“IT Chapter 2” is a memory I wish I could forget

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At the time of its original release, IT (1990) became one of  the most famous adaptations of a Stephen King literary property. Though  the two-part television mini-series may not have had the positive  critical reception like Carrie, Stand by Me or Misery,  it was memorable for a different reason. The portrayal of the titular  villain, Pennywise the clown by Tim Curry, was not terrifying, but the  hilarity that he weaved into every mannerism and piece of dialogue made  it one of his most famous performances. The dreadful writing, subpar  special effects and awful acting by the rest of the cast kept the  potential of this supernatural horror trapped in the 20th century.

However, the insane laugh of Pennywise would be finally revived in the 2017 remake. The difference with IT  (2017) was the noticeable change in style and tone that made the entire  experience more adult and psychologically terrifying. The Andy  Muschietti film delivered on this mission statement in almost every way.  The impressive casting of the losers’ club, frighteningly good  practical effects and impeccable writing crafted a story worthy of its  box office records. What nobody expected was the reveal of a sequel that  would conclude the saga, expunge the scourge of Pennywise and finally  bring peace to Derry.

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Most disappointingly, IT Chapter 2 breaks down the incredible  world built by New Line Cinema only two years ago in the slowest and  most excruciating way possible. The lackluster pacing issues and  over-reliance on cliche tropes, like flashbacks, inflate the runtime to  abominable levels. Almost every example of practical effects has been  replaced by silly and lazy cgi animation. Finally, besides maybe one or  two cast members performing at their full potential, the rest of the  adult actors give off a goofy portrayal that deserved to be cut from the  final draft.

A story too big for clown shoes

IT (2017) stayed consistent and entertaining by accurately  retelling the story of the classic novel while excluding unnecessary  plot devices unfit for a major motion picture. Chapter 2  seemingly tosses those forgotten points back into the mix after their  importance has already expired. The film starts off simply enough,  opening in Derry 27 years later with a new victim of Pennywise found  dead. This prompts Mike, the last remaining losers’ club member in  Derry, to call the gang back together and bring an end to the  devastation. Unfortunately, the rest of the crew has seemingly forgotten  the events of that fateful summer for reasons never fully explained,  and must rely on redundant flashback sequences for exposition. This  happens to be the most dull yet prominent drama trope used in the movie,  as it ends up extending the length of the film to an ungodly three  hours. For what seems to be the entire middle section of the story, the  audience is caught in a loop without time to develop the characters as  adults. Besides the one or two scenes that add emotional weight like  Richie’s or Beverly’s characters, the rest are formulaic and monotonous.

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But that is not the only plot detail that destroys the narrative’s  chance of being taken seriously. Once the crew remembers the extent of  Derry’s supernatural occurrences through a series of disgusting  hallucinations, Mike can only convince Bill to stay and hear his  explanation of where “IT” came from. After journeying to a local Native  American tribe, Mike discovered that “IT” was a cosmic entity that  landed in Maine millions of years ago. Since prehistoric times, it has  existed as a mimic on earth, taking the form of what the surrounding  population fears the most. He also finds out that the only way to defeat  “IT” is to trap its celestial deadlights in a carved wooden container  for eternity.

Though this may sound absolutely ridiculous, this just so happens to  be the actual plot of the 1986 novel, aside from the appearance of a  cosmic turtle and the questionable parts of the ritual of chud. Instead  of incorporating this macroverse concept in the first movie, Chapter 2 is tasked with aimlessly explaining it in the span of a few minutes. This means that Chapter 2 has  to immediately backpedal and define concepts that are never reevaluated  later on. Not only that, many other questions pertaining to the history  of “IT” are never fully explained. For example, why did it take the  form of a 1900’s dancing clown named Pennywise? Are the deadlights “IT”  or does “IT” control/gain power through the deadlights? If this  recurring peak in murders and disappearances happens once every 27  years, why has nobody else set out to solve the problem before now? Each  of these questions might be answered in a 1,100-page novel, but it is  impossible to find all the solutions in under three hours.

Effects better fit for a circus

IT (2017) was a haven for impressive practical effects from  the monster creation to set design. The demons portrayed on screen were  fantastic designs that set a precedent for horror films moving forward.  Pennywise’s new makeup and costuming instilled fear in the hearts of  millions, but the performance would not have been complete without the  compelling amount of emphasis on lighting and sound. While there was  some use of cgi animation to better visualize different creatures, it  never became a fundamental component of the movie. In the case of Chapter 2  there is an over-reliance on cgi to craft even the most simple horrors  that Pennywise could conjure up. Every attempt from the small fortune  cookie monstrosities to a massive razor-toothed Paul Bunyan statue feels  very artificial and ridiculous. Sadly, this also reduces the caliber of  genuine scares in the movie and it must instead rely on cheap jump  scares that lose their weight halfway through.

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Beyond the unforgivable amounts of piteous animated effects sits a  surprising amount of laughable lighting issues. While the transitions  from childhood to adulthood are well-edited, it is the contrast in color  that truly throws the audience off. The director seems to have a  complicated relationship when it comes to deciding what filter to put  over the lens. One moment the losers club is walking through a deserted  downtown Derry in a cool blue light, next we are shot into a sunset  scene with more yellow than a field of daffodils. This heavy amount of  saturation also works its way into some of the hallucinations to try and  replicate a comatose sensation, but it ultimately comes off as  lackadaisical.

Big names bring little depth

One of the many standout factors that gave IT (2017) such  success was the incredible range of actors they got to portray the  losers’ club, as well as Pennywise. The delivery of dialogue between the  child stars felt genuine, as if they had been real friends for much  longer. Their performances also showed their maturity as entertainers  while preserving the innocence their roles required. Not to mention the  wonderful portrayal of Pennywise by Bill Skarsgård that brought  ferocious terror, unlike Tim Curry’s absurd imitation. While Chapter 2 brings some bigger names to the franchise, they ultimately deliver less substance and flavor than their child counterparts.

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James McAvoy’s performance as Bill is either too dry or too forceful  and he never ties any emotional weight to his character until very late  into the third act. For most of the film, he acts with an artificial  insanity that does not feel natural to the progression of Bill’s  character. His internal struggle with facing the reality of his  brother’s death after 27 years is a great character trait, but that  attribute works against him for the majority of the movie. Isaiah  Mustafa as Mike presents a similar conundrum. Mike had the least  developed personality out of all the characters in the first  installment. Since the role of protagonist shifts more in his favor for Chapter 2,  we are left with a lead we fundamentally know little about. As a  result, the entire character is flawed from the beginning of the movie  and Mustafa does little to help the matter other than continue Mike’s  dynamic of being a hermit.

There are some light spots, though. Jessica Chastain brings a  necessary amount of respect and endearment to Beverly in adulthood.  Also, Bill Hader actually happened to be one of the more enjoyable parts  of the movie in his portrayal of adult Richie. Even though Skarsgård  reprises the role of Pennywise, his knack for playing the creepy  shapeshifter is not given enough space to shine, considering the shift  in narrative. The rest of the cast performs decently but in the end come  off as unmemorable or wooden. And in some cases, like that of older  Henry Bowers, it is undeniably wacky for no apparent reason.

Images: IMDb

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