It’s all been leading to this, folks. Ever since the Losers Club won our hearts and defeated Pennywise in 2017’s IT, we’ve been patiently waiting to head back to Derry to see these beloved characters return to kill the unspeakably evil force that has plagued this small town for decades once and for all in IT Chapter Two. Once again helmed by Andy Muschietti (who directed the first part) and written by Gary Dauberman, the sequel delivers up all the key moments that longtime fans of Stephen King’s book may be expecting to see here, but also includes a few things that are new to King’s world as well. While it does have some pacing issues, by and large, this concluding chapter in the IT saga is a scary, hilarious, emotionally charged, and satisfying adaptation of quite possibly King’s most ambitious novel ever, and despite a few minor flaws, I absolutely adored it.
Usually in my reviews, this is the part where I tend to dive into the plot, but if you’re reading this site, you pretty much know what IT Chapter Two is all about: the grown-up versions of the Losers Club—Beverly (Jessica Chastain), Bill (James McAvoy), Richie (Bill Hader), Ben (Jay Ryan), Eddie (James Ransone), and Stanley (Andy Bean) are all summoned back to Derry by Mike (Isaiah Mustafa), who fears that Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) has made his return 27 years after a string of grisly murders rocks the otherwise quiet community. They made a promise as kids that if Pennywise ever came back, they’d return to deal with it, and now, it’s time to make good on the blood oath they made to each other that fateful day so many years ago.
As someone who has been anticipating this sequel from the minute I got out of the theater for IT, I left Chapter Two feeling exhilarated, heartbroken, and satisfied with what Muschietti and Dauberman managed to pull off here, which was no easy feat by any means. To try and distill a novel that runs about 1,184 pages into a two-part adaptation that clocks in at around 5 hours total is a ridiculously hard thing to do, never mind the fact that King’s material often doesn’t always easily lend itself to a visual medium (which is not a knock by any means—in fact, it’s one of my favorite things about him as a writer), making the IT films a gargantuan task to take on as a storyteller, especially when it comes to handling the Losers Club’s journey back to Derry as adults and the final standoff in the story’s climax (but more on that soon).
When it comes to the narrative elements that made it from the book into IT Chapter Two, I’m a pretty happy camper overall. I thought it made perfect sense for Dauberman and Muschietti to open the sequel with the horrendous Adrian Mellon attack and murder, especially considering the times we are currently living in as a society. They hit most of the beats of where the Losers are in the present-day pretty well, and I think they trim out certain aspects of King’s novel in a very thoughtful way that actually works in service to the filmic experience as a whole, and also tweak certain moments (like the “Spirit Quest”) in a manner that makes more sense here. I don’t want to do a total rundown of all the different changes, because even though IT is a well-known tale, I’d still like to preserve some of the surprises awaiting you in Chapter Two.
That being said, it’s not completely smooth sailing throughout all of Chapter Two. For a movie with a nearly three-hour runtime, there are certain parts of the film that feel totally rushed, which is a weird thing to declare, but here we are. The Adrian Mellon opener, while admirable, flies by so quickly, missing some of the tension that comes with reading through that scene in the book, and during the sequence when Mike summons his childhood friends back to Derry, I think most of those set-ups only happen over the course of a few minutes, where we barely experience what life is like for these beloved characters before they have to trek back to Maine. If you’ve read the book, it’s fine because you already know, but I do feel like there are probably fans of the IT films that maybe haven’t read the book yet, and they’re missing out on some moments that really ground the adult characters. Oh, and the whole Henry Bowers subplot feels very underdeveloped here as well.
Also, I know King’s book was keen to rely on flashbacks of the Losers Club, but IT Chapter Two almost relies on them too much, which is a bit of a disservice to the older actors, who are all pretty damn great in their respective roles. And I get it completely—two years ago, we all fell in love with these 12-year-old characters and the young actors that brought them to life so vividly (Jaeden Martell, who has since changed his surname, as Bill, Finn Wolfhard as Richie, Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben, Wyatt Oleff as Stanley, Chosen Jacobs as Mike, Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie, and IT (2017)’s MVP, Sophia Lillis as Beverly), so why not try to get some more mileage out of these actors who have all endeared themselves to audiences already? But because of the over-reliance on flashbacks, there are a few scenes that feel a bit off because you can tell they had to digitally de-age some of the actors, and it becomes distracting at times.
That being said, there’s one flashback scene in particular that adds so much to the story in IT Chapter Two and I am so glad it was included, and I’ll be interested to see how fans of the novel embrace it. It becomes a standout moment for one of the Losers and also really ups the emotional arc of the finale, too, and I wish that happened more often in the sequel. I was also pleased that Stanley wasn’t treated like an afterthought in IT Chapter Two, either, but that’s all I really want to say about that (again, trying to preserve viewers’ enjoyment).
As mentioned, the adult actors tasked with bringing the Losers Club members to life in IT Chapter Two are all fantastic, but the standout of the bunch is undoubtedly Bill Hader, who makes Richie Tozier into something more than just a wise-cracking funny guy. Most of the film’s comedic moments come from Hader, too, and I know some fans may not be on board with the fact that the sequel has far more comical moments than its predecessor, but as someone who tends to crack jokes and use humor as a means to diffuse tension or placate my own fears, it didn’t bother me in the least bit (mileage will definitely vary for some, and I totally get it). Oh, and as you may have suspected, Skarsgård turns in another pitch-perfect performance as Pennywise here, and even though I don’t think he needs a golden statue to validate his acting, it would be nice to see him get acknowledged during awards season for his monumentally creepy and compelling work in the sequel.
Coming into IT Chapter Two, my biggest concern was how the final showdown between the Losers and Pennywise would come together, and against all odds, it’s excellent all-around, where some moments left me breathless, other parts had me clenching my armrest, and the way things wrap up between the characters left me a blubbering mess. There’s almost a cathartic nature to Chapter Two’s closing moments, and it flawlessly taps into the emotional build-up that comes with this odyssey that we’ve been on with these characters over the course of two movies, and ultimately, that’s what won me over the most. The devotion that Dauberman and Muschietti exhibit towards the Losers is palpable from start to finish, and despite some pitfalls in the film’s pacing, overall what they’ve managed to achieve with their collaborative efforts on IT Chapter Two is nothing short of monumental, and I think they’ve crafted something very special with these two films.
Movie Score: 4/5