Have you seen that eye thing Bill Skarsgård does? Skarsgård and his eye trick are back again in his performance as Pennywise the Dancing Clown in “IT Chapter 2.” Following the events of the previous film, Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) recalls the Losers’ Club to Derry, Maine after Pennywise returns and murders a young man. All reunited, Beverly (Jessica Chastain), Bill (James McAvoy), Richie (Bill Hader), Ben (Jay Ryan) and Eddie (James Ransone) keep their childhood promise and face It once more.
After the high critical and consumer success of 2017’s “IT,” it was no surprise the film would receive a sequel finishing the story. In fact, in conception, director Andy Muschietti and screenplay writer Gary Dauberman split the original story from Stephen King’s novel into two parts. The concept is brilliant. The original novel contains two tales bridged by a 27-year time jump. The characters change and the audience gets to experience their development into adulthood accompanied by flashbacks to the characters’ youth, contextualizing the sequel. The particular characteristics that carry over from the young actors’ performances to the adult incarnations are joyous and give the audience a feeling of vicarious nostalgia.
The casting of the adult Losers’ Club is much more impressive than anticipated. The roles of Adult Beverly and Adult Richie were almost fan-casted by the young actors themselves. Both Sophia Lillis (Young Beverly) and Finn Wolfhard (Young Richie) told MTV Press that Chastain and Hader respectively should portray their characters. The believability of the other characters’ incarnations is spot-on as well. The transition between Young Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and Adult Ben (Jay Ryan) is the glow-up we all aspire to have and puts an end to the love triangle between Beverly, Bill and Ben that was set up in the original film.
With the production of franchise films, sequels tend to not live up to the original. This “sequel syndrome” usually never elicits the intended critical and consumer response. Usually a movie-goer will love the first film and hope that the sequel lives up to their gargantuan expectations, but it rarely ever does. While a mild effect of “sequel syndrome” can be measured in critical aggregation and box office success in “IT Chapter Two,” the film is surprisingly fresh. The adult cast builds upon the young ensemble’s energy but changes up dynamics based on how the characters changed over the 27-year time gap.
However, the sequel does lose audiences with its longer screen time. Edging out the original by 34 minutes, the sequel drags in the middle because of scenes filled with character development. There is also a slight dip in scare factor. “IT Chapter 2” tends more to the characters’ progression and conclusions rather than focusing on them being constantly scared, which makes total sense. As kids, we are expected to be scared more easily and more often. The characters as adults should be more stable and less easily frightened, though a killer clown is scary no matter what. The thematic shift the sequel takes on services the reduction in scare factor and does well to conclude the characters we know.
Whether you’ve seen the first or you are late to the party, “IT Chapter 2” is a fun horror blockbuster that takes the audience for a ride. Pushing forward the clown we all know and tremble before, the sequel lures us back into Derry and finishes what it started.
Photo: Poster for “IT Chapter Two” at Regal Majestic & IMAX in Silver Spring, MD. Photo by Shesh Batni.