Two years ago, Mekaela, Lindsey, and I all went to see It in theaters; I reviewed it here. (TLDR, it’s a fairly creepy horror film that–with just a little more work–could’ve been an amazing horror film.) I, of course, am a giant Pennywise freak who fell in love with both the novel and the original miniseries as a teenager, so yeah, I was always going to see this latest adaptation on the big screen.
And while I can’t say I was expecting to love It, Chapter Two–a 2 hour, 50 minute horror movie has to work to earn that runtime–I figured I’d still probably enjoy it for the most part. Like, I was definitely expecting pacing problems and/or a few unnecessary changes from the book, but at the very least, I’d assumed I’d find it delightfully creepy.
What I did not expect, however, was to laugh my ass off at all the wrong scenes.
I had once, naively, hoped to make this 1/3 of a Triple Scoop review; alas, a few paragraphs is not nearly enough to really get at the depth of my frustrations. Said frustrations are positively dripping with SPOILERS, so best watch the movie first, if you please.
Also, I will occasionally refer to the 2017 film as Chapter One for clarity’s sake, as well as add a comma in It, Chapter Two for my personal well-being. You have been warned.
27 years after the events of the first film, Pennywise has returned to sadistically murder/eat more people. Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) calls the Losers back to Derry to finish the clown-killing job, for reals this time.
1. So, here’s the thing: at some point during this movie–I wish I could remember exactly when–I sat back in my recliner and realized this . . . this is just BAD.
Of course, that’s not an objective statement; any art critique is subjective by its very nature, and I do know people who really like this film. My purpose is not, nor is it ever, to try and invalidate anyone’s enjoyment of the movie. In fact, there are a handful of moments that I genuinely enjoy, and we will discuss those moments later on.
However, for me, those scenes were few and far between, which is not only frustrating; it’s baffling. I simply do not understand some of the choices made here. I don’t understand why this film feels so wildly dissonant from the first movie, like it was handed to another director, Star Wars style, when it was, in fact, created by the same people. I don’t understand why the genre elements that were so successful two years ago completely and utterly failed for me here.
So. Let’s analyze the shit out of it, shall we?
2. One of my primary problems with the 2017 film was pacing; while many of the scenes were wonderfully creepy on their own, the way they were edited together–one after the next after the next–felt very repetitive, and that repetition prevented me from really getting sucked into the story. Timing is important in a horror film: you have to build the tension and then cut that tension at the exact right time. While watching the first movie, I often felt like they kept accidentally cutting the tension at the wrong moment.
It, Chapter Two has a very similar stop-and-go problem, only it’s actually much worse here because even the “building tension” parts failed for me. I kept laughing through them.
I’ve talked before about how much horror and comedy are inextricably linked in my head. Scream wasn’t the first horror movie I loved (that would be Poltergeist), but it was the film that really pulled me into the genre, the movie that made me a horror fan. I think there’s a lot of room for laughter in a scary movie. After all, I do often laugh when I’m nervous or scared, and as Lindsey pointed out later, her (and my) first reaction to someone jumping out in a haunted house is usually to giggle. A horror movie also doesn’t have to scare me to be successful; hell, It, Chapter One never really freaked me out. Still, the movie had a lot of atmospheric, creepy, and well-designed scenes that I really enjoyed. At its very best, horror provokes a visceral response, sure, but I often appreciate horror on simply an intellectual or creative level.
I’m bringing all this up because I want to be clear: I’m not complaining about how there’s too much funny dialogue, or how I didn’t leave the theater terrified, or that there’s no place in horror for humor. I’m saying that in an ostensibly serious horror film about the literal monsters of childhood, I laughed like I was watching a low-budget slasher flick on one of my So-Bad-It’s-Good movie marathon nights. And for every creepy moment that did play, another one immediately took that tension away.
The most obvious example of this, I think, is probably Mrs. Kersh.
Mrs. Kersh freezing for a solid 30-seconds with a big smile on her face? Absolutely creepy. Naked Mrs. Kersh speed-running around in the background of her apartment? Okay, admittedly weird, but sure, creepy.
