the story. But the unfortunate thing with adaptations is that, sometimes, you need to adapt to help the story suit a different medium, and this can often lead to cutting away some of your favourite parts. In what's surely a nod to how the book wove together timelines, we often see flashbacks of the childhood versions of the Losers club, but the amount of flashbacks is a bit much. It feels as though those involved got nostalgic for the first film's kid-centred adventures, and wanted to remind audiences about it wherever possible. It especially feels gratuitous in the middle, when the plot grinds to a halt during each character's solo adventures, and they can be reminded of what feels like a deleted scene from the first film.

There's been much discussion about an opening homophobic attack, a scene which has been lifted from the original text, and has understandably been difficult for some viewers to watch. It's certainly a tough moment to see unfold, which the book uses to further illustrate how it's the town of Derry that's ultimately evil, an element which hasn't translated so well onto the big screen. As a result, this horrific scene has little bearing on the overall plot, and could have been excised from the overall film, or just the latest change from translating the book to the screen. As it currently is, the moment feels disjointed from the rest of the feature, with a tenuous feeling connection as the only link.

While the first chapter was rarely scary, it managed to be effective in delivering the tension rather well, especially during one moment involving a projector. In spite of a similarly effective moment in a hall of mirrors, the same cannot be said about the tension this time around. Scenes with potential scares are deflated all of a sudden, usually to try and grasp for comedic touches, with the most jarring instance involving a sudden burst of music. Thank goodness for Bill Skarsgård, who remains a creepy presence throughout, as no matter the size of his smile, the chilling look in his eyes give the game away for viewers.

Where the film best succeeds is when these childhood friends are together once more, as their trips down memory lane makes their memories grow ever clearer. It helps that such an impressive cast are on hand, proving frighteningly plausible as the adult versions of the wonderful child cast, selling their rekindled friendships extremely well, and making their interactions feel genuine. Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy may be the biggest names, but they're far from examples of stunt casting, as they embody these characters returning to the source of their traumas. Jay Ryan is impressive as an older Ben, which makes it a shame his character has been minimised to being the "victim" of unrequited love, while Andy Bean captures the persona of Stanley quite uncannily. James Ransone and Bill Hader are easily the standouts, excelling in their roles, while Isaiah Mustafa does well with what he's given. Unfortunately, Mustafa shares the same fate as Chosen Jacobs, as their characters are sadly underserved by the material.

It Chapter Two captures the adult portion of the original novel very well, as it's noticeably weaker than the child-centric portions. As is referenced throughout the film, endings are hard, and this is especially true in this indulgent 169 minutes that lacks in tension. A shame, as the film comes alive when we see these friends in each others presences.

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