Two years. Ever since I left the theater after the ending of It in September of 2017, I have been waiting, looking forward to this day. Two long years, wondering why they didn’t just shoot both movies back to back and give the fans a double-pump release; two years spent reading every article, every little tidbit I could glean about the production to tide me over. Was it worth the wait? My immediate reaction is to answer “Yes”.
I saw the movie just last night and with a large group of friends and it was a fun, exhilarating experience. I left the theater feeling satisfied, even though there were some ideas forming on the drive home, things I wished they would have done differently or not at all. I’m going to have to concede right off the bat that this movie was just not as good as the first one; however, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad flick. It (2017) was a nearly perfect movie and that’s something pretty difficult to live up to.
Warning: Spoilers ahead. Turn back now if you have yet to see the movie.
I see a lot of critics complaining about the runtime, but that wasn’t a problem for me, and their claims that today’s audiences don’t have the attention span to watch a 3 hour movie are pretty much bullshit, given that most of us spend 8 hours at a time binge watching the latest season of our favortie shows on Netflix.
Andy Muschietti has stated in an interview that his original cut was four hours long and that he hopes to see a director’s cut of both the films released some time in the near future, which I am looking forward to. The problem is that even with its epic runtime, parts of the movie seem very hurried or glossed over to me. Stan’s death was not given the attention it deserved, and the arrival/reunion of the Losers was extremely rushed. Also, Mike Hanlon’s backstory as “keeper of the lighthouse” and Derry historian is reduced to a few lines of referential dialogue and context clues. Overall, though, what I found problematic is that the adult Losers weren’t given enough time to gel together, to establish the same kind of chemistry as their child counterparts did in part one. With a story like this, it’s important to capture the right feeling as much as anything else and while the cast did a fantastic job, I wanted the film to slow down a bit and let an organic meld happen between them before things really got rolling.
One aspect of the film I was particularly excited about was the chance to see some of my favorite scenes from the book that weren’t presented in the first part or the 1990 miniseries. The beating and subsequent death of Adrian Mellon was one of those scenes. I first read this book when I was 10 years old, back in 1990, and it wasn’t until I read an article a few weeks ago that I found out King took the incident right from the headlines. In 1984 in the town of Bangor, Maine, (the inspiration for Derry), a young man named Charlie Howard and his boyfriend were set upon by a gang of teenagers and the scene played out very much the same as it does in the book and the movie (except the appearance of Pennywise, of course). It’s heavy material and was a little hard to watch as a gay man, and I’ve been seeing a lot of negative criticism about this part of the movie, reviewers saying Muschietti should have left it out and calling it exploitative, but I’m glad he kept it in. It needed to be there. Those reviewers may not understand how important a part this scene was in the book as a mirror to Georgie’s death 27 years prior, the horror of a death of an innocent, and more that that, it shows what kind of a place Derry really is and why a creature like It would thrive there. I was also glad to see that they included the scene where Richie is attacked by the statue of Paul Bunyan. That was always one of my favorite parts of the book; it’s so surreal and absurd and over-the-top, which is exactly why it deserved to be included in this movie. King himself suggested the inclusion of this particular scene to Muschietti. As for what they chose not to include, I guess I’ll have to let my disappointment slide at not seeing Derry destroyed at the end of the film, Mike’s fight with the Rodan-like bird, or watching the giant eye coming for Richie down in the tunnels.
Let’s talk about the main reason so many of us flocked back to the theater to see this movie: everyone’s favorite killer clown. Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise is terrific and terrifying again in the sequel, but most of his best moments have nothing to do with the Losers at all. The scene with the little girl under the bleachers was nerve-wracking (those eyes and the way he drools, looking sooooo hungry); it had me jumping out of my skin, and the scene with the boy in the mirror maze was another fantastic and gruesome look at Pennywise in action. In my opinion, I don’t think they utilized Skarsgard enough in this movie. Just him and some shadows is all you need to make a scene creepy. This time around, the film makers were way too reliant on CGI.
Now let me touch on that CGI for a minute. Some of it was bad. Some of it was downright amateurish. And most of it was good. But there was way too much. The naked old crone (Mrs. Kersh), Eddie’s leper, and even the corpse of Patrick Hockstetter that comes back for Henry Bowers should all have been done with more practical effects, I feel. I understand that CGI allows for many of the film’s more fantastic sequences to come to life, and that’s great, but I wish Hollywood would realize it doesn’t need to be used for everything.
One difference between this film and the first is the overall tone. The first movie had its humorous moments, but was very dark, scary, and serious. This movie, for all its dark content, didn’t have that same pervasive atmosphere of fear and tension. There’s a lot of levity here, and I get it: humor was intrinsic part of King’s original story. Both as kids and adults, the Losers (usually thanks to Richie, but we’ll get to that later) spend a lot of time laughing their asses off. Fine. My problem was that the audience was laughing at all the wrong parts. During some scenes that were supposed to be scary or scream-inducing, the whole theater was laughing, most noticably when Beverly was touring her old apartment: the ghastly Mrs. Kersh got plenty of guffaws from the audience during what should have been one of the movie’s scariest sequences. There was a lot of incredulous laughing in the theater during the fortune cookie scene as well.
Speaking of laughs, we have to touch upon Bill Hader’s performance as Richie. He is great. All the accolades he’s receiving and the rave reviews, he deserves them for sure, and I hope he gets a nomination of two when award season rolls around. He’s funny, sure, but there’s also a pathos about him that made him very likable and endearing. What surprises me is that I haven’t heard many critics talk about the actor who played the grown-up Eddie, James Ransone. He was fucking perfect as Eddie; not only does he look exactly like a grown-up Jack Dylan Grazer, his deadpan, sarcastic delivery was a good match for Hader and maybe he was even funnier. I almost feel bad for the rest of the Losers Club because these two make it their movie, and it is a shame because the entire ensemble was awesome.
In the last hour or so the movie kicks into high gear and it starts to feel more like a blockbuster action flick than a horror movie, although it was very compelling and enjoyable to watch. There are some great parts when the Losers return to the house on Neibolt street and down into the sewers: Jessica Chastain as Beverly should get an award just for what she had to suffer shooting a scene immersed in all that blood. Eddie dies a hero’s death, much like he did in the book, and the final confrontation between the Losers and It was on an epic scale, and I was happy enough with it even though it strayed from the book’s ending, which I concede is a necessity. (Note: the way the gang battled It in the book, as children and as adults, was a very cerebral and probably unfilmable series of non-events).
With all my bitching and nit-picking, you must think I really hate the movie. I don’t. I liked it very much. But I wanted to LOVE it. Still, it’s a great flick and none of my complainy bullshit entered my mind as I was watching it, that all came later. While watching it, I was having a great time. I give this movie 9 red balloons out of 10.
Go see It: Chapter Two and then let us know what you think in the comments on Facebook.