Naked Mrs. Kersh, charging forward, with her weird monster face and her super elongated old boobs flopping around? Jesus, I laughed and laughed and laughed.
There are so many scares in It, Chapter Two where the horror is just downright cartoonish, like, the CGI is bad. The creatures inside the fortune cookies. Stan’s Decapitated Head growing spider legs. (Which, yes, is an homage to The Thing, I know.) The Paul Bunyan statue chasing Richie, which, like, that bit was always gonna be a hard sell? But if that was that only truly absurd moment, hell, I probably would’ve commended them for trying it. Like good for you, putting it all on the line. Clearly, however, this was not the case.
3. Now, it should probably be said that some of the absurd-horror is clearly intentional. Specifically, I’m thinking of the scene where “Angel of the Morning” suddenly blares as a leper vomits black bile all over Eddie. However, just because it’s intentional doesn’t actually mean that it works: that kind of out-of-absolutely-nowhere comical music cue is something you mostly find in quirky action movies or outright horror-comedies that are going for a spunky, laugh-out-loud, WTF aesthetic. That’s . . . not this story. That’s just atonal as fuck. Remember how you could almost literally watch the director and the studio fight over Suicide Squad during the film itself? It’s kind of like that, only I’ve yet to hear any complaints about studio interference.
There’s another reason this scene didn’t work for me, though, and that’s because by this point, I was getting pretty bored. The “vomiting leper” scene takes place during the Losers Wander Around Looking For Their Artifacts portion of the evening, and while I think the artifacts are actually a really interesting idea, this is where Chapter Two’s poor pacing becomes a serious problem.
Here’s basically how this section goes: Loser 1 walks around town, has a flashback to when something creepy happened, experiences a briefly creepy encounter with Pennywise, and improbably escapes with their artifact intact. Then Loser 2 walks around town, has a flashback to when something creepy happened, experiences a briefly creepy encounter with Pennywise, and improbably escapes with their artifact intact. Rinse and repeat. And let me tell you, friends, if you haven’t actually seen Chapter Two yet, this is a long stretch of the movie. By the time Eddie actually made it to the pharmacy, I was definitely tapping my fingers, wondering how much time we had left. “Angel of the Morning” did not solve this problem for me.
4. So, how do we fix this? Because I think we’ve come now to the part of the essay where I just start throwing out ideas to try and shape this atonal nightmare of a film into something that works. In regards to the Losers Quest For Their Artifacts narrative, I have a few such ideas:
Actually Shape This Like a Quest
One of my problems with this part of the movie is how passive it often feels. Flashbacks, by their very nature, can’t add much forward momentum to a story, and while I normally enjoy character-building scenes, most of these flashbacks don’t add much new to our understanding of the characters. (There is one notable exception here, which we’ll come back to a little later.)
Worse, though, is that the scenes in the present also feel pretty stagnant. As Mek and I were discussing after watching the movie, our heroes all find their artifacts pretty easily, like, Richie just gets a coin from a machine, and Ben’s been carrying his around in his fucking wallet for nearly 30 years. There’s nothing very interesting about that, but there could be! What if someone can’t figure out what their artifact is? What if they know exactly what it is but not where to find it? What if they know where to find it but not how to sneak by and/or defeat the Level 3 Boss guarding it? (This is where having that whole “Derry is It” thing would come in handy. But we’ll come back to that, too.) What if one or more of our Losers was actually seriously hurt on this quest? The stakes feel very low here: I know I was never particularly worried that Pennywise was about to kill or maim any of our heroes. Better obstacles and more consequences could really liven up this part of the movie. Also . . .
Cut the Solo Missions. Let Our Heroes Quest in Pairs
Partly so Eddie doesn’t have to hang that whole “this is a bad idea” lampshade, cause seriously, this is a real bad idea, and Mike’s explanation (basically, “no, you gotta, cause, like, Magic Reasons”) doesn’t really cut it. Of course, the Losers do traditionally wander around by themselves because of Magic Reasons, but it bothers me more here, which we’ll get into in a while.
