Sunday 8 September 2019

Movie Review - It Chapter Two

Splitting film adaptations of popular novels became a common pattern since Harry Potter's final installment in 2011. It was a format other major franchises including Twilight and The Hunger Games quickly embraced, yet one that's seen by many as a tired pattern without any true justification beyond bigger profits. On the flipside, not only is Stephen King's It a novel with over 1000 pages, but also one with two core narrative phases set within different time periods, making a two part cinematic adaptation arguably necessary at the end of the day. With It Chapter Two, we move 27 years onward from the original's 1989 setting, seeing our key protagonists within the Loser's Club as their adult selves, all forced to combat the eponymous monster as it returns to haunt their hometown of Derry once more.

Whilst portions of screentime are still dedicated to the youngsters from the original, who certainly remain as talented as ever, the main story once again focuses on their adult counterparts; counterparts who are brought to life with a superb main cast who flawlessly match the core personalities of their respective characters whilst also adopting believable adult development. This impressive cast includes the likes of James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Jessica Chastain, Jay Ryan, Isaiah Mustafa, James Ransone, and Andy Bean; and, of course, Bill Skarsgard returns as the villainous monster's primary form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown, arguably standing tall as the highlight of the film in many ways once again.

It Chapter Two has plenty of scares, though the overall approach is different and sometimes less effective this time round. Indeed, there's a further appreciation of jump scares over a consistently tense atmosphere; to be fair, said jump scares are much more than just random thuds and crashes to make you flinch with little after effect, but it doesn't stop them from becoming somewhat repetitive in the end. Repetition is an equally ideal word when it comes to the overall narrative itself, with one of its central concepts being explorations of each character and their disturbing childhood memories from the original film, returning to haunt them once more as the eponymous monster reawakens from its long rest. It's a unique format that's handled relatively well and of course one that's host to many frightening moments, but also one that can't help but feel a tad boring in the long run.

Though these story elements are of course part of the novel itself, faithfulness to source material can't always excuse such flaws; some things arguably work better on paper than they do on screen. Perhaps this can also be applied to the film's chaotic climax which drifts away from horror in some ways, eventually leaning more toward crazy action with bizarre imagery, strange plot twists, and occasional contrivances. For the most part, there is a nice degree of emotional depth and solid overall development for each character, which in turn bolsters some of the film's scariest moments as you genuinely fear for the victims on screen; though with its beastly and not fully justifiable 169 minute runtime, It Chapter Two simply ends up less interesting the more it goes on. It's ultimately just not as consistently entertaining as its predecessor, and while the exceptional cast, superb visuals, and fair share of thrills deserve much praise, its slow pace and repetitive formula also prevent it from reaching its full potential.