Thursday, September 19, 2019

It Chapter Two


What's more likely to be a great movie -- one that ends with the characters making a promise to return and fight the evil again whenever it may return, or one in which all they do is make good on that promise?

Directed, once again, by Andy Muschietti.

Given that Chapter Two and Chapter One come from the same singular book, Chapter Two has no real right to feel so much like a sequel. Ideally it should have a "Part 2" flavor. If the filmmakers knew how successful Chapter One would be, I bet they would have filmed both parts at once. Then the de-aging of the child actors wouldn't have been necessary, and the story could have been developed to flow better between the two films. As it is, the two parts feel out of sync with each other. One being bigger in size, and the other more compact yet weighty with substance.

Much like what happened with Season 2 of Stranger Things, this sequel is painfully aware of the wild success of its predecessor. You can see it in the kids' performances, who are much less organic here. Like they're putting on a show for an audience instead of digging into honesty and stretching their acting chops. And while the adults don't come across that way at all, their script does it for them on occasion, with throwaway callback lines. Such as when they go in the well house and Bev dryly proclaims, "Beep beep, Richie." Another thing the adults have going for them; they're way better at delivering comedy.

As a result, the adult's version feels lighter in tone.

Laughs came freely; as for scares, it hit Not Scary At All for me. They tried to match scary-levels with Chapter One, but the method degraded slightly; there are a lot -- and I mean a lot of jump-scare moments. And every single one of them follows the exact same pattern. 1. Thing might be scary. 2. Thing is maybe not so scary after all. 3. Pause pause pause... 4. THING IS SCARY! Inevitably, the thing morphs into CGI, half the time with aspects of Pennywise's face pasted on it. I actually prefer when horror film don't scare me, but it does bother me that so much time was spent of these ultimately useless moments.

From my perspective "scary" is a lot less important than simply "effective." And the only times these moments were effective is when it led to an actual kill. Those are the ones that take their time to craft the creepiness and the dread. The most effective part of the movie was waiting for a jump scare while the camera lingered on Bill Skarsgård, motionless, drooling, his one eye pointing out to the side. No CGI, just an effective performance, given time to breathe and settle before it bursts. Other horror elements were more varying degrees of cool, or neat, or messed-up, which works fine for me. Overcrowding and rushing were the problems there.

But casting was a resounding win!

I think it's universally acknowledged that the casting here is pitch perfect. Even the well-known actors, Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, and Bill Hader are fantastically spot-on. Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, and Andy Bean were clearly cast more for their accurate appearances, but also deliver wonderfully on the performance side. Hader steals almost too many scenes, and my favorite was Ransone as Eddie. The best scene in the whole movie was their meeting up and having dinner. Their reactions to seeing each other again and how the nail the same feel and dynamic their kid counterparts did.

A better version of this film is out in the cosmos somewhere. I don't know how it works, but it likely required at least some changes to the first movie. It's a hefty story to swing in just two movies, so one great film and one slightly less-so isn't a disappointing result, especially if you consider less pleasant alternatives. This two-part series avoided disaster by breaking up repetitive material with elevating moments from a brilliant cast, and regular interludes of real, fascinating, quality content. My only real regret is that Chapter One ended in a more satisfying and thematically potent way.

No more floating, but I sure do hope Bill Skarsgård gets all the roles he could wish for after this!

The best ending of a series ideally belongs at the very end. But I loved Chapter One as is, so if that movie's greatness required this one to fall slightly short, I'll take it and be happy. Since this continuation isn't necessary to get a complete and satisfying story, there's no harm done either way. It Chapter Two is like the cherry on top of a giant sundae, or a red balloon in the hand of a clown; it doesn't add much in terms of substance, but it sure does complete the picture nicely.

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