It's still strange how a story like Stephen King's It became such a big deal.
But just because something is popular doesn't mean it's good, much less perfect.
Here's our list of the highlights and lowlights, and yes, the Deadlights of It: Chapter Two.
Oklahoma's favorite son Bill Hader has really
been showing off his dramatic chops in recent years, from his critically-adored turn in
HBO's complex Barry to his work in It: Chapter Two as the grown-up Richie Tozier.
In the sequel, the Trashmouth has grown from a neighborhood nuisance to a national sensation,
or at least something like that as an apparently well-known stand-up comic.
In his role as the older Richie, Hader builds on everything that Stranger Things' Finn Wolfhard
laid down for the character in chapter one, so much so that it takes no effort to believe
that he's that kid, just 27 years older.
The movie suggests that despite any appearance of material success, he's not living up to
his full potential, an intriguing step up from the radio DJ role he played in King's
book, with the writing for the character also being a notable step up from the limp improvised
jokes Harry Anderson strung together for the 1990 miniseries.
"Let's see my fortune now.
You're gonna be eaten by a big, greasy monster.
Have a nice day!"
Despite what successes It: Chapter Two may have in improving on the old miniseries, reviews
have had one pretty consistent complaint, the grown-up members of the Losers' Club don't
really feel like old friends.
They all feel more like they're meeting each other for the first time, and it's an impression
that never really goes away.
And before you go pointing out that the group members being distant towards each other was
the whole point of the movie, with it all culminating in the characters reconnecting
and learning to love one another again, we would like to counter by saying that at no
point in this movie does it actually feel like these people are really connecting with
Everyone is frigid and chilly towards each other up until the point that they have to
wrench the heart out of an ancient cosmic horror, when they all fight on the same side
because, well, that's what you're supposed to do.
One of the biggest strengths of the first It is the palpable sense of camaraderie that
can be felt when the young cast is all interacting.
Sparks are flying in these scenes, as are so, so many f-bombs.
The kid scenes in the sequel still crackle with nostalgic energy, while the grown-up
sequences all proceed as though they're dialogues among strangers killing time at the DMV.
Despite those complaints, don't get us wrong, It: Chapter Two has assembled a fantastic
Seemingly willed into existence by Twitter posts and fan-casting, the sequel triumphantly
nails a difficult task while making it look pretty easy.
Casting the same part across generations is one of those things that you don't really
notice unless it's done in a way that doesn't really work that well, and the It sequel does
it so seamlessly that it even stops to flex about it, emphasizing the similarities between
James Ransome and Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie Kaspbrak in a show-offy transition shot.
The new cast's appeal isn't all about physical resemblance.
James McAvoy deploys an American accent so convincing that you never question his character's
Maine upbringing, and he also conveys the perfect level of frustration with his returning
Jay Ryan somehow manages to come off as an adult Ben Hanscom, one who seems to be aware
of how hot he's become in adulthood, but knows he's supposed to be cool about it.
Even Andy Bean in his brief turn as the adult Stan Uris manages to make his few scenes resonate
by finding the right way to express existential terror without coming across as too melodramatic.
So even though the cast members rarely seem like real childhood friends, they do all come
off as real people in their roles.
Perhaps one reason why the cast has no chemistry is the fact the movie explicitly demands they
stop spending time together at a critical point during their reunion.
After returning to Derry, the group is told by Mike to split up to recover relics from
their childhood by themselves.
The middle of the movie follows them all as they go off on their own specific side missions,
like it's the end of a video game and we need one last fetch quest before taking on the
This plotline of needing to gather relics for the Ritual of Chüd is mostly an invention
of the movies, which stretches to come up with a good reason for the characters to spend
As a result, we end up spending way too much of the movie watching the characters be isolated,
facing their fears in an assembly line fashion that gets dull fast.
Logically, the characters would probably want to stick together after realizing what Mike's
told them is all real, and they're fighting a vengeful demon whom they only beat the first
time by sticking together.
Instead, the movie invents a reason for them to arbitrarily split up, not really because
the story demands it, but more because the screenplay's structure does.
One of the reasons why the cast's lack of chemistry is so frustrating has to do with
the one scene with them all together that the movie 100% nails; the initial reunion
sequence at the Jade of the Orient Chinese restaurant.
In King's book, this scene is less of a fun hangout sequence and more of an exposition
engine, laying track for the plot to come, and the 1990 miniseries version of the scene
is just weird, feeling very awkward and made-for-TV.
But It: Chapter Two brings the scene to life with an electric energy, with the memories
of the Losers' Club seeming to come back in real time as the protagonists loosen up, both
through their renewed proximity to each other and the curative powers of alcohol.
