The other evening thanks to the kindness of Shea – the owner and manager of the arcade I work at, to say nothing of being one of my best friends – I was able to skip out a little early from work and catch It Chapter Two. With my love of Stephen King’s novel as well as both the television mini-series and the previous 2017 film – the first chapter in Andy Muschietti’s film adaptation – I felt I should come up with a non-spoiler review for It Chapter Two. To be fair this article also had a bit to do with the talented artist, Travis Falligant, asking me to share what I thought about the film on social media! I’ll talk about my overall feelings on this second film, in addition to sharing my personal experiences with the source material. So without further ado, after sharing the final trailer for It Chapter Two – let’s prepare for a return visit to Derry, Maine – to catch up with the Losers and stop off for a visit to the House on 29 Neibolt Street.
I was a young teenager when Stephen King originally published It back in 1986 and thanks to a teacher who gave our class a bit of a rundown on the story I was itching to read it. The sad fact is though that the school library at my Junior High did not carry it and I suppose with some of the subject matter in It that is a little understandable, right? That isn’t to say I didn’t convince my Father to let me pick it up when it arrived in paperback – showing up at one of my local grocery stores about a year later. I had read Stephen King stories – short stories, before I got my hands on It but this one hooked me like few books had at that point in my life. So jump ahead to 1990 and I open up a TV Guide featuring the Fall releases to keep an eye on to see that It was being adapted into a mini-series for ABC – one starring the likes of Tim Curry as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. I could hardly wait for November 18th to catch the first part of the two-night event, especially when I caught a teaser commercial the night before.
I was not disappointed by the It mini-series and the next day in school, there was a lot of talk about it – favorite scenes and so on. As I grew older I looked back fondly on that experience of reading the novel, my time with the Losers – when at that time in my life I didn’t have the luxury of friends but most certainly had the misfortune of the wrath of bullies. As I got a bit older and found my group of friends – that extended Family that I was lucky enough to grow older with and experience joys, sadness, extreme triumphs and heartbreaking tragedies… I found the book grew with me. Now I’m not saying I would revisit the story every year or anything like that but when I would pick up the book for a reread – there were elements of the story I had missed or honestly, just been too young to understand fully. While the dark joys and chilling fears of Pennywise infesting the town of Derry were still there – especially those monstrous forms he would take to terrorize and torment his victims. There were also elements of the story about the friendships of the members of the Losers’ Club – as teenagers and adults I realized were being echoed in my own life. That magic is something that Director Andy Muschietti has been able to capture – obviously I think when you step back and look at both 2017’s It and now It Chapter Two as a whole story.
“Maybe there aren’t any such things as good friends or bad friends – maybe there are just friends, people who stand by you when you’re hurt and who help you feel not so lonely. Maybe they’re always worth being scared for, and hoping for, and living for. Maybe worth dying for too, if that’s what has to be. No good friends. No bad friends. Only people you want, need to be with; people who build their houses in your heart.” – Stephen King, It
It Chapter Two doesn’t focus solely on the Losers’ Club as adults – there are numerous flashbacks throughout the film of the cast that make up the younger versions of Beverly, Bill, Richie, Stanley, Eddie, Mike, and Ben. This offers up a chance to not only get more backstory on that Summer where the kids teamed up to fight back against Pennywise but it also allows for deviations, setups from the source material in regards to certain characters.
I’ve read a few reviews that say they personally didn’t think the movie was that scary – I’m going to say I was more frightened by certain scenes in It Chapter Two than in the first film. And in my opinion for this second offering – Andy Muschietti has doubled down on the horror of not just the supernatural entity under Derry but the worst monster of all – humans. Now don’t get me wrong, as we’ve been shown, the infection of It throughout the town of Derry has certainly had an effect on the citizens of that town. But in particular, the opening of It Chapter Two, a scene that is based on a moment in the original novel, is something that sadly is all too real.
With It Chapter Two, 27 years has passed and to the horror of Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) – all signs point to the gruesome return of Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Near the end of the 2017 movie, the Losers’ Club had made a blood oath to return to Derry if they had not actually defeated Pennywise. So it is up to Mike, who has been the only member of the Losers’ Club to not leave Derry, to call each of his friends back home. It appears that when you leave Derry for some reason you begin to forget about the town – the further out you go – the more you forget. So with that the stage is set for Bill (James McAvoy), Eddie (James Ransone), Beverely (Jessic Chastain), Richie (Bill Hader), Stanley (Andy Bean), and Ben (Jay Ryan) to return to their hometown. A place they have all forgotten – friends they no longer remember and the evil they once faced together.
Now pretty much all of the reviews I have read have singled out Bill Hader’s performance as Richie Tozier and make no mistake about it, he delivers some absolutely incredible one-liners. But for myself, I actually thought that it was James Ransone who managed to steal the show as Eddie Kaspbrak. Having said that though – Director Andy Muschietti and the script by Gary Dauberman really benefit from the embarrasing excess of riches they have with their cast. The Losers’ Club as both teenagers and adults have a natural chemistry – being an ensemble picture I suppose that should go without saying. The story like in the first film sometimes goes in different directions from the source material – to say the least – but you will probably be pleasantly surprised by the nods to other moments in the original story as well as the 1990 mini-series. The horror of Pennywise is not as constant as in the original movie – I think that makes sense as It is coming at the Losers’ Club in a totally different direction as adults. Make no mistake about it though as Muschietti pulls absolutely no punches when the entity attacks – whether that be with children or our heroes.
In closing for this hopefully non-spoiler review for It Chapter Two – when I walked out of the theater I was a little teary-eyed, both from the elements of the Losers’ Club that ring true between my friends and myself but being satisfied with the ending of Muschiettie’s adaptation. Of course when I turned the corner on leaving the auditorium much of that drained from my mind when I was confronted by a little prize left by Pennywise the Dancing Clown.
“Drive away and try to keep smiling. Get a little rock and roll on the radio and go toward all the life there is with all the courage you can find and all the belief you can muster. Be true, be brave, stand.” – Stephen King, It