Mostly, though, I like this idea because two people searching for something is just inherently more interesting than one. You can punch up those flashbacks by having another character witness or experience them. You can further develop the characters and their relationships to one another by having them talk, or lie, about how their lives have gone for the past 30 years. For a nearly three hour film, It, Chapter Two leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to character arcs, and a part of that, I think, is because we don’t spend much time on who the Losers have become as adults. Sure, we get a few quick glimpses, and I don’t necessarily mind that Audra and Tom don’t follow their respective spouses to Derry, but some of this stuff is important, right? Like, why even bring up the fact that Beverly essentially married her abusive father if we’re never going to discuss it again? We spend more time on Bill’s shitty story endings than we spend on Beverly being trapped in a cycle of violence. That’s some bullshit.
Besides, there are some really interesting character dynamics here to work with. The most obvious pairings, of course, are Beverly and Ben, Richie and Eddie, and Bill and Mike. And there are definitely things to recommend with this particular breakdown, especially when it comes to Richie and Eddie. But the fanfic reader in me also appreciates the rare pair, so I do like the idea of, say, Beverly and Eddie exploring Derry together, as they’re the two characters who most obviously couldn’t escape the shadow of their parents. Likewise, Bill and Richie were at odds in Chapter One when it came to facing Pennywise, and we could absolutely revisit that here. And Ben and Mike could talk about libraries! Everyone wins!
Another advantage of the two-by-two formation is that it keeps Mike in the story, rather than dropping him for like a solid hour. Although, to be fair, Chapter 2 does make some big adaptation changes here that allow Mike to actually have screen time in the back half of the film, which did genuinely surprise me. This is yet another thing we’ll come back to, of course, but for now . . .
Let’s Define These Artifacts, Shall We?
Again, the artifacts are a really cool idea–but they’re also a very vague idea and not well-seeded in the first film. Sure, we’ve got Georgie’s boat and Bev’s postcard with the haiku, but what about about Richie’s coin? Stan’s shower cap? Hell, for that matter, what is this clubhouse flashback doing in this movie, anyway? It’s really weird to bring an important set location like this into the sequel without even mentioning it in the first film. I can’t help but feel this particular scene would’ve played a lot better if we’d seen it before Stan died.
There’s also this: I’m still not entirely sure why these specific items were chosen. Mike says they’re something to be sacrificed, which implies they symbolize a good memory, something the bearer holds dear. Bev’s postcard certainly fits that, as does Ben’s yearbook page. But Georgie’s boat?
That’s not something dear that Bill’s sacrificing; that’s pain he’s trying to let go of. And hey, that could actually work: if the Losers are supposed to pick something symbolic of their past trauma, but–when push comes to shove–can’t fully let go of it, like, that’s a reason the ritual might fail. After all, Bill doesn’t fully accept that Georgie’s death is not his fault until after said ritual, right? You know, when he drowns Little Dead Georgie. (The symbolism, y’all. So subtle.)
Still, that just doesn’t really work for your hair is winter fire, and while all of this, admittedly, is a very minor complaint, it does speak to one of the film’s larger problems: cohesion. I like the idea of the artifacts but, as presented in this film, I simply don’t believe in them. And normally my suspension of disbelief can work wonders, so really, what gives? Well . . .
5. One of my personal disappointments with Chapter One was the absence of any sacred rituals or psychic battles or clap-your-hands-if-you-believe magic. It kept the shapeshifting clown monster, yes, but otherwise ignored every other weird SFF element, so I expected the sequel to follow in its footsteps. Because that’s usually how sequels behave: Aliens may have shifted slightly from horror-in-space to action-horror-in-space, but that doesn’t mean Ripley woke up 57 years in the future and started battling aliens with ritual magic.
But essentially, that’s what Chapter Two does: the Losers come back to Derry, and suddenly we’re having mystical hallucinogenic visions and finding out that Pennywise is an alien and engaging in ancient, supernatural Native American ceremonies and defeating our villain through the power of magical bullying. And yes, some of this is pulled from the novel, but you definitely wouldn’t know that if you’d only seen the 2017 film. It’s fucking weird.
