‘It: Chapter Two’ Review: Let’s Kill This Fucking Clown

It’s been 27 years since official Losers’ Club members Bill Denbrough, Beverly Marsh, Richie Tozier, Eddie Kaspbrak, Stanley Uris, Ben Hanscom and Mike Hanlon defeated intergalactic killer clown Pennywise. It’s been 27 years since most of the Losers —to the exception of Mike— left the small town of Derry, Maine, to pursue better, adult lives far away from the trauma they experienced in the summer of 1989 when they almost got killed in the town’s sewers. It’s been 27 years and the Losers have all grown up, now sporting the faces of James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Jay Ryan and Isaiah Mustafa. 

It’s been 27 years since the Losers first defeated Pennywise, and it’s been 2 years since Andy Muschietti’s It hit theaters. 

And the clown is back. 

Source: Tumblr.

It: Chapter 2 barely counts as a sequel when you take into account that the book it originates from, Stephen King’s It, encapsulated both the young Losers and the older Losers’ adventures. It’s not exactly a sequel, it is simply a continuation of a story we’d only seen half of. 

The first installment was a surprising hit when it premiered, and so expectations were high all around when news of a second movie entering pre-production started floating around —no pun intended. Was Muschietti going to be able to mimic —or even surpass— the home run he’d hit with the first one? Were the adult Losers going to be as moving, talented and endearing as the kids? 

Were they finally going to kill the fucking clown? 

Spoilers: they do kill the clown. Whether Muschietti knocks it out of the park again is, at the very least, debatable. 

Losers, Come Home

At nearly three hours, the main issue with the movie is its runtime. It feels both too long and too short, at times. The movie’s pacing is uneven; it takes too long for us to get to what’s going to set the rest of the movie in motion: the adult Losers finding their childhood tokens so they can carry out the infamous Ritual of Chüd in order to defeat Pennywise. And then, when they do, everything else happens entirely too quickly. Suddenly the Losers are in the sewers, standing in a circle that mimics their blood pact, and soon enough Pennywise has turned into a strange puddle of clown goo and the movie is done. It’s something that could’ve perhaps been remedied by omitting the childhood flashbacks, which seemed placed there to fill in whatever little blanks the previous movie had left, but also to ensure that they weren’t leaving out the talented kids audiences fell in love with because it seemed like an unforgivable mistake and a wasted opportunity.

The result is that it’s a little hard to care as much about the adult Losers when the time you’re given with them is fragmented. The brilliance of the first It was that you met the Losers together first, then separately, and then they never left each other’s side so that when they did —prompted by Richie and Bill’s fight— you’d feel their separation as severely as they did. Here, their strength is created more by dialogue than it is by letting the audience actually see them together. 

Isaiah Mustafa, Bill Hader, James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain and Jay Ryan as adult losers Mike, Richie, Bill, Beverly and Ben. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

“Losers stick together,” Mike keeps declaring. 

And yet they’re quick to separate all the time before the final battle takes place. 

It does little to build on the adult Losers’ chemistry, though it is still there, mainly prompted by the actors’ uncanny ability to replicate what the kids had so beautifully created.

They are still, at heart, the Losers. 

Which is what most of us bought a ticket to see, anyway. 

Beep-beep, motherfucker

Without a doubt, the standout performer among the cast of the killer clown continuation is none other than multiple Emmy-nominated Bill Hader, who absolutely steals every scene he is in with his portrayal of potty-mouthed, hilarious Richie Tozier, originally brilliantly played by Stranger Things’s Finn Wolfhard. If Wolfhard had made Tozier one of the first film’s strongest characters by far, Hader stays true to Wolfhard’s portrayal with surprising ease given that he seems to have barely studied it at all. It’s a testament not only to his remarkable acting abilities —which should come as a surprise to no one after his Emmy win last year for his portrayal of his show’s titular character, Barry, on HBO— but to his general understanding of the tone, the objective, and the depths of the character and the story he’s telling. To say he deserves every award out there is a definite understatement, although I wouldn’t get my hopes up for anything remotely close to the Oscars. 

Come on, you know what the Academy is really all about.

Hader provides, along with James Ransone’s impeccable Eddie (we’ll get to him in a second), much of the film’s comedic relief, but he also carries with unsurprising yet admirable dignity some of the movie’s most dramatic scenes, the most heart-wrenching of which is Eddie’s cruel death and its aftermath. 

It’s all punctuated by a revelation about the character that Andy Muschietti seemed to have planned from the very beginning of the first It but that —and it really depends on who you ask— was not a part of Stephen King’s original conception of Tozier: by the end of the movie, we understand that, not only is Richie “Trashmouth” Tozier not straight (whether he’s gay or bisexual is never really specified), but that he’s also been in love with asthmatic and fast-talking best friend Eddie Kaspbrak for 27 years despite not remembering him. 

Source: Tumblr.

If Bill Hader is the film’s MVP it’s not only because he’s unbelievably talented, but also because he shares most of his scenes with James Ransone, who manages to perfectly capture Jack Dylan Grazer’s mannerisms, intonation, and speech patterns like a beautifully crafted impression that gains depth and weight thanks to his character arc: in the movie’s climax, he hits Pennywise with a critical blow to the head and finally becomes the brave loser Richie knows him to be. 

Beep-beep, motherfucker. 

Of course then he’s impaled by one of Pennywise’s spider legs while on top of Richie, and everything else loses importance in comparison, because all the audience can care about is how heart-wrenchingly well Ransone and Hader react off of each other as Eddie, deadly hit, cracks a “your mother joke” in a last attempt to make Richie smile. 

