"How long IS this movie?" my wife whispered in my ear.
“Eight hours,” I replied, having reached a point where I wondered similarly.
If you’ve read much Steven King, you know he can write long stories. 1990’s The Stand was 1152 pages in hardcover. 2017’s It tops that slightly at 1168. So, what do you cut out of ponderous tomes like these to fit them into a two-hour movie? Apparently, not much.
Even Steven King himself appeared in a speaking part during It Chapter 2. It was lengthy for a cameo, not like Alfred Hitchcock silently lurking in the background. But King is creepy enough looking to do a spot-on job of playing a creepy storeowner.
We watched It Chapter 1 the night before seeing the sequel. We felt it was important to understand what was going on 27 years earlier, which is the setup for this encounter with Pennywise, the insane clown monster and title character. And as expected, they shot a lot of extra footage during the filming of the first movie in order to rehash the relationships between the seven kids from King’s fictional Maine town of Derry.
And rehash they did. Old footage galore, used and new, revisited many scenes in order to make sense of the new chapter for new viewers who missed the old one.
Both films are scary, gory collages of ultra creepy killer clown encounters, the underlying plot being to destroy the evil that surfaces in Derry every twenty-seven years. We find in this go-round that the clown is actually an alien “eater of worlds” that crashed into Earth millions of years ago. We discover that this was chronicled by Native Americans that attempted to ritually rid themselves of the periodic evil to no avail. The creature feeds on fear, and is quite adept at creating fear-provoking situations, customized to individuals, and seemingly causing ripples of psychotic behavior among the town’s citizens. That, or else Derry is one abusive, messed up place to begin with.
A lot of time is spent establishing the fact that the previously identified time limit has expired, Pennywise is back, and the “losers” as they call themselves in the first film need to regroup for a second attempt at killing the beast. Of course, the original 13 year olds are now 40, which leads to some fun casting challenges. Bill Hader is perfect as Richie, equally adept at comedy and drama, and often switching gears several times in a single scene. Apparently I’m not the only one to confuse Jessica Chastain with Bryce Howard, but it doesn’t matter. Chastain plays the grown up (red-headed) Beverly, the only girl in the group. Stanley commits suicide rather than return to Derry, so Andy Bean doesn’t get much screen time.
|That's Howard on the left, Chastain to the right.|
Each character must retrieve an “artifact” from the first film to sacrifice in the ritual that Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) has decoded over the years. He was the only member of the team who remained in Derry during the intervening time.
To get into any more detail risks this review becoming a further perpetrator of the Steven King long story trap. Suffice it to say that each character experiences a lengthy close encounter with Pennywise, one after the other, until the group attacks en masse, and is then divided by the creature for easier predation.
It becomes clear that nothing can destroy the fear-eating force, not even love (yeah, I thought it might go there), so eventually they humiliate it to death. Yes, the eater of worlds becomes the victim of group bullying and name calling, making the monster feel small. If this is a public service message of some kind, it gets totally lost in the resulting gore and special effects. It just seems kind of lame.
The good news is, there will be no Chapter 3. There was really no need for Chapter 2, but without it the first film would have been five hours long. Maybe without all the flashbacks it could have been trimmed to four. After all, both films had the same Director, but writing duties shifted to include Steven King for the finale. Ah, there’s the problem. Stick to books Steve. Screenplay becomes screen time.
It Chapter 2 (2019) runs 2 hours 49 minutes and is rated R.
Should I see this movie?