But maybe, maybe there was a way it could’ve worked, say if Mike had completely fabricated the Ritual of Chud, like, he just straight up read through the entire Comparative Mythology section of the library and cobbled together what sounded like a convincingly spooky ceremony because the Losers have to believe in order to defeat It, even if what they believe is a nonsensical mishmash of disparate beliefs. Unfortunately, that’s not what Mike’s actually lying about. The Ritual of Chud is totally real; it just didn’t work, and as a consequence, Pennywise slaughtered a whole bunch of Native Americans.
This brings me to my following Fix-Its.
Go Back in Time and Add Some Fucking Magic To Your First Movie
Because, seriously, I do not understand this. It’s not like the director left after the first film, and another director with a wholly different vision came on board for the sequel. This is the same goddamn creative team. Were you guys under the impression that your first movie would bomb, that a second film wouldn’t be made? Did it seriously not occur to you to lay in some groundwork for this shit? I’ve actually been really intrigued by the idea of genre-hopping sequels for years, but it takes a deft fucking hand, and this script feels lazy as shit. Case in point:
Please Drop All The Generic Native American Shit
Dudes. Dudes. It is 2019. Let’s not invent a generic Native American tribe just so we can brutally slaughter them as part of a slapped-on backstory. Let’s not do some generic Native American vision quest in a movie that has absolutely no indigenous characters. Let’s just not, okay?
I say to you again: Mike Hanlon lives in a library. I believe in his research prowess. Almost any other way we could’ve handled this would’ve been better.
6. Speaking of doing better, let’s talk about queer rep in this story. First:
Cut the Assault and Murder of Adrian Mellon
Yes, this was inspired by true events. Yes, it was in the book. Yes, we should cut it anyway. Plenty of other things were cut or changed for this adaptation–including the scene forever known as The Scene–and this ought to have been cut too, mostly because it’s a brutal scene to watch, more graphically violent and less cartoonish than anything else in this movie, that serves pretty much no real purpose.
Logically, Adrian’s death makes no sense because I’m pretty sure he is the only adult that Pennywise directly murders in either film. Our monster hunts children. He eats children. Adrian does not qualify, unless the point is to infantilize this adult man because of his sexuality, which, no? Let’s not? And thematically, his death doesn’t work, either; maybe if we’d really gone for that whole “Pennywise is Derry” concept, where everyone who lives in this town has quietly become crueler, more monstrous, more willing to hurt or look away from other people hurting . . . maybe that might’ve worked? But Chapter 2 shows really no interest in exploring that particular theme. Honestly, Derry has almost no character in this movie. It’s practically a ghost town. It’d be easy to forget there are more than 15 people walking around at any given moment, and that’s including the Losers.
It is possible that Adrian’s death scene might work a little better if it really tied into Richie’s story, not just some super quick scare, but in an actually meaningful way. If we saw Richie, a closeted queer man, take a few minutes to absorb the news of this publicly gay man who was brutally assaulted and murdered right here in Derry. If Richie talked about Adrian with someone; fuck, if anybody ever mentioned this guy or his traumatized-for-life boyfriend again. But no one does; the assault on Adrian is a horrifying hate crime that basically nobody bothers to address after the fact . . . and I’m supposed to think this scene is progressive because, like, this shit’s real, man? Fuck off. You don’t get brownie points for this.
The only purpose Adrian’s death really has in this story is to let Mike know that Pennywise is back. And you know what death would work a lot better for that? The cute little girl who dies under the bleachers, the one who thinks she’s in a modern fairy tale about outsiders and monsters becoming friends, rather than a horror movie where that monster preys on the outsiders. Move this scene up to the front and leave poor Adrian Mellon alone, please. Also . . .
Richie’s Sexuality Deserves A Lot More Time, Nuance, and Attention
Here’s the frustrating thing: Richie’s story is actually one of the most interesting parts about this movie. It’s well-acted, too–as basically everyone else has already said, Bill Hader provides It, Chapter Two with the heart it desperately fucking needs–but unfortunately, the subplot itself is still disappointingly underdeveloped.