The only place where this scene doesn't improve on the old miniseries or the book is the climactic
invasion of It as a bowl of demented fortune cookies, which jump up off the table and turn
into CGI monstrosities that kind of all look like the horror movie equivalent of the Sonic
One of the most consistent sins of It: Chapter Two, aside from its over-reliance on jump
scares and loud noises, is the overuse of way too much not-quite-there CGI during the
movie's horror sequences.
It almost feels like the movie overloads on creepy music and startling, monster-leaps-at-the-screen
moments to make up for the fact that, on its own, a lot of this CGI stuff just isn't scary.
CGI creature effects work best in something like a lighthearted Avengers-style movie,
when you want to buy into the comic book fiction of it all and let the movie get away with
things that look less than realistic.
But that's generally not how things work with horror, which gets its most effective scares
out of keeping the viewer engaged and drawing them into a nightmarish moment, making them
believe, if even for just a second, that everything they're seeing is real.
When a supposedly horrific sight makes you think more about what's new on Xbox than the
fact that you're gonna die one day, it makes the scares much less effective, and the movie
they're in less capable of standing the test of time.
That said, don't get us wrong.
There are parts of It: Chapter Two in which the horror all really works.
Critics have said that Chapter Two is less scary than its 2017 predecessor, and while
this may be true by the time the Losers' Club is fighting Pennywise as a giant spider and
defeating it by screaming the f-word, it's not really true for the entire movie.
Indeed, some sequences in the sequel shiver with such horror that they trounce anything
the first movie put forward as a scare.
Despite all the child slayings, the first It movie had a tendency to feel more like
a thrill ride than anything close to being psychologically affecting.
That's not the case for some of It: Chapter Two's most genuinely disturbing scenes, which
include the vicious assault and killing of a young gay man at the beginning of the movie,
to Pennywise sickly manipulating and devouring a little girl underneath some Derry bleachers.
Real horror should do more than just startle you, it should make you feel nasty, and stick
to you like a greasy slime.
Pennywise leaping out of the dark with his claws out might make you jump while you're
watching the movie, but these are the sequences that stick with you in the nights that follow.
Of course, there's a lot to remember about It: Chapter Two once you're done watching
it, mostly because this sequel is a lot of movie.
Like, too much movie.
At 165 minutes, the sequel's runtime edges up toward Avengers: Endgame levels, but that
movie was MCU Chapter Twenty-Two, not Oh-Two.
"It's, uh, a long story."
While the movie doesn't feel truly punishing in its length on a first watch, it does feel
every minute of its long length, and it doesn't really feel like an experience that digs deep
enough into its themes or characters to really warrant that massive runtime.
So much of the movie is given over to catching the audience up on where the characters are
at in their lives, and then giving them each a protracted solo scare sequence, a structure
that gets repetitive and tiresome well before the final battle comes around.
You can say a lot of things about Stephen
King, but one thing you can't deny is that the dude has a big imagination.
Potent, eerie, too-hot-for-TV imagination, to the tune of 1,138 pages of often insane
As a book, It is full of rich details and left-turn sequences that seem inspired, at
least in part, by a lenient editor and a lot of cocaine.
"For me, the fun of writing novels isn't the finished product, which I don't care about
It's to the credit of It: Chapter Two that the sequel incorporates so many of the novel's
weirdest elements, making the already strange story of a shapeshifting killer clown even
weirder this time around.
Though the two It movies leave plenty of the more bizarre elements of King's story out
of the adaptation, it's admirable just how much corny crap the movie commits to getting
into, especially when it doesn't really need to explain too much about what's going on
in Derry at all.
Once the movie starts running through weird things like the Ritual of Chüd and Its true
form as the cosmic Deadlights, you know you're watching a movie with some goofball genre
This is a story that trusts you to stay with it through every weird turn, up to and including
the part where the Losers kill Pennywise by basically just hurting its feelings.
Though It: Chapter Two is willing to go to some strange places when it comes to Its ancient
cosmic origins, the movie doesn't exactly go whole hog with everything the book has
And we're not just talking about the novel's space turtle.
No, there are plenty of other story aspects from King's thick novel that just don't get
a lot of play here, from the way the mere presence of It is implied to bring out the
evil in Derry's residents, to the wider lives of the grown-up Losers, whose loved ones play
more into the resolution of the story in the book than the movie wants to get into.
One other notable loss is the instantly-abandoned storyline of the grown-up Bev's abusive husband,
who is given one scene to be a bad guy before Bev flees.
This entire aspect of her life and character remains totally unresolved, and it speaks
to a general lack of thematic storytelling in It's second installment.
If the first movie was about childhood and loss of innocence, the second movie is about...what,
For all its length and bluster, It: Chapter Two isn't really about anything other than
killing that clown.
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