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.
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.