Part of my problem here is that I want Richie’s queerness to be more explicit. Again, it’s 2019. While there are stories that benefit from a more ambiguous approach, so many queer characters in mainstream culture are only allowed the subtextual, the indirect, the implied-but-never-specifically-stated. It’s frustrating, particularly when heterosexual relationships in the same stories are rarely treated in this fashion: consider how much time and space the Bill/Ben/Beverly triangle got over two movies compared to Richie’s feelings for Eddie. Not to mention, in a story that’s all about overcoming the traumas of your past, learning self-acceptance, and moving forward, it’s just poor storytelling to not give Richie an actual moment where he explicitly admits that he’s queer, even if it’s just out loud to himself. I know that’s probably what the “re-carving the initials scene” is supposed to be–that and the Big Reveal about who Richie secretly loves–but I just don’t think it’s enough. The character and the storyline deserve more than this.
I, personally, am also not thrilled that Richie’s (most likely) secretly been in love with Eddie this whole time. Partially, that’s because it feels like a retcon: Richie being gay is just something we haven’t been shown yet, but Richie being in love with Eddie–despite the fact that none of their many interactions together in the 2017 film depict this–feels more disingenuous. It doesn’t help that Richie’s feelings are almost certainly unrequited and that Eddie, himself, dies, giving this film even more queer tragedy than it already had.
And damn it, why, why can’t Richie’s overwhelming grief be about a platonic relationship? These two are close; we know that. FFS, Eddie dies saving Richie’s life, which is the kind of thing that might legitimately fuck you up. And yet, Richie’s complete inability to accept Eddie’s death, the fact that he has to be physically dragged away before he dies himself, is used to heavily imply his romantic feelings for Eds, which just annoys the shit out of me. Like, folks, I don’t know how to tell you this, but there are a number of people, both family and friends, who might inspire a similar reaction in me, were I to watch them violently die after saving my life.
And to be clear, the acting here is beautiful. The follow-up scene where Richie starts crying and all the surviving Losers hug him, just, Jesus, give me a fucking Kleenex already; I have allergies, goddamn it. I absolutely love the emotion in these scenes; I just utterly reject the idea that romantic love is the only one which could fuel said emotion.
If I could actually remake this movie, rather than just critique it for, like, 6,000 words, I’d probably pair Eddie and Richie together on the Find Your Artifact quest, which is when Richie would tell Eddie about being gay. Eddie, of course, would accept him, someone would make a “fucked your mother” joke, and it would still be tragic when Eddie died later, but, like, not in an “all gay love stories are doomed” sort of way.
7. Also, while I’m thinking about it, here’s another idea:
100% Less Fat-Shaming Jokes.
8. Since basically this entire review thus far has been pretty negative, let me take a quick break to say nice things about the cast. Because, overall, I quite like the cast! Some of them aren’t given much to do, which is unfortunate, but save a few moments here or there (like whenever any of the Losers charge forward, all FUCK YOUUUUUU!), I think the acting is anywhere from “decent” to “wonderful.” Standouts include Bill Hader, James Ransome, and Isaiah Mustafa.
Hader, as previously noted, provides the heart of this movie. He has several nice moments throughout the film, but his work really shines in the last 30-minutes. I’ll definitely have to watch more of his stuff. (I’m really only a very occasional SNL person, but Barry, anyway, sounds right up my alley, if I can just get past all those sure-to-be embarrassing scenes where our hitman totally fails at acting.)
Meanwhile, I appreciate how much effort Ransome has put into matching Jack Dylan Grazer’s nervous, angry energy. More than anyone, I can really see Young Eddie in Ransome’s performance. My only thing here–and this is definitely more of a personal disappointment than a real criticism–is that what’s hilarious in a twelve-year-old can be pretty grating in a forty-year-old dude. So I find that while I actively like Young Eddie, Older Eddie kinda gets on my nerves. But that’s okay; I don’t always need every good guy to be 100% likable, even if I think likability is an undervalued quality in a character.
