My biggest worry going into the second chapter in the modern film version of ‘It’ is that the film would fail the way the miniseries did. Part of this is inherent in the novel itself. The adult half of the story is just not as good as the kid half, but part of of what killed the miniseries were the terrible performances by the adult actors. Well, while some of the same problems still exist in this film, the actors are leaps and bounds better this time around. More importantly, the film gives itself so much room to breath, that there are great scenes a plenty.
Now, it is impossible to completely ignore the issues. Which, in fairness, almost all come from the book. The biggest one of these issues for me is just how the losers get back together to begin with. Their backstories are hokey and do not meld with the very real feeling you got from the younger backstories. However, once the movies gets them all together, you can easily forget the poor set up. There are a few other issues like the explanation of the Pennywise history and the lack of thematic resonance in the actual ending, but these are similar problems that existed in the novel. There is even an ongoing joke about Bill not being able to right a good ending.
Still, these are small nitpicks with an otherwise fantastic adaptation of this classic novel. A big part of this being because the casting is uniformly great across the board. Jessica Chastain is the picture perfect extension of the younger Beverly. Bill Hader is hilarious and heartfelt as Richie. Jay Ryan oddly looks perfect as the older and skinny version of Ben. James Ranson pulls off the squeamish Eddie with ease. Isaiah Mustafa fills the slightly cheesy backstory with a level of believability. And James McAvoy is magic to my eyes as Bill. Which may be because Richard Thomas was so bad in the miniseries that it’s hard to get over it, but it’s also because McAvoy is just so good.
The story here involves the losers reliving the time they split up in the summer of 1989, in order to find some tokens for a Pennywise killing ritual. Which doesn’t necessarily work very well as plot, but works fantastically as a set up for a series of unforgettable scenes. Some of these scenes are simply just unseen moments between the younger losers, but most a brilliantly constructed horror sequences. Now, I won’t argue that these are more frightening than the more practical set ups, but watching a giant Paul Bunyan try to kill a protagonist is pretty damn fun.
However, it’s not just the over the top CG Pennywise effects that make all these sequences memorable. They could have done all the same creature effects and been left with a series of completely unmemorable scenes. It’s the fact that each of these sequences are there own little movies and they play out like expertly crafted short stories. I have always argued that the best movies are a series of unforgettable sequences and this one is littered with them. Now, you could make a decent case that these scenes are disjointed, but I think they work wonderfully.
All this leads to an epic finally, that will truly leave audiences on the edge of their seats. And while I think that the conclusion does little to support the themes of the story, it is certainly satisfying. I can’t imagine too many fans of the first one walking out disappointed. Which is ultimately the most brilliant thing about these films. Choosing to separate the one story into two stories has worked out wonderfully with this finale. Unlike many other adaptations that scream cash grab, this book has a perfect splitting point and that’s makes for two equally compelling stories. I would argue the original is better, but this is about as good as this movie could have been.
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