It Chapter 2 (2019)
Directed by: Andy Muschietti
Written b y: Gary Dauberman
Starring: Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, Bill Skarsgard
In Stephen King stories, it isn’t just the horror that’s memorable: it’s the characters. In Misery, the plight of a writer being held captive by a psychotic fan wouldn’t be nearly as memorable were it not for the complexity and humanity that King imbues in Paul Sheldon and Annie Wilkes. The Stand would simply be another bog-standard post-apocalyptic novel were it not for the presence of the charismatically evil Randall Flagg or the sensitive deaf-mute Nick Andross. And the major saving graces of It, both the novel and the film, are the Losers’ Club, and the freakish Pennywise the Dancing Clown.
But it isn’t always Pennywise who’s responsible for the horrors of Derry. Here, a bloody hate crime in the opening scene is what reawakens the monstrous clown, whose return is felt by all members of the Losers’ Club. While they try to deny it to themselves, it’s Mike Hanlon’s call to each member that forces them to confront reality. To confront not only the terrors of Pennywise, but to also confront the hold Derry has on their psyches. And for most of the 165-minute running time, It: Chapter Two’s chronicle of their mission is satisfying.
It: Chapter Two is not without its flaws: it’s overlong. It leans too heavily on comedy when a more serious tone would be more fitting. And while It: Chapter One stands well enough on its own, Chapter Two is very dependent on invoking the same imagery and situations from the previous film. The structure of scares and terror in It: Chapter Two begins to follow an all-too-familiar pattern of buildup, false start, scare, and then a return to normalcy.
But whenever the film pulls back a bit and focuses not on the horror or comedy, but on the Losers themselves, is when the film finds its true strength. Much has already been said about Bill Hader and how he steals the show, but he is only one part of the formula of what makes this cast so memorable. Whether it’s the return of Bill’s (James McAvoy) stutter or the cascade of traumatic memories Beverly (Jessica Chastain) thought she left behind, all members of the Losers cast get moments where they are given a chance to shine.
It’s a blessing that the Loser’s Club works so well. Otherwise, the film would be undone not only by the length of its own running time, but by the flashbacks padding out the running time. It’s one facet of many that winds up damaging the pace of the film. Ironically, the rumored five-hour cut Muschietti is editing (said to be more faithful to King’s novel’s structure) may prove to be better paced than the current product.
But while the film’s structure is imperfect, this imperfection winds up supporting the film’s final thesis: that it isn’t the horrors one encounters that will stay with you the longest. It’s the relationships one builds with others to push through them.