Grazer and Wolfhard’s performances in the first movie had sculpted a wonderfully complex relationship between two characters —the nature of which has been disputed by fans since the book first came out—, and Ransone and Hader manage to build from it and raise the bar even higher, bringing to it an incredibly raw intimacy. Their bickering scenes save most of the movie’s sequences, and the really afflicting part of the movie’s climax relies on both of them to show the real stakes of Pennywise’s mind tricks and torturing games: losing the person you love the most. 

Bill Hader as Richie Tozier and James Ransone as Eddie Kaspbrak. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

They knock it out of the park. They’re both the film’s sense of humor and heart. Half of It: Chapter 2 doesn’t work without Ransone and Hader in the picture, without their Eddie and Richie pulling at the threads of our hearts with what is undeniably a tragic love story. Richie and Eddie’s relationship hits harder than the one that ties Ben and Beverly, the film’s heterosexual main romantic storyline, which, in comparison, seems rushed and falls a little flat. Plus, the fan-dubbed ‘Reddie’ relationship seems to unequivocally parallel the movie’s first scene —one of both the film and book’s most gruesome and powerful— in which Adrian Mellon (played by Xavier Dolan) is brutally murdered by a gang of teenagers under the influence of Pennywise. 

Meaning, yes, homophobia —internalized and externalized— is still, unfortunately, one of society’s most pressing issues. 

But also, yes, queer characters can be a big budget horror movie’s most well-constructed, well-acted, and well-written heroes.

Ones who survive at the end. 

We’re treading thinly on the ‘bury your gays’ trope, Muschietti. 

Source: Tumblr.

The rest of the Losers are perfectly cast —props should be given to the casting department for that—, but some of the characters fail to appeal to the audience as much as they did in the first film.

Jessica Chastain sparks some interest as grown-up Beverly Marsh, but she seems to be limited and boxed inside of a character who was prominent in the first installment, but who has lost importance in this second one. Isaiah Mustafa’s Mike Hanlon carries the other important weight of the film by handling expository dialogue with remarkable talent, and James McAvoy’s Bill Denbrough manages to bring out some brilliance in a leader that is otherwise hardly interesting. Jay Ryan’s Ben is still all heart and soul, although he fails to transmit the endearingness Jeremy Ray Taylor —his younger counterpart— doted the character of. And a special shoutout goes to Andy Bean, who is in roughly five minutes of the nearly three hours of film and yet manages to somehow let Wyatt Oleff’s Stanley shine through.  

A separate category all-together should be reserved for Bill Skarsgård, who continues to amaze as “The Eater of Worlds”, mainly known as Pennywise, as he brings back a performance that already chilled us to our bones when we first met the newest incarnation of the killer clown. 

See Also

“When Mike Called Me, I Threw Up”

But the question on everyone’s mind at the end of the day —other than whether Richie and Eddie do get it on— is whether the movie is scary enough or not. The first installment amazed with its clever jump-scares and quite gruesome Pennywise murders —the first of which was little Georgie Denbrough’s, arguably one of fiction’s most iconic scenes and a clear declaration of gore intent. So, is the second one up to the task? 

The short answer is yes. 

The longer answer is maybe not. 

Muschietti has equipped Chapter 2 with enough jump-scares and Pennywise evil glares to elicit more than one scream from the audience. And it seems like he’s upped the ante in any and all things blood-related: from the 4,500 gallons of fake blood used to drown Jessica Chastain in a bathroom stall to the amount of blood we see when Pennywise eats up innocent children. 

But sometimes more doesn’t mean scarier. What ends up happening —and this is also probably why Ransone and Hader are the movie’s standouts— is that tension is mostly dissipated with jokes, and so what in the first movie terrified, in the second movie fails to do so. 

James Ransone, Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Jay Ryan and Isaiah Mustaga play the older Losers. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

The scares are enough to make you quite uncomfortable, but they never distract from the movie’s real terror: it’s no more about the killer clown than it is about deep-rooted childhood trauma. 

At the end of the day, it’s what the movie manages to adapt best from Stephen King’s novel. It was never about the killer clown, really. It was never about the several forms it takes to more aptly scare the losers —a leper, a mummy, a gigantic spider with crab-like legs. It’s about a group of kids who have gone through severe trauma —bullies, abusive parents, the loss of a brother, racism, homophobia— and instead of overcoming it, of fighting it, have fled away. 

The scariest thing about It: Chapter 2 is the scariest thing about the book: the fact that trauma will haunt us until we find the courage to learn to live with it. 

Losers Stick Together

Source: Tumblr.

So perhaps, at the end of the day, It: Chapter 2 doesn’t really match up to the first movie. But it was hard competition to beat, and everyone knows things are always slightly worse the second time around. Regardless, Andy Muschietti has managed to pull off a rather striking, surprising, and exciting new film that grants all characters their well-earned and dignified closure. It manages to entertain for the most part, and it hits home with poignant precision when it has to. 

The worst part is that it will forever inevitably be reduced to a losing comparison with its previous installment; it will forever be known as “a good movie, but not as good as the first one.”

It’ll be an unfair critique, and it will diminish a movie that is otherwise actually rather great and surprisingly funny. 

Plus, they actually killed the clown. 

What more do you want?

It: Chapter 2 is in theaters now. 

What's Your Reaction?
Excited
0
Happy
0
In Love
0
Not Sure
0
Silly
0

© 2019 Fangirlish. All Rights Reserved.

Scroll To Top