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It Chapter Two Main

It Chapter Two Movie Review

Written by Ren Zelen

Released by Warner Bros. UK

It Chapter Two Poster Large

Directed by Andy Muschietti
Written by Gary Dauberman, based on characters by Stephen King
2019, 169 minutes, 15 (UK)
Released on 6th September 2019

Starring:
Jessica Chastain as Beverly Marsh
James McAvoy as Bill Denbrough
Bill Hader as Richie Tozier
Isaiah Mustafa as Mike Hanlon
Jay Ryan as Ben Hanscom

Review:

The arrival of It Chapter Two, heralds the return of the seven misfit friends who dubbed themselves ‘The Losers’ Club’, now all grown-up and played by a cast which includes James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain and Bill Hader. They join the ‘Loser’ kids from the first film in the continuing story of their battle against the malevolent horror-clown, Pennywise.

It is now 27 years after the Losers’ Club’s first terrifying encounter with Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård). As kids in 1989, the group had hoped that they had vanquished him forever, but just in case that wasn’t so, they all swore a blood oath that they would return to finish the job.

Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa), the only one to have stayed in Derry, Maine, is now a librarian and has taken on the role of guardian and researcher, seeking a way to conquer the evil, shape-shifting entity that devours people after tenderizing them with terror and misery.

He first sees evidence of Pennywise’s reawakening in the aftermath of a hate crime: the attempted murder of the openly gay character Adrian Mellon, (played by actor and director Xavier Dolan). Adrian and his boyfriend are savagely beaten by a group of thugs who end up throwing Adrian off a bridge and into a canal, where he falls prey to the toothy, ravening clown.

It Chapter Two 01 It Chapter Two 02

As the 27-year anniversary approaches, Mike sees signs that Pennywise is returning and determines to contact and reconvene the erstwhile Losers Club – who've all gone their separate ways in the intervening decades – so that they can finish the battle as they promised when they made their childhood vow.

Flame-haired Bev (Jessica Chastain) is now a wealthy designer, but secretly suffers terrors in her marriage which emulate those she endured with her father; wisecracking Richie (Bill Hader) has made his name as a stand-up comic; Ben (Jay Ryan) is a wealthy architect and having lost his excess weight, has become a swan from an ugly duckling – he’s now a strikingly handsome dude.

Hypochondriac Eddie (James Ransone) has fittingly opted for a career in risk assessment and married a woman who is the doppelganger of his overprotective mother (both played by Molly Atkinson). The sensitive Stanley (Andy Bean) is a troubled adult, and Bill (James McAvoy) whose kid brother was tragically abducted by Pennywise at the beginning, is now a bestselling horror author whose work is adapted into film, but who often has a problem with ‘endings’ (Hmm, doesn’t that sounds familiar?)

Mike’s attempt at reconvening the Losers is complicated by the fact that those who moved away are only able to vaguely recall a traumatic event which happened in their past, but oddly, they can’t remember exactly what it was. To move ahead they need to reclaim their memories.

It Chapter Two 03 It Chapter Two 04

After being thwarted at the end of the first film, Pennywise is again on a murderous rampage in Derry, but now is also driven by a personal vendetta. According to Bill Skarsgård, the man behind the greasepaint and the menacing grin, this time he’s even more dangerous. His previous defeat “… fuels hatred and anger towards the kids, so there might be an even more vicious Pennywise. He’s really going after it…”

While the focus in It Chapter Two is primarily on the adult ‘Losers’, recollections of their childhood selves play an important part. Although the adults didn't appear in the first film, director Muschietti explains, “In the second movie, that dialogue between timelines is more present,” and indeed the flashbacks that go back to the kids in the '80s serve to inform the story in the present day.

By remembering who they were as kids, the Losers realise that they are bonded by the memories that they share. “It really is a film about sticking your neck out for others,” asserts Jessica Chastain, “It’s about speaking up when you see someone being abused or bullied or attacked. You see so much of who the Losers are when we meet them [as adults] in the second film. They wouldn’t be able to defend themselves, but they defend each other. I think that’s a beautiful thing. It’s putting the other before the self.”

It Chapter Two 05 It Chapter Two 06

Stephen King wrote the massive 1100-page bestselling novel in 1986. It won the British Fantasy Award and was nominated for a World Fantasy Award and a Hugo. His novel hasn’t endured for three decades based solely on its scariness. Generations have grown up with the book and connected with the friendship of the outsiders at the centre of the story.

Both the book and the film broach ideas about confronting one’s personal demons, about surviving abuse and depression, about how guilt and shame are instrumental in what we remember or choose to forget but also about reconnecting with a more childlike, innocent self.

There are great scares, excellent imagery, and strong performances, but more interestingly both It films are adaptations that understand Stephen King’s narrative voice and have managed to translate its small town cosiness, claustrophobia and camaraderie to the screen. The stamp of approval is cemented by King himself appearing in the film in a fun cameo role (in which he even goes along with the running joke about the ‘weak’ ending of the book).

The Pennywise strategy is to divide and isolate his victims. The Losers' strength lies in the fact that they know they are always stronger when united. “We live in a world where there’s a culture of fear, where some leaders have a strong pull on people, which is exactly what Pennywise does,” director Andy Muschietti recently told Vanity Fair. “You can take it as an analogy: If you are separated, you’re more vulnerable, you’re more weak, and you’re easier to conquer. You’re easier to be made submissive and scared. That’s exactly what Pennywise does. That’s what’s happening in this world right now.”

However, for my money, the first film was more engaging, having real charm in the portrayal of the bonding between those young, disparate, self-proclaimed ‘losers’. Chapter Two feels more fragmented and unevenly paced, but the main issue with this sequel will be its unwieldy length, clocking in at 2 hours and 49 minutes. Nevertheless, if you were a fan of the first film, and so very many were, you won’t want to miss the conclusion.

It Chapter Two Screening

Cast members of It Chapter Two dicuss the film at its screening. Photo: Ren Zelen

Grades:

Movie: Threeandahalfstars It Chapter Two Poster Small
Buy Amazon Uk

About The Author
Ren Zelen
Staff Writer
REN ZELEN is a writer, movie critic, reviewer, academic editor, pop-culture junkie and Sandra Bullock lookalike. Her post-apocalyptic science-fiction novel ‘THE HATHOR DIARIES’ is available on Amazon in the UK and USA and worldwide.
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