Just two years ago, director Andy Muschietti delivered the remarkable first half of his adaptation of Stephen King’s “IT.” It was a box office phenomenon and opened to wide acclaim from critics and audiences, who praised it for its thrilling storytelling and exceptional young cast. With its major success, the pressure was on to deliver a second half worthy of going right alongside the first in terms of the epic scope of the narrative, the cast, and, of course, the scares. Two long years later, the wait is finally over, and we can at last see if Muschietti (and screenwriter Gary Dauberman) can finish the epic adaptation they began by bringing it to what would hopefully be a satisfying conclusion.
Picking up 27 years after the events of the first film, we find Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) still living in Derry. One day he hears about someone getting killed in town, and upon discovery that Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) has returned, attempts to reunite the members of the Losers’ Club. He manages to contact Beverly (Jessica Chastain), Richie (Bill Hader), Bill (James McAvoy), Ben (Jay Ryan), and Eddie (James Ransone) (with the final member, Stanley, having committed suicide), and meets them for dinner, where strange happenings begin to occur soon after. While some of them immediately want to get out of town, Mike does eventually convince them that he has a way of defeating Pennywise once and for all through a Native American ritual. Pinning all of their hopes on this ritual, the group must collect tokens from their childhood before confronting the evil in one final battle.
As noted, the first film had been a pretty remarkable achievement in that it was able to provide a good number of thrills throughout its captivating tale, always staying its course, and getting to the point in a reasonable amount of time. However, when it comes to “IT: Chapter Two,” it feels as though the difference between the films is night and day. This second part is simply far less captivating, is in no rush to get anywhere, takes an incredibly long time to get to the point, and ultimately doesn’t really do much of anything on its way there.
Much has already been said about the film’s bloated 169-minute runtime, and it’s true: there was absolutely no reason for the film to be this long, especially when it becomes clear that the story doesn’t require this much time to tell. This becomes more and more evident as the lengthy film proceeds, first starting off just a bit slow as our heroes gather in Derry, and then even more so as it heads into its extremely repetitive second act, which consists of several unnecessary flashbacks, and feels as though it contains multiple sequences that should’ve been expunged as deleted scenes (i.e. scenes that don’t get anywhere or add much of anything to the film). Finally, the film heads into an incredibly tedious and stretched-out finale, which had been a minor issue in the previous film, but which becomes an overarching problem for the sequel.
Even when it comes to the scares for this follow-up, it’s hard to say that it’s on par with the original, for this time around it’s fair to say that things get just a little too goofy. They go a bit overboard with the CGI, resulting in a few scenes that should be giving you thrills, but end up giving you a few good laughs instead, including the old woman scene, a statue of a lumberjack coming to life, and a certain character’s head bursting into flames. It’s possible that this was simply a choice on the part of the filmmakers, especially given that their main evil entity is a clown, but trying to get this many laughs from what should be terrifying situations is just too much of a tonal shift that ends up doing more harm than good.
Truth be told, it’s hard to tell if the film could’ve been saved even if it had been edited down to a more manageable runtime, for it ultimately ends up being considerably less substantial than its predecessor. Sure the film could be tighter, with a hefty chunk being deleted from the middle section, but it wouldn’t necessarily make it a good film otherwise. What it ultimately needed was another draft or two in which Dauberman could really focus on the characters and their trial, instead of allowing it to wildly wander off in multiple directions, losing perspective in the process. In the end, it’s not so much the runtime that kills it, but the content within, or rather the lack of content within. It’s rather surprising to say that, in a film that runs 169 minutes, there’s just not that much here to see. Muschietti and Dauberman are certainly to be praised for the first film, and it’s great that they at least took a stab at completing the full story, but unfortunately they just weren’t able to stick the landing. 2/4 stars.