This movie is three centuries long.
And guess what ? That’s not even the worst part. The runtime isn’t completely unjustifiable. A LOT happens here. We’re supposed to not only follow seven different main characters at once but also watch them defeat an evil entity that may be thousands of years old and unpack all their trauma in a single movie — of course it’s going to take time.
It could have worked. It could have worked so well. This is the closest thing to a perfect cast if there has ever been one. The flashbacks to 1988 make this abundantly clear. Speech patterns, facial expressions, nervous tics; everything is convincing at worst, perfect at best. There is hardly a single thing to throw away. When they’re good, by God, they’re good. Bill Hader and James Ransone especially are incredible as adult versions of Richie and Eddie. Both their common and separate character arcs are the strongest points of the film. Not everything is said out loud, nor does it need to. Their eyes, their hands, the way they smile depending on the person they’re smiling to. Their bodies do all the talking for them.
Things aren’t as interesting to watch when it comes to the other characters. The love triangle between Bill, Ben and Bev could not be any more underdeveloped. We already know how it’s going to end and every step of how they’re going to get there the minute they set eyes on each other. As for Mike… Mike is pretty cool. Certainly more appreciated than in the first film. It’s always nice to see filmmakers taking fan criticism into account. But the losers hardly ever feel as real as they used to. Sympathy is built through flashbacks rather than new scenes. I wanted to fall in love with the adults, but the people we meet are hardly more than grown up version of the kids. As if they had gone to bed one night and been reincarnated into A list actors. The 27 years that went by hardly ever feel real. Wives and husbands are shoved aside until only Derry matters anymore. We don’t know how they get back to their previous lives, or even if they ever do. Everything outside of Derry looks hardly real, like the dream of a child with poor imagination.
But the main problem of the film may lie elsewhere. The focus is so much on the kids that it forgets its villain. In the first chapter, Bill Skarsgård felt delightfully deranged as Pennywise. He was something out of a nightmare, and the worst part was that he knew it very well. Here, Pennywise is just sort of… There. Granted, the main characters would react differently to a monstrous clown as adults than as young kids. It does make sense that It would be a little less scary, or scary in a different way. Trauma is the epitome of adult fear. They’re all more scared of their memories than of the current Pennywise.
But why should they be scared of him ? I consider It one of the most genuinely terrifying horror films of the decade, so it is a bit disappointing that this one feels so repetitive in its scares. Kill a kid, scare an adult, start again during three hours. No wonder people are getting bored watching this. It’s just not a great theater experience. Especially if you’re the type of person who likes to pee often.
On the other hand… It makes sense.
The only way to defeat Pennywise is to make him less scary. Less important. Less everything It thinks It is. The scares getting weaker may be an annoyance for the viewer, but it makes sense for the monster to get more and more predictable. That’s how defeating trauma can be. Make it boring. Make it a story of the past, make it a tale you’ve seen a thousand times. Make it the most annoying thing you can think of.
Make it a clown.
I’m not going to pretend Chapter 2’s flaws are its genius. They make the viewing experience much less enjoyable than it should be. But once again, they make sense. By the time the credits roll, the characters are as tired of this as we are. We’re no longer afraid of this all powerful identity. It’s still cruel, still awful, but we can decide to make it less so, until it becomes nothing. Go bother someone else. You’re still nothing to us.
King is right. Endings always suck. Even when they’re the only way the narrative could have ended, they always feel way more bitter than they should. It: Chapter 2 is an unwitting ode to bad endings, to unresolved trauma, to the things that aren’t what they used to be. And that’s a perfectly fine thing to be. Even if it’s too long, has weird editing and doesn’t really know what to do with its tone. It still has the marks of something that used to be great. And that’s okay for now. This is a film that can be appreciated for all its weird choices and good memories. No need to get worked up about it. After all, it’s just a clown.