Back in 2017, It Chapter One took the world by storm. It became the highest grossing horror film of all time, and it earned a ton of goodwill from audiences and critics alike. Personally I thought it was brilliant, and perfectly captured both the horrors and the magic from late childhood. But of course, there was always going to be another. Like the 1990 miniseries that came before it, the plan was always to be two It movies. The first one centering on the Losers’ first encounters with Pennywise; and then another with the Losers as adults facing It again. And like that miniseries, part two just isn’t as good. It Chapter Two is a disappointment compared to its predecessor, but there is quite a bit to enjoy about it. This is an ambitious, large scale, and often bizarre film that doesn’t play it safe. Instead of catering to what we loved about the first film, this respectably goes for a different angle. However, I cannot say the results are as consistent and effective as that first entry.
In all fairness, Chapter Two was always going to be a tall order. Everyone’s favorite aspects of the novel and miniseries are the sections with the kids. That is the meat and potatoes of the story, largely because it’s the most relatable aspect. We all remember feeling vulnerable and afraid of the larger world around us; and how the adults supposed to protect us often couldn’t care less. When the Losers face Pennywise in Chapter One, all of those memories and anxieties come flowing back to us, because we know how horrifying that would have been. But when the adults come back to kill Pennywise, those childish fears aren’t present, so the overall work isn’t as effective. This is a problem present in the novel, miniseries, and this film.
And I feel like they knew that would be the case, so they went for a different route. The set pieces in this film aren’t really scary, and are more strange and funny than anything else. If Chapter One felt like the original Nightmare on Elm Street, Chapter Two feels like The Dream Warriors. Even Pennywise, who was disturbing throughout the first film, has more of a sense of humor this time around. In its best moments, this change of tone adds to the film. Some of the set pieces have a really kinetic and fun Evil Dead vibe to them. But there are other times where the humor is poorly timed and out of place. For example, there is a scene where Eddie is fighting a leper, and “Angle of the Morning” by Juice Newton is needle-dropped. Huh?
Another major problem is the length and pacing. The film is almost three hours long, and it does not earn that. The first act is very rushed, introducing all of the Losers at light speed. But then the second act takes up most of the film, which a ton of little scenes that feel ultimately inconsequential. The subplot with Henry Bowers is particularly disappointing, and the film grinds to a halt whenever he comes back. There’s also quite a bit of flashbacks, with new footage with the first one’s cast. And while it’s nice to see the kids again, they do distract from the adults’ narrative.
But despite these obvious complaints, I can’t say Chapter Two is a misfire either. my favorite aspect of Chapter Two has to be its scale. I already mentioned how weird and funny the set pieces are, but that’s kind of putting it lightly. This may not be a scary movie, but it is a huge one. This is as close a horror film can get to Avengers: Endgame or Return of the King. The production design is shockingly first rate for a horror film, especially when it gets to the massive third act. The climax in particular is long, trippy, effects heavy, and actually kind of epic. It definitely feels like we’re seeing Pennywise operate at full force. It’s an intense sequence, and one that finally salvages Its often criticized final form.
And one aspect that carries over from the first one is the heart. Once again, the Losers are a very likeable bunch of characters, played by a great cast. Bill Hader’s Richie and Jessica Chastain’s Beverly are the two best performances, and they both do a great job carrying over their respective character’s essence. Both It movies are ultimately a story of camaraderie and teamwork. We feel the chemistry between this group of misfits, and we want to see them save the day. By the end of this one, I did feel emotionally satisfied with this long, overarching story. They are considering doing a supercut of both films, told in the alternating style of the novel. If that is ever released, I’d gladly give it a look. So is It Chapter Two a great movie? No. Compared to the knockout the first one was, it’s easy to feel a bit slighted. But on its own merits, I think there’s enough about it that works, and the fact that it even exists is honestly kind of remarkable.