I also really enjoyed Isaiah Mustafa’s performance here, and frankly, I haven’t seen enough reviews giving him credit for it.
I mean, he doesn’t get to have his beard (as seen above), which is obviously unfortunate, but I really like Mustafa’s take on Mike, especially as it’s different than I expected. In the original miniseries, Tim Reid–who I also enjoy–goes for a calmer Mike; he’s a little weary, a little beaten down, the keeper of the lighthouse and a mentor figure. Mustafa, OTOH, has a much more desperate, manic energy, like living alone, always on guard, in poisonous Derry for 27 years without anyone to share his traumatic memories of a murderous demon clown with might not have done wonders for his mental health. Mustafa does well with the part, and I feel sorry for Mike, like, this man deserves a hug. All the Losers whining about how he “lied” on the phone are incorrect sonsofbitches, and I wanna slap them every time they complain about it.
The second lie, though, yeah. That’s definitely Mike’s bad.
As far as the other actors, well, here’s where I start getting a bit more critical. James McAvoy, for instance, is okay as Bill? I do enjoy his whole subplot about trying (and totally failing) to save Little Derry Boy, like, I get what they’re doing, and it sorta works? But something still feels a little off. Which is funny because Bill actually gets one of the better character arcs in Chapter Two–but it’s also unbalanced, like, the whole “I’m responsible for my brother’s death and I won’t let anyone else die” thing doesn’t really start until, what, an hour and a half into the movie? At any rate, I genuinely like McAvoy’s performance in certain scenes; he just sometimes feels a little all over the place, which I suspect is mostly due to inconsistent writing.
The writing certainly doesn’t do any favors for Jessica Chastain. She’s not bad in the role, exactly; she’s just never given anything to do. Beverly’s abusive husband is left behind in the prologue, never to be mentioned or thought of again. Her abusive father is mostly relegated to one creepy flashback, only to be briefly reflected upon later. And Beverly doesn’t really have a meaningful platonic connection with any of the Losers in this adaptation, which means that her story is mostly about the BS love triangle between Bill and Ben, and for fuck’s sake, even the shape of that subplot is pretty weak. Like at some point, Bill just kinda drops out of the picture, and then Beverly realizes it’s Ben who wrote the poem after all, and now these two crazy kids are together. Yay?
I wish I could say that last with a bit more sincerity, considering Beverly/Bill never made any sense, and I genuinely enjoy Bev/Ben in the first film–but unfortunately, unlike perpetually stressed out Eddie, I don’t see much of Young Beverly or Young Ben in their adult counterparts. Adult Beverly has very little of the attitude or spunk that made Young Bev so charismatic, and Adult Ben is mostly just . . . a hunk. A nice hunk, I guess, which is good, but . . . yeah. I think Jay Ryan, out of everyone, might get the least to work with here. He’s just a fairly decent, kinda lonely, super rich Ken doll who still has a thing for Bev. That’s pretty much it.
Oh, and as far as Bill Skarsgård goes? Yeah, he’s still super creepy as Pennywise. Surprisingly, though, he gets a lot less screen time than I would’ve imagined. Which is interesting because I actually think the focus probably should be on the Losers, and yet . . . it feels off somehow? Maybe it’s because of his bullshit defeat.
9. Let’s Not Defeat Pennywise By Bullying Him
Look, I don’t know exactly what I wanted to happen here. Defeating a Big Bad as powerful as Pennywise is a tricky feat, and at the very least, this final battle isn’t quite as anticlimactic as the one in the original miniseries–although, really, that’s not exactly a high bar. Like, almost anything would’ve been better.
