Adapting a book to film comes with a lot of challenges and that’s simply because they’re two vastly different mediums. There’s a lot more freedom when you’re using just words, giving you the ability to concoct literally anything from your mind and put it into somebody else’s. Film’s don’t have as much freedom, as they’re limited to what they can show and tell visually. Sometimes what works in a book simply doesn’t work on film, so you’re forced to make some changes… or you can just try to do it literally. So, when you take a book that’s 1,138 pages and try to adapt it almost verbatim into a 2-part, 5-hour film, it’s a risk that may not pay off. 

It Chapter Two takes place 27 year after the last film, where the Losers’ Club have gone their separate ways and moved out of Derry, Maine, except for Mike (Isaih Mustafa). He’s the only one who stays behind and remembers the horrors he and his friends encountered as children. Well, those horrors have returned, as dismembered bodies are turning up and children are going missing. Believing that It (Bill Skarsgård) is still alive, Mike has all of the Losers’ Club come back to Derry to keep their promise and defeat It once and for all. 

What I enjoyed the most about the first It were the extreme, campy horror elements and the strong characters and cast. Both of those aspects are staples of Stephen King, who isn’t always known for subtlety in the horror department and crafts deep characters that feel real. This second chapter retains the campy tone of the last film, with a lot of gross out humor, grotesque visuals (spider babies are the best), and comical gore. Pennywise is just as entertaining as last time, being the perfect combination of creepy and funny, but his appearances are way too few and far between this time around. You get him biting a kid’s face off and Skarsgård gets enough opportunities to steal scenes, but Pennywise had absolutely no presence here like he did before. They clearly wanted to use Skarsgård as much as they could, since he’s forced into scenes where it doesn’t make all that much sense, but it was at least a nice burst of fun whenever Pennywise came around. 

The problem is that it just isn’t scary and that’s because it feels far more like a character drama with horror elements, rather than a straight horror film. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll never complain about solid character development, but when this is basically a second part to the first film, it feels tonally at odds with its predecessor. That’s clearly due to director Andy Muschietti’s and screenwriter Gary Dauberman’s adherence to the source material. There were obviously some liberties taken (from what I know), but it seemed pretty faithful, and definitely to a fault. At nearly three hours, this is an excessively long film and feels pointlessly so. I was loving the first act with the Losers’ all reuniting, and like the child cast who returns here in flashbacks, they all have natural chemistry with each other and are perfectly cast. It’s not very often that you get absolutely flawless child-to-adult casting, but they nailed it here with everybody. Not just with their looks, but with their personalities and mannerisms, such as Bill’s (James McAvoy) stutter. They all embody the personality’s given to the kids by the original actors and it really feels like you’re watching grown up versions of the Losers’. Since this is 40 minutes longer than the last film and is far more slow-paced and character driven, each character has a lot more to do than last time. 

From what I understand from fans, though, is that the adult portion of the novel is far inferior to the child portion. It’s apparently far less scary and when it has to get into explaining It’s origins, it gets reeeeeeeeally weird and complicated. We don’t get as silly as It’s rival being a giant turtle who created the universe by vomiting it up, but it still gets pretty contrived with what It actually is and how they need to defeat them. I know It came first, but when the group had to gain a bunch of personal artifacts from their past in order to defeat It, I was getting heavy Harry Potter and horcrux flashbacks. Like King is known for, he comes up with intriguing ideas and strong characters, but he doesn’t really know to resolve or explain it all. They even poke fun at it with Bill being an author who can’t write good endings, and a cameo from Stephen King even teasing him about it. When the Losers’ defeat It as children, it was satisfying, but their quest here didn’t do much for me, especially with the anticlimactic resolution. 

There’s something that just feels a bit superfluous with It Chapter 2. While the first film only adapted the childhood portion, it felt like a complete story about misfits coming together and facing their fears through that. The adult storyline basically tells that same story again, with the Losers’ coming together and facing their fears as adults. It all felt very repetitive, especially when it feels very similar structurally. It’s a lot of rinse and repeat of the Losers’ talking about what to do next and It spooking them. Muschietti keeps the film stylish with excellent cinematography and cool scene transitions to stitch together the past and present. Too bad he forgot to bring back the atmosphere, suspense, and energy, because there was none of that to be found here. I was totally invested in the characters and performances, but as a horror film, it fell completely flat. At least the camp factor kept me laughing.  The performances are the glue that hold it together and kept me mildly invested, with every actor bringing their A-game. Bill Hader (Way to go, Barry!) shows his wide range with his pitch perfect comedy and dramatic chops and I loved seeing the ever confident James McAvoy become more and more terrified as the events go on. Each actor does a realistic job at channeling their inner fear, especially with Beverly (Jessica Chastain) and her past trauma.

Even if It Chapter 2 feels like a consistent second part to the first film, the unfortunate fact that it’s just not scary and is way too long and complicated really holds it back. What keeps it afloat (no pun intended) is the perfect cast and the compelling characters. Even when the film was sometimes losing me, I still cared about their journey and seeing them finally defeat It. Boring at times, or not, there’s definitely something to be be said about me still tearing up a bit at the end during its Return of the King-esque ending. It isn’t perfect and definitely not as strong as its predecessor, but I respect that a major studio like Warner Bros. would release such a slow-paced, 3-hour character drama with intermittent horror elements. If one thing is for sure, these film adaptations and Skarsgård’s interpretation of the character have become the official adaptation that everyone will remember from now on. 


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