When Stephen King’s ‘It’ was given a feature film adaptation in 2017 the well-received movie had audiences eagerly anticipating the second instalment. But ‘It Chapter Two’ delivered a lackluster conclusion.
'It’s' Tomatometer clocks a score of 85% Fresh, while 'It Chapter Two' landed at only 63%. Now, 'It Chapter Two' is not a bad movie, it just didn’t have nearly the impact of 'It' (2017). Normally the second half of a story is better, because the rising action leads to higher stakes as the story progresses. I made this point in an article about sequels that were better than the originals.
The 'It' series does not belong to this list. This is because the stakes don’t feel higher in 'It Chapter Two.' And it’s very simple to explain why.
Kid Protagonists vs Adult Protagonists
Could it be that simple? Basically, yes. In 'It' children’s lives are at stake. In 'It Chapter Two,' the gang returns to Derry 27 years later, as fully formed adults. Now, considering one of the gang kills himself rather than reconvene, there is the feeling that the characters have become more disposable, which does add tension. Though the tension is still not on par with 'It' (2017).
Pennywise the clown is often in the movie referred to as “It,” and that’s because “It” isn’t a clown, “It” represents fear itself. It is an entity that takes many forms, it’s almost more of a supernatural force than a physical creature.
So we’re talking about literally facing the personification of fear. What is more dramatic? A group of 13-year-old kids facing their fears, or a bunch of 40 somethings? That question pretty much answers itself, right? I guess there’s no need to continue the review. But I will.
What is really scary about 'It'
Pennywise wasn’t the scariest part of the movie 'It,' no, that role belonged to the parents. Beverly’s father is by far the scariest character. He’s verbally and physically abusive, and from the way he talks to her and looks at her, the audience is dreading a sexual abuse scene every time he’s on screen. That dread instills more fear in audiences than anything else could. Because in our horror movies, we can watch people get hacked into bloody pieces, but NOT THAT. You leave Beverly alone you monster, the real monster.
Eddie’s mom is nothing short of a nightmare. She is so overbearing; so overprotective. When you consider his ailments and her neurosis, I’m pretty sure there's some Munchausen by proxy going on there. It seems she at least wants to convince him he's sick. I'm not really sure if that's confirmed though, the pharmacy clerk that told him he takes placebos isn't a super reliable source.
Mike and Ben’s biggest issue is probably the knife-wielding bully and total psychopath “Bowers.” But we learn Bowers is such a bad guy because his father’s even worse.
Audiences left 'It' in a somber mood, pondering the real life horrors of the world - something they might not have expected from a killer clown movie. When audiences left the theater after 'It Chapter Two' they just thought, “What did I just watch?”
Lack of focus in 'It Chapter Two'
My first thoughts when the credits rolled were that the movie was both too long, while simultaneously missing so much of the story. 27 years have passed, so in order for these adults to face their fears, first the story must establish what those are. 'It Chapter Two' already had an uphill battle by focusing on the fears of 40-year-olds rather than 13-year-olds, but the movie struggled to display most of these fears in a way audiences could empathize with. One reason is it's harder to personify and visualize the fear of failure that and adult would have versus a kids fear of a creepy painting in his dad's office.
The other reason is because the movie tried to fit in subplots for each character. And by spreading the story so thin they didn’t give the audience enough time to get invested in any of the characters' stories. They even use a chunk of screen-time to yank us out of the current timeline to revisit scenes not included in 'Chapter One.' 'It' was much more focused. The "Loser’s Club" rallies together behind Bill’s drive to seek truth for his brother and the many forgotten children of Derry, and eventually, to save Beverley. In 'It Chapter Two,' the characters literally can’t even describe why they assembled.
New Story Arc
'It' combined horror with a coming-of-age story. Which, along with the Stephen King source material made it a hit in the genre. The scares parallel the insecurities of puberty and struggles in their home-life. It’s an easily relatable and scary story. 'It Chapter Two' was more of a political horror. I’m not saying this aspect made it worse than 'It,' just different.
Where 'It' was about self-empowerment and overcoming fear, 'It Chapter Two' was about antiquated prejudice toward the LGBTQ community that lingers heavily in rural areas of America. The first scene of any movie sets up the premise, often through symbolism. But the first scene of 'It Chapter Two' spells out very clearly what the story is about. Two bigoted Derry men brutally attack a gay couple. Bill Hader’s Ritchie is then given a much stronger arc than Bill, Ben and Beverly, who the audience thought were the principal characters.
This is the best part of 'It Chapter Two,' Bill Hader totally steals the show. We learn that Ritchie is a closeted homosexual, and was learning this about himself (or already knew) 27 years ago, during 'It' (2017). Bill Hader proves once and for all that he can do anything. He’s an expert at comedy, but Ritchie’s love for Eddie results in the greatest emotional impact of the film. That was all thanks to Hader’s acting chops.
Though, it’s not enough. The star-studded cast of 'It Chapter Two' couldn’t keep up with the young actors in 'It,' and in that lies the reason why. They’re young.
After so many mixed reviews of ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ it’s time to discuss the reasons for its positive audience reception.
Now that Disney has released Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker on Disney+, millions of people have access to the entire Star Wars saga. We’ve already discussed some issues with the Star Wars finale. The movie received the lowest critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes of any Star Wars.
However, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker got an Audience Score of 86%, much higher than the 52% on the Tomatometer. So what did the movie offer that made it so popular with fans?
