By Nicole Rees-Williams
IT: Chapter 2 is arguably the most anticipated horror film of 2019. Its prequel, IT (2017) received a great reception so most audiences had high hopes for this sequel. Picking up 27 years after the first film, IT 2 brings the threat of Pennywise back to Derry once more. Mike, being the only member of the original gang still left in Derry gets the losers back to their hometown to destroy Pennywise for good.
The film’s most repeated criticism is the runtime. IT 2 is a staggering 2 hours and 49 minutes long and there are some scenes where the length is really felt. Understandably, Stephen King’s IT is a gigantic novel but, sometimes with book to film adaptations you must be realistic about what and what not to cut. The film follows a simple three act structure: Step 1, introduce older losers. Step 2, get the gang back to Derry to plan how to kill Pennywise. Step 3, kill Pennywise. Considering that not much character building was necessary due to the fact we’ve already had an entire film of these characters before and considering the simplistic plotline, I personally didn’t see the need for the borderline 3-hour runtime.
In IT 2 there is a fair amount of bouncing back and forth between past and present and I did like this decision at times as the child actors were such a strength of the first film. However, in the scenes set in the past there is some very noticeable CGI used on the child actors faces. This was obviously used to make them look like they did in the 2017 installment as a lot of the actors are at that age where 2 years can really make a difference to their physical appearance. So, the decision to do this is understandable but I did find it very distracting as the CGI wasn’t as effective as other de-aging CGI that has been used in films lately, and it was especially prominent on Finn Wolfhard’s character, Richie.
The casting in IT 2 was brilliant. Especially regarding Bill Hader who played an older Richie and James Ransone who portrayed an older Eddie. These two really captured the essence of the characters that the first installment introduced us to. They had a great chemistry and gave the funnier scenes to the film. With that being said, the flashback scenes that involved the child actors did stand out as the most effective scenes and I always found myself a bit disappointed when it returned to the adult actors, not because their performances weren’t adequate as they all did a fantastic job, just because being a child is what elevates the horror of the film.
As a child, Pennywise could evoke fear easily. When the losers return as adults, however, they’ve seen it all before. I didn’t feel as scared for the characters this time as they seemed more capable due to their age. The perspective from which a story is told can really determine the mood a film evokes, and, in the case of IT, I believe that the children are what made the first film such a success. That idea of being a child facing these horrors for the first time is much more frightening than returning as an adult to relive the same horrors again. The whole second installment generally felt less scary and this could be due to the change in perspective of the actual characters but also since we, as an audience, had seen a lot of the stuff before. I knew what to expect this time: the same clown, the same leper creatures, the same haunted house. Scenes from the first film are literally repeated in It 2 and at times the older characters repeated word for word the lines their child counterparts had already said in the first installment. I feel this could have been done to enhance that connection between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 but it did feel very repetitive.
One thing I did love about IT 2, though, was the continuation of the loser’s club’s friendship. An advantage of the 27-year time jump was the fact that we feel as if we’ve known these characters their whole lives. We’ve seen how their childhood shaped the people that they are today and have witnessed this great friendship over different decades. This factor made me feel a lot more emotion towards what happened to them than I did in IT 1. IT 2 had a very touching third act and conclusion that really commemorated the immense friendship that these characters experienced. The joining of this wonderful group of outcasts creates a hilarious, heartbreaking and memorable story and despite it not being quite as good as the first in terms of horror, it’s still a lovely conclusion to a terrifying story.