IT Chapter 2 – Does it Float or Does it Fall Flat?
October 24, 2019
For the past month, eager moviegoers looking for a kickoff to the Halloween season have flocked to theaters to see IT Chapter 2. Being a lover of all things Halloween, scary movies included, my mom and I headed to see IT Chapter 2 on opening night. I’ve been a huge fan of the IT franchise since its first installment in 2017. The first movie blended a beautiful coming-of-age story with genuinely frightening horror elements, inspiring a cult-like fan following of teenagers who were struggling with similar growing pains to the characters. (Although, I’m not sure any fans have had to fight any demonic clown entities.) As one of those fans, I worked my way through the 1,000 paged book, reading all about the trials and tribulations of the preteen Losers Club and their eventual reunion as adults. So naturally, as a fan of the franchise, I had high hopes for It Chapter 2. Unfortunately, what I was hoping to be a fun, frightening continuation of the Losers Club’s journey to defeat Pennywise was unfortunately quite the opposite. Although It Chapter 2 admittedly had its moments, packing in its fair share of jokes and genuine scares, it was bogged down by flat performances, an abundance of CGI, and a lack of heart.
Despite the fun that It Chapter 2 provides with its laughs and scares, the majority of the performances in the movie are ultimately lacking. Leading the cast is James McAvoy as Bill Denbrough, the leader of the Losers Club. Although McAvoy provides the audience with a few jokes, his performance lacks the heart that his younger counterpart Jaeden Martell has in the first installment of the franchise. McAvoy fails to convey the true grief and guilt that Bill Denbrough experiences after losing his younger brother. What is supposed to be a brooding performance by McAvoy just ends up boring. Similarly, Jessica Chastain (Beverly Marsh), Jay Ryan (Ben Hanscom), and Isaiah Mustafa (Mike Hanlon), face the same problem – performances that are supposed to be moving and sincere end up lifeless. However, It Chapter 2‘s saving graces come in the form of Bill Hader and James Ransone, playing Richie Tozier and Eddie Kaspbrak, respectively. Their fast-paced bickering makes up the majority It Chapter 2‘s laughs, giving life to an otherwise boring movie. When the film takes a turn, however, Hader proves that he’s able to be serious after Richie loses the love of his life, providing a poignant performance in comparison to his fellow cast members. With their comedy and natural chemistry, Hader and Ransone balance out the film’s otherwise lackluster performances, making the film bearable.
The use of CGI to create Pennywise’s scares is inevitable, but throughout It Chapter 2 the overabundance of special effects quickly becomes tiring. Throughout the film, the perspective switches between the Losers Club as children and the club as adults. As there was a two-year gap between the filming of the movies, the child actors grew, so their appearances and voices were digitally de-aged. Although a clever idea in theory, the result of the CGI was incredibly off-putting. Every time the movie switched back to the perspective of the Losers Club as children, I was taken out of the movie by the unnatural look and sound of the children actors. While the CGI used to create Pennywise is used sparingly and makes for terrifying scares, all of the other CGI used in the movie is intolerable.
In terms of plot, King’s 1986 novel is a beast of a story. It tackles numerous themes – racism, loss, survivor’s guilt, homophobia, and abuse standing at the forefront. King handles these topics well, taking over a thousand pages to delve into the traumas experienced by his main characters. However, despite its near 3 hour run-time, It Chapter 2 was not able to coherently convey these heavy themes. In the initial installment of the It franchise in 2017, the traumas that the Losers Club faced were well-explored, showcasing the evils, both realistic and extraterrestrial, that the children endured. However, in It Chapter 2, these heavier themes were tossed away in favor of jokes and a few cheap scares. Any hardship that the main characters faced would be addressed and then immediately glossed over to progress the plot. For example, Beverly Marsh is raised by an abusive father and later marries an abusive husband. After escaping her husband returning to her hometown, this trauma – one of the central aspects of her character – is never again explored. The audience is left to assume that because she reunited and eloped with her childhood love interest that she has no more problems in her life. By reducing all of the hardships that the characters face to shallow, easily resolved problems, any meaning that the story previously had disappears.
It Chapter 2 is, at the most, entertaining. It’s a typical summer blockbuster – providing humor and jump scares, pacifying an audience for two hours. However, it lacks the depth of the novel and its 2017 predecessor. It delivered what most people look for in big blockbusters: a two hour distraction from reality. However, considering the substantial depth of its source material, It Chapter 2 needed to deliver more. Despite the franchise’s tagline of “You’ll float, too,” It Chapter 2 does not float, but falls flat on its painfully average face.