But as much as I normally appreciate some good old-fashioned poetic justice, the Losers defeating Pennywise by making him “feel small” is just . . . it’s stupid; it’s just stupid. I mean, what even is that? Why would Pennywise, eternal, alien, shapeshifting demon clown, suddenly give a shit what our heroes call him anyway? When did we establish that Pennywise had an inferiority complex? Is that why he’s been eating children? Jesus, was he supposed to be telling the truth when he said people made fun of his face? Are you fucking telling me that all of this is happening because no one ever gave Pennywise a hug? Man, it’s too bad it never occurred to any of those expendable Native Americans to simply yell “You’re a clown!” over and over again. You might have lived if only you’d resorted to playground name calling!
10. While we’re discussing the ending, we should probably also talk about Stan’s letter. Because it’s been bugging me for a while now, and I think I’ve finally figured out why.
Don’t Make Stan’s Motivations a Twist
Stan kills himself early in the film, and characters attribute this decision to both his overwhelming fear and his general weakness. At the end of the film, however, the Losers each receive a letter explaining that only the former is true. Stan killed himself because he was too afraid to go back, and he knew if all the living Losers weren’t in it together, they’d die. So, in his own words, Stan took himself off the table so his friends could survive.
I don’t want to say that this is a happy scene, exactly, but it’s definitely meant to be an uplifting moment where our heroes realize that Stan was braver than they gave him credit for, and his death was a sacrifice he made for them. And to be fair, this feels in-character to me, at least with the Stan in my head. (I still don’t feel that any adaptation has quite managed to nail Young Stan yet, although as Adult Stan, Andy Bean is perfectly fine in the very limited time that he has.) I also do genuinely like the idea that Stan’s decision isn’t characterized as a sign of his weakness, at least, not by the end of the film. That’s good.
Still . . . suicidal people often do feel like they’re a burden on their loved ones, that everyone will ultimately be better off if they choose to end their lives. That’s part of the tragedy of suicide; it’s not a triumphant thing. But by placing this letter at the end of the film, during a feel-good montage of our surviving Losers, I feel like we’re making Stan’s suicide a triumph, or, at the very least, a necessary sacrifice, a gift he needed to give. And that, I don’t quite love. For one, we can’t actually know that Stan’s survival would have doomed our other heroes, mostly because the rules in this monster-killing-quest continue to be vague at best. But even if we could take that as gospel, why make this a Big Reveal? We could easily get this upfront if Patricia Uris tells Bev when they talk on the phone. That way, when our Losers find out Stan’s dead, they know he died for them . . . and it’s a heartbreaking thing.
11. What’s frustrating about, well, everything, is that there are things I like about It, Chapter 2. Some of the pathos really works for me, even as so many character arcs are fumbled. Much of the horror is demonstrably laughable, yes, but I genuinely enjoy little moments: the motionless people in the park, Pennywise putting on makeup, Pennywise getting his drool on, etc. And while some of the hallucinations are uninspired and the visuals a bit boring–one scene in particular feels like it could’ve been pulled from any bland action-adventure movie–the moment where Beverly reaches down from the bathroom stall and saves Ben from being buried alive is a wonderfully striking shot.
This is also true of adaptation alterations. Chapter One changes stuff from the book that I absolutely hated, like giving Mike’s story to Ben or making Beverly a damsel. Chapter Two, however, makes some changes I really enjoy. Like, normally, Mike gets badly injured in the fight against Henry Bowers and basically drops out of the story until the epilogue, but keeping him in the Final Showdown really works for me. And I love that the Losers retain their memories this time around. Like, It is probably the only book that doesn’t infuriate me with that particular trope, but still, I’m all in a favor of an ending where the heroes fucking remember each other. There are things to like about this movie.
Unfortunately, for me, there aren’t nearly enough to counter all the things that didn’t work.
12. Finally–have I been writing this essay for twenty-seven years because it certainly feels like it–some more random thoughts:
12A. I will never, ever forgive this movie for giving Beverly psychic deadlight visions of how all the Losers might die, only to never discuss them again.
We don’t see them. They aren’t used for building tension or providing creepy foreshadow. No one asks the obvious question, “Hey, Bev, how did I kick the bucket? Getting impaled by a not-quite-dead-Pennywise as I’m leaning over Richie? Well, shit, maybe I won’t turn my back on him, then.”
