Tuesday, June 18, 2024

‘It’ sequel fails to float, disappoints

The fall movie season has officially kicked off with the second half of the adaptation of Stephen King’s 1,138 page epic novel, “It.”

For those who missed the first installment, the coming of age story followed a group of middle schoolers who self-identified as the “Losers Club.” As if bullies and puberty were not enough, the gang was tormented by a shapeshifting monster who usually took the form of a demonic clown, Pennywise, played by Bill Skarsgård.

“IT Chapter Two” takes place 27 years later and the members of the “Losers Club” have grown up and gone their separate ways. They were able to distance themselves from the town of Derry, Maine, until Pennywise resurfaces and pulls the gang back to their hometown to finish what they started.

Here’s the problem, the runtime takes up almost three hours, and if I wanted to fully explain the plot, it would have taken up the whole article. Writer Gary Dauberman had an incredible task to juggle six, technically seven, main characters and two interweaving timelines, and he is not successful with the task.

While it is organized into three distinct acts, the internal structure is very messy.

The most egregious writing problems exist in the second act. Every character is split up and must go around Derry to confront their past and find a personal item to use in a ritual to kill Pennywise and everyone experiences the same thing. They go to the area, a flashback takes them back to when they were a kid, Pennywise shows up, it cuts back to the present day, Pennywise shows up again and the scene ends.

As if that weren’t monotonous enough, all the scares are constructed the same as well. They look in one direction, there is a moment of silence and bang, something is right behind them!

It is really disappointing because this goes on for so long and the audience eventually gets bored because they know what is coming.

Skarsgård does shine every time his deceptively childlike clown is on screen. His standout scene occurs outside of the main story and could have been cut if it wasn’t as effective as it is. Pennywise lures a young girl away from her mother and uses his singsong voice to keep her around him until the scene ends in a horrific way that won’t be spoiled here.

The only set piece that is fully successful is the first time the “Losers Club” meets up at a Chinese restaurant in Derry. When they show up, the banter is funny with an undercurrent of melancholy. Bill Hader shines as the foul-mouthed Richie Tozier, previously portrayed by Finn Wolfhard. Meanwhile, Bill and Beverly played by James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain are flooded with memories from their childhood. After dinner is served, the fortune cookies bring up the most twisted imagery in the film. The way the uncanny dread of returning to your hometown is built up and pops is really satisfying because the scene doesn’t rush into the payoff as it does later on.

If “IT Chapter Two” cut down on the jump scares and focused on the characters more, then this could have been a worthy follow up. When dealing with a sequel to a film that has a $700 million box office, it makes sense to want to pump it up more. Chapter Two did not meet the first’s box office opening, but it still is the second largest horror opening of all time.

Sadly, this red balloon can only hold so much and this sequel shows that it is straining and on the verge of popping.

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