A story about a shape-shifting, child-eating clown demands some degree of suspension of disbelief, but there still needs to be believability within the plot. On Friday Sept. 6, director Andy Muschietti’s film It Chapter Two was released, and it was simply okay.
Pop-culture’s 30-year cycle centered around the ’80s is almost over, as we transition into the 2020s and move on to a more ‘90s aesthetic. The transition has not stopped the film industry from reveling in our favorite ’80s stories and trends, with Netflix’s Stranger Things, continuation of the Terminator franchise and the release of the two-part film series adaptation of Stephen King’s notorious novel It.
The first film tersely titled It was released in Sept. 2017 and took pop-culture by storm, with its tales of friendship, loss and love. Generally well-reviewed by critics with an approval rate of 86 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, It featured staples of the ’80s aesthetic with its inclusion of the New Kids on the Block, fanny packs and milk carton kids. The film followed its own 30-year cycle, with the main plot focusing on the shenanigans of Pennywise the Dancing Clown, who awakened every 27 years to feast on the children of Derry, Maine. Though It was far from the perfect movie, it still captured the right mixture of ’80s nostalgia and undying friendship that any story of triumph should have.
The 2019 sequel It Chapter Two was less well-received, sporting a lower Rotten Tomatoes rating of 63 percent. From a technical perspective, the film is well done. The cinematography is good, the CGI is mostly believable and the acting is fairly realistic through a majority of the scenes. The shortcomings and pitfalls lie mainly in the misfired one-liners and overall plot. In this film, we see the beloved characters from the first film again, only 27 years older, with the occasional flashbacks to them as children spliced in between.
“I wanted to rescue the dialogue between the two timelines that is so important in the book,” director Andy Muschietti said in an interview with pop-culture news channel CinemaBlend.
This aspect was well written and acted: it was endearing to see the characters’ chemistry in their group interactions. Only when the writing team took creative liberties with the spooky parts did the scenes go downhill. In a wonderful scene in the first half-hour of the film, the Losers Club met for the first time since they were children in a Chinese restaurant. Their interactions made it seem like no time had passed at all, as they bounced jokes off of each other and caught up. It was all ruined when tiny monsters started hatching from fortune cookies and hot tar overflowed onto the table from a bowl in the center. Unsurprisingly, these events were all a hallucination, but neither the tiny fortune cookie monsters nor the hot tar matched the aesthetic of the previous film’s horror elements, not to mention that they served no purpose other than reminding the audience that it was, in fact, a horror film.
One of the strongest aspects of the film was the casting. The actors all did a good job of capturing the characteristics and mannerisms of the younger characters, especially actor James Ranson’s portrayal of adult Eddie Kaspbrak. Of all the adult actors, Ranson’s portrayal was the most like his child counterpart. The scene between him and adult Henry Bowers, portrayed by Teach Grant, in the bathroom of his hotel was particularly good. What was a momentarily extremely intense scene was eased by Eddie’s rather comedic neurosis.
The weaker acting links, however, were James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain, who portrayed Bill Denborough and Beverly Marsh, respectively. McAvoy’s faults weren’t entirely his own, since his character was poorly written and lacked the depth Bill had as a child. He delivered uncomfortable lines that were a bit out of character and at times the script made him into the comic relief, which did not much sense, since the film already had two characters filling that role.
Jessica Chastain’s faults were her own, though. Every time her character was put in a scary situation, which was often given the nature of the film, Chastain let out a short, high-pitched scream. The inauthenticity of her screams got to be a bit annoying after a while, especially when she seemed to be the only character reacting that strongly to the given situation. It was almost as if Chastain routinely kept forgetting about the fact that Pennywise the clown was after them.
Moreover, the Native American subplot was tactless and veered on the side of exoticization of Natives and Native mythology. In the beginning of the film, Mike explained to Bill that he had visited a Native American group living just outside Derry and they informed him of their own folklore involving Pennywise. In a flashback, the group’s shaman said the line, “All living things must abide by the laws of the shape they inhabit.” This line was too convoluted and never really explained, despite being said multiple times and sounds as though it was merely written to sound wise. The film is riddled with pseudo profound one-liners like this that were either never brought up again or were awkwardly thrown at the audience on a regular basis.
Overall, the film was technically done well, but could have used more work artistically. It is worth seeing for those who enjoyed the first film. The ending was satisfying enough and the excitement and comedy often masked the flaws.
Information for this article was gathered from youtube.com and rottentomatoes.com.