Abbie and I went to see It Chapter 2 on Sunday. It was one of my most hotly anticipated movies of the year. While I thought it was great, it didn’t quite live up to the expectations I’d worked up for it.
I have a possibly unpopular opinion about Stephen King adaptations, and I’ll provide that as a caveat before we get into my further thoughts.
None of the Stephen King film adaptations will ever be as enjoyable as his novels, because his novels are uniquely suited to their medium. It is a prime example. The multi timeline split of the narrative works very well as a novel because we’re switching between past and present, uncovering childhood trauma inch by inch as our characters are rediscovering it.
The 2017 It film immediately caught my attention because it chose to do away with this most fundamental aspect of the It novel – the structure. When you change the structure of something, you cannot help but change its essence, and I think that’s where my issues with the second film arise.
The first It did not show anything of the adult story. It focused entirely on the kids, and their initial conflict with the entity-known-as-Pennywise. The first film played it pretty straight as a coming of age horror tale.
So when It Chapter Two decided to delve into backstory of the kids in a supposedly unseen and unreferenced set of events that the kids didn’t even mention in the first film, I was a little perplexed.
It felt like a strange choice, and one that added to one of my main frustrations of the film.
It Chapter Two felt disjointed in a way that the first film did not. The subplots of all the Losers finding their artefacts they needed to burn in the Ritual of Chüd really slowed down the pace of the film. That sequence felt more like an anthology of short horror films than one film.
But the biggest problem I had with the whole film?
Pennywise wasn’t all that scary. He was creepy, sure. Unnerving? Undoubtedly. But scary? Not really. It really felt like our Losers were wearing plot armour for the majority of the film.
Was that because the entity-known-as-Pennywise was just waking up, still feeding, and not at full power? Was it because the entity-known-as-Pennywise remembered the Losers and was scared of them? If so, why oh why did he invite them home to Derry? Does fear age like a fine wine, only reaching its peak potency after laying dormant in repressed childhood trauma for 27 years?
I was left feeling a little bewildered at some of the events. For example, Mike bringing all the Losers back to Derry and convincing them to become a part of the Ritual of Chüd, knowing that it would lead to all of their deaths? And then afterwards, the Losers just kind of didn’t mention that their pal duped them into a suicide pact without their knowledge?
Evil clown or not, that’s the kind of shit that would make me block a motherfucker’s number.
But then again, is that really any less out-there than Bill traversing the Macroverse to do battle with It’s true form with the help of a celestial turtle called Maturin who created our universe when he vomited after having a stomach ache?
I guess not.
The one thing I can’t fault is the casting or the acting in this film. It is absolutely spot-on. Every single one of the adult cast of It Chapter Two are as perfect a choice as we could have hoped for. In particular, Bill Hader as Richie Tozier was an inspired choice. Out of all the Losers, I absolutely loved Richie. He stole every scene he was in. Totally didn’t see the surprise Richie + Eddie subplot coming at all, but honestly looking back on the first film it was so fucking obvious. Plus, it fits in with the overarching theme of each of the Losers being conquered by fear in some way after the events of the 2017 It film.
Bill embraced the fear and used it to write horror novels.
Beverley ended up with someone exactly like her father.
Ben was so scared of how other people perceived him that he changed who he was (On the outside, at least. On the inside he’s still the same old Ben, bless him).
Eddie, even after all these years, was so consumed by his paternally-gifted hypochondria that he used his fears as a safety blanket.
Mike spent the intervening 27 years terrified that one day It would come back. He became so corrupted by his own fear that he was prepared to sacrifice the lives of his very best friends to kill It.
Richie was so terrified of being himself that he lived a life in the closet and made a living as a comedian telling other people’s jokes. Jokes he can’t even remember when a little kid quotes them to him.
And Stanley, poor Stanley, so afraid of his own fear that he’d rather take his own life than face it.
Now on a lighter note, this might just be my experience, but as a Stephen King fan, the cameo of the King himself cracked me up so bad that Abbie looked over at me like she didn’t get what the hell was so funny.
The irony of Stephen King giving Bill Denborough shit about the disappointing endings to his books was hilarious.
If you get it, you get it. If you don’t, you don’t, and that’s okay.
I’m treating this It double-feature like I treat all the adaptations of Stephen King’s work: as a distinct and separate entity.
The first film was a masterpiece. The second, while great, isn’t perfect. But I still enjoyed the hell out of it.