It Chapter 2: Just barely manages to stay afloat

It: Chapter 2 certainly floats, yet sadly never reaches the same soaring heights of the first.

It: Chapter 2 certainly floats, yet sadly never reaches the same soaring heights of the first.

Yoseph K., Film Critic

The best way to describe It Chapter 2 would be to compare it to a circus. It’s all show and no substance, just a flashy, colorful tent that’s ultimately hollow and leaves you 2 hours and 45 minutes older, yet with no more than a couple of standout sequences to show for that elapsed time. I am personally a fan of the It series, I’ve read the book and I adored the first movie, so coming into this movie I had high expectations! The same creative team and core cast of the first movie, combined with the star power of James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, and more? This movie should have been an instant classic, the definitive adaptation of Stephen King’s landmark novel. The Keyword here is “should,” because It Chapter 2, in trying to raise the stakes of the first film, while also trying to make the film more scary and yet simultaneously more funny, ends up juggling a couple too many balls — and dropping all of them.

While the stakes of the film are raised, accomplished with more CG monsters (which, if we’re being completely honest, are a bit more laughable than terrifying), the character drama of the first film that made the first chapter magical is… present, yet only in its most basic form; every character gets just enough screen time to remind you that they’re there, yet not enough to satisfyingly establish and conclude their individual character arcs. The film has many more scares and jokes, yet they do not mesh well together, and this leads to several moments of tonal whiplash. A far cry from Andy Muschietti’s laser-focused It (2017), this film feels disjointed, and at times the film feels like it’s missing a clear directorial vision. Bigger doesn’t always mean better, and that’s clearly on display in this film, especially when it comes to the horror scenes. The creative and thrilling scares of the first movie have been reduced to jump scares, which are a passable yet exhausted horror trope.

That isn’t to say that It Chapter 2 is a train wreck, far from it. The music in this film is still brilliant: certain pieces of the score bring literal chills to the back of my neck. Many of the shot and lighting choices create beautiful picturesque frames that, taken out of the context of the film, make for what look like masterful paintings. The performances from every actor, both child and adult, are gripping and bring each character to life on the screen. Bill Skarsgård especially delivers a magnificently menacing performance as Pennywise, and reminds the audience why a clown with a red balloon was 2017’s favorite Halloween costume.

However, no matter how pretty the film is, no amount of flash can outweigh the sheer lack of both narrative and tonal cohesion. Ultimately, this is a competent, cookie-cutter horror film, delivering a couple of cheap thrills. But as a follow up to It (2017) — which was not only a competent horror film, but a mesmerizing coming-of-age drama — It Chapter 2 does not capture the first film’s magic.  If you are a fan of the first Chapter, or a fan of horror films, I would recommend seeing this film both because it wraps up 2017’s narrative and provides some mindless entertainment. However, for people unfamiliar with the It franchise or those disinterested in the horror genre, this film disappointingly does not offer anything that would appeal. The film certainly floats, yet sadly never reaches the same soaring heights of the first.