The Return of C-3PO as a Main Character
For most of the prequel trilogy and the sequel trilogy, C-3PO didn’t get to share much of the spotlight. But this changed in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Star Wars began in 1977 with Star Wars: A New Hope. In the very first Star Wars C-3PO carries the story through the entire first act where he also has a majority of the dialogue. He continued to be a major player in the original trilogy as the primary provider of comic relief.
C-3PO finally returned to the main stage in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The character C-3PO delivered his classic brand of lovable cluelessness. He had an important role in the plot development and even a couple sentimental scenes that generated genuine emotion.
General Hux was the Spy
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker begins with Poe, Fin and Chewie getting information, second-hand, from an unknown spy in the First Order. This information is how the Resistance learns about Palpatine’s plan for the “Final Order,” and begins their last-chance mission to secure freedom in the galaxy.
The First Order’s spy problem is a small part of the story, and the First Order kills Hux when they find out shortly after the audience. It deserves mention because it’s a good twist. It caught the audience off guard, but it made sense. We saw his malcontent for Kylo Ren growing ever since Star Wars: The Last Jedi. His motivation and the timeline tracked logically. The rest of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was like one big Ex Machina to the whole Star Wars saga. In none of the previous films was there a hint of foreshadowing that Palpatine was still alive or that Rey was his Granddaughter.
“It’s not a navy, sir. It’s just people.”
When General Pryde panics because a tsunami of incoming spacecraft is there to fight them, he asks an unnamed First Order officer, “Where did they get all these fighter crafts? They have no navy.” The officer replies, “It’s not a navy, sir. It’s just people,” and the best line of the movie.
When Poe Dameron’s character arc of becoming a leader came to fruition, his first and final act almost failed. Just as he was about to give up all hope, he finally got proof that he and the resistance were not alone. Fan-favorite character Lando Calrissian shows up with an inconceivable amount of ships. It’s a beautiful moment of unity against tyranny, and it has the most emotional impact of any moment in the movie.
In the ambitious finale of the nine episode saga, director J.J. Abrams rushed through a sloppy plot to give the world a spectacle, and little more.
On May the fourth every Disney+ subscriber got access to the entire Star Wars saga, when Disney uploaded the latest and final episode. Rise of Skywalker wasn’t all bad, there were some redeemable qualities, but the most pressing matters are these four awful choices.
Abandoning ‘The Last Jedi’
Critics agree, The Last Jedi was a phenomenal instalment of the series. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 90%. Only surpassed by A New Hope (IV), The Force awakens (VII) and Empire Strikes Back (V), in that order. However, The Last Jedi received notorious backlash from unhappy fans. At 43% it got the lowest audience score of any Star Wars film ever.
This led to Abrams’ return to the series and him ignoring any direction The Last Jedi set in motion. Because when you’re making Star Wars, who cares what the critics think? All that matters is keeping the fans pleased. Abrams succeeded with a film that many referred to as, “Spectacle over substance.” Rise of Skywalker received an 86% audience score, but just 52% from Rotten Tomato’s top critics, the lowest Tomatometer score of any Star Wars movie.
The Return of Palpatine
Palpatine coming back as the main villain isn’t inherently a bad idea, it was just introduced along with a lot of malarkey. The movie needed a proper villain. Kylo Ren killed Snoke at the end of Last Jedi, and any audience member with a brain expected him to transition back into the vulnerable Ben Solo before the film’s conclusion. However, there was nothing remotely believable about Palpatine living in secret all this time, building a fleet of hundreds of star destroyers.
The deeper issue though is that Abrams flipped the script. In The Last Jedi the audience is told, along with Rey, that her parents were insignificant junk traders. Kylo Ren tells her in a very meta statement, “You come from nothing… you have no place in this story.” For once, a Star Wars movie stated that lineage isn’t necessary to be a Jedi or even to make a good addition to the franchise. Jump ahead to Rise of Skywalker, they reveal that this setup was merely a mislead and Rey is in fact the Granddaughter of Palpatine.
Overly Powerful Jedi
Rise of Skywalker asked a lot of its audience, one of which is to accept that Rey is the strongest Jedi ever, bar none. When we first see her she is levitating, something no Jedi has done in any previous film. She is powerful enough to force pull a ship back toward the ground while its engines are trying to blast it into space. She also blew that ship up with a short zap of accidental lighting.
Consider the original series when Yoda pulling a crashed x-wing out of the swamp was a huge deal, or how Luke survived minutes of sustained lightning from Palpatine. The audience is meant to accept that Rey is extremely powerful because she trained with Leia. To make audiences believe that, they told us Luke trained Leia some 30 years prior, and she had essentially been a Jedi Master in secret all this time.
Thematically the problems with Rise of Skywalker was a lack of continuity with the rest of the saga. In the prequels, fear of losing Padme consumed Anakin Skywalker. He was seduced to the dark side by promises that he and Palpatine could uncover the secrets of healing, like Palpatine’s master Darth Plagueis. This doesn’t just imply that only sith’s are capable of this power, but that as far as we know, it was only accomplished by one other individual.
The entire final scene between Rey, Ben and Palpatine is someone using the force to either take or give life. It’s an ability they shouldn’t even have. Meanwhile there’s no dialogue and no tension. After over 40 years the saga finally closed on Jedi and Skywalkers and the ending lacked continuity and drama.
This began as something I did while managing a movie blog for a start-up blogging site that didn't make it, so I brought my thoughts here.