It’s Still Just a F**king Clown: Our Review of ‘It Chapter Two’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - September 06, 2019
It’s Still Just a F**king Clown: Our Review of ‘It Chapter Two’

“It Ends” is emphatically stated on all the ad campaigns for It Chapter Two, the continuation of the highest-grossing and most massively successful Stephen King film adaptation of all time. And while yes, this is true, holy moly does it ever take a long time to get there – a butt-numbing 169 minutes, to be exact.

Not that the exorbitant length isn’t justified. King’s book is a 1000+ page tome that spans multiple time periods from the varied perspectives of an array of different characters. Much like the prior 1990 miniseries adaptation, after the first part focused solely on the children, part two brings back their adult counterparts as the Losers’ Club returns to Derry, Maine after 27 years to do battle with the resurfaced evil of Pennywise the Clown.

But first there’s a grim prologue, with It Chapter One super-fan Xavier Dolan playing a gay man horribly beaten along with his boyfriend outside the Derry Fairgrounds by a group of hillbilly thugs. This upsetting bout of violence causes Pennywise to reappear and suddenly, more strange events start to occur along with the disappearance of local children. So Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa, best known as the Man Your Man Could Smell Like from that ubiquitous Old Spice ad campaign), the only member of the Losers’ Club to have remained in Derry, puts out the call to all his old friends to honour the oath they all took – that they would come back home to put an end to the darkness if it ever came back.

All but one return and immediately they start reverting to their adolescent selves. Meanwhile, Pennywise gets stronger and stronger, terrorizing them and preying on their individual fears, just like it did all those years ago. Once again, they ultimately have to descend into the sewers of Derry to confront it at the source but with their minds less openly imaginative as they were as kids, will they be strong enough to triumph?

This sets the stage for an epic battle between good and evil, the driving force between the entire story, except the overstuffed nature of It Chapter Two makes it hard to fully grasp what the hell is even going on, as the film lurches from one set piece to another with almost no connecting threads. I’ve rarely seen a movie that’s so full of events while simultaneously feeling so empty. Returning writer Gary Dauberman (a mainstay from the Conjuring universe) throws as much from the novel that he can at us, assuming we’re all intimately familiar enough with this world to keep up, yet there’s no organic storytelling here at all, and several characters and narrative threads get such ludicrously short shrift that it may have just been better to excise them all together.

Mostly, It Chapter Two just wants to scare us with shock tactics, and to that end, it does have individual moments that work. Director Andy Muschietti knows how to create a scary sequence or three and there are a ton of freaky dream creatures that are thrown at our heroes. But none of these spooks resonate and after the umpteenth consecutive scene of a character walking into yet another conventional terror-setup, it seems like the film is just on autopilot. Once we get to the endless climactic sequence, the horror almost entirely dissipates in favour of a toothless Goonies-like fantasy-adventure.

The cast is obviously starrier this time around, with Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, James Ransone and Jay Ryan joining Mustafa as the grown-up Losers. None of them make much of an impression, due to the fact that their characters haven’t really been developed any further beyond how they were introduced in Part One. This is where the film really fails, as a large theme of the original story was how the characters brought their childhood traumas with them into adulthood. The darker backstories are pretty much glossed over here, making the emotional crescendos at the end feel that much more meaningless.

For all the flaws of Stephen King’s novel, it was most powerful at illustrating how the horror of It was intrinsically tied in with the everyday banal horrors of the human species – the violence, domestic abuse, homophobia and racism that had always been woven into the fabric of Derry and that served as the nourishment for Pennywise’s antics. As a movie, both parts of It have been more akin to a hollow amusement park house of horrors than any sort of treatise on actual evil.

It may end, but it doesn’t feel complete.

This post was written by
After his childhood dream of playing for the Mighty Ducks fell through, Mark turned his focus to the glitz and glamour of the movies. He's covered the extensive Toronto film scene for online outlets and is a filmmaker himself, currently putting the final touches on a low-budget (okay, no-budget) short film to be released in the near future. You can also find him behind the counter as product manager of Toronto's venerable film institution, Bay Street Video.
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