People, this is madness. This is Writing 101. Writers, did no one ever teach you about Chekhov’s Psychic Omens? How do you give one of your heroes a prophecy gift and then never show the fucking prophecies?
Seriously. Cut This Shit, or Fucking DO Something With It.
12B. I had fully planned to rant at some length about Mike’s dead parents who had somehow, between movies, become crack addicts because what the racist fuck? Fortunately, by the end, this is revealed to be one of Pennywise’s lies. I was very relieved by this, but now that I’m thinking about it, also a little confused. Like, why did we include this particular nightmare in the first place? Is this something Mike’s actually believed his whole life? Is this misconception a defining part of his character? Or is this just a random taunt designed to needle at him? I genuinely don’t know because these movies spend maybe fifteen seconds combined on Mike’s feelings about his Dead Family.
12C. Want an easy way to save a little screen time? Cut Henry Bowers From Chapter Two.
Seriously. I know he stabs Eddie in the face a little, but Eddie could easily get hurt any number of ways, like, perhaps during the Great Artifact Quest. Adult Henry’s only real purpose in this story is to take out Mike, leaving our Losers alone without the one dude who actually remembers everything. But since Mike’s going along for the ride this time, that makes Adult Henry functionally useless. Besides, the fact that he survived Chapter One makes absolutely no sense, anyway, like, come on, that kid be dead. I guess Pennywise saved him with evil magic to be used 27 years later, or something, but you know . . . why?
12D. While I talked about how many scary scenes were unintentionally funny, I forgot to mention that some of the intentional comedy failed to make me laugh. I can’t remember all the jokes now, I’m afraid, just that a fair chunk of them didn’t really work for me, especially in the first half of the film. The dialogue at the Chinese restaurant, for instance, all felt pretty forced.
12E. The Stephen King cameo goes on for a solid minute longer than it needs to–and I’m not sure why we even bother finding the bicycle, considering it’s no longer important without Audra involved–but I still kind of love that King’s character overcharges Bill like whoa.
12F. While I don’t exactly mind the ongoing joke about Bill’s shitty endings, I can’t help but feel that if he’s really this bad at writing them, Jesus, how does the motherfucker keep getting work? Is this an example of the mediocre white guy strikes again?
12G. Last, but not least, it should be said that Medicore White Guy Bill kind of sucks.
Evidence A: The Funhouse
Truthfully, this scene almost works, like, who isn’t a sucker for a good chase through a funhouse, right? I like Bill’s desperation to save the kid. I like that the kid isn’t saved. Pennywise is effectively creepy in the moment. It’s all so, so close to coming together, only any time there’s the smallest danger of feeling tense, Bill runs into another fucking mirror because, I guess, the first three times weren’t enough to clue him in on how a House of Mirrors works? Like, I get it: he’s desperate, time is short, yada yada. There is still a limit on how many times your hero can run face first into a mirror before you begin wondering if this is an Abbott & Costello routine.
Evidence B: Audra
Because let me tell you, when Bill asks his wife, “Why can’t you be the woman I want you to be?” there was a collective UGH and physical recoil from all the ladies in Row F.
Fuck you, Bill. You’re not just a Loser; you’re the absolute worst.
. . . it’s like someone who watched the first film, but didn’t actually work on it, wrote and directed this sequel along with two or three of his buddies, who each had a different vision of what genre the movie should be. (One of these guys, the one who never bothered watching either adaptation because *sniff* the book is always better, almost certainly read the novel 20 years ago and vaguely remembered there was, like, a hate crime and Paul Bunyan and, oh yeah, some “Indian stuff.”) Their separate ideas were mostly good–except for the dude dead set on Elongated Boob Horror–but cobbled together, their finished product was a mishmash of absurdity, confusion, and despair.
Bill Hader, but I gave serious consideration to both Isaiah Mustafa and James Ransome
You know, I’m not even sure. Double-tap? Embrace your inner mean girl? You’ll write better endings to your novels once you envision happier endings for yourself? Oh, shit, that one might actually be valid.