I tried very hard to have an open mind on IT: Chapter Two. The first chapter in Andrés Muschietti's adaptation had a ton of promise, but I won't lie. I got hung up on the differences from the book. Hell, I went over the 1100 page monstrosity in detail. While the story of the kids is the best part, the adaptation in Chapter One I feel did a disservice to the minority characters Mike, Bev, and Stan. Mike should have known the history of the town, not Ben, who is not given his aptitude for building. Bev should have been the best shot of the group and not a damsel in distress, kidnapped to allow the boys a reason to be heroes. Stan, well, I guess they decided not to include to Standpipe which makes sense. Money and all.
Chapter Two does little to prove these changes were needed, leaning back on Mike being connected to the library and Ben an architect, undoing those changes. I will get to Stan later, but the end result ends up being an overly thought, overly complex adaptation of one of the only true examples of epic horror that removed most examples of why the novel was epic in the first place.
The following are my notes (in bold) while watching, along with what I was thinking.
We start with my first thoughts, not including "uh oh." Bill is on the movie set with his wife Audrey, who gets maybe a line or two. She's big in the novel, an example of how he is trying to move on and escape his past. She's not British like in the novel or the mini-series, but who cares? What is important is how he treats her, how he acts. James McAvoy's acting is fine, but Bill's a dick. Our hero treats his wife like an asshole.
Ending dig on King
Another call on Bill as a Stephen King counterpart, everyone digging in on the running joke of Bill's horror novels not having good endings. Not gonna lie, this landed pretty good and felt nice. The first dozen times.
Sure there's a nice scene where we get a bait and switch of the now handsome Ben (with the original Ben from the playing the fat guy on the conference call), but I can't help but feel sad we miss the novel's Ben remembering. Something about a guy squeezing lemon into his eye and drinking a full glass of bourbon (a damn beer stein). I kinda wanted to see that.
I tried to get Mike's number on the Loser's phones. Bonus points for getting a Maine area code, I guess. I'm not gonna rewatch to find out, but I bet there's screenshots online.
Lingers on Stan
I did like Stan getting the call. We'll get later why it is kinda bullshit, but the scene where he get the call and goes upstairs to take his last bath is pretty effective. Still, the miniseries wins out by adapting the novel better, giving the scene to his wife finding his body and the blood-scrawled "It."
Bev not as empowering
She's tough. I'll give Jessica Chastain that. When her bastard husband (who never comes back after this scene) tries to come after her and tell her she's not going back to Derry, Bev gets away in fine form and does her walk away in fine form. Yet… The scene in the novel almost parallels when the Losers fought back against Bowers and his gang during the rock fight. Bev getting superpowered by her memories of having friends, of being strong, kicking the shit out of her shitty husband and leaving is neutered by a scene of her getting some shots in and leaving. As she walked down the street near broken, I didn't get a feeling she had a return to that power but some kind of pre-empowerment from a Lifetime movie. That this never comes back makes it feel even less actualized.
Fortune cookie too much
Let's not talk too much of the Loser's just showing up at the Chinese restaurant without any build up. They just know where to go and in a three hour movie I guess we can be blessed with some brevity. Yet by the end of their reuniting, they get attacked by IT in the most absurd way. Either IT or the filmmakers have no subtlety, substituting small practical gag monsters with ranting abominations such as the baby-headed cockroach thing and the creeping eye. It jumps from creepy to over-the-top nonsense much like the 2011 Thing prequel relying too much on CGI effects than simple practical effects.
By far the best scene in the movie relies on the simple terror or a little child. Pennywise lures a little girl under some bleachers and kills her, offering friendship and kindness. It's heartbreaking and pure evil. It also stands out because it offers the one thing this movie is desperate to recreate: genuine fear for our protagonists.
Bowers - no dog or Christine
The reason Henry Bowers comes back is because they did not kill him off in the movie. Well, not the only. He's also the only real life threat to the Losers. I regret Muschietti not going pure crazy with this one with the clown dog head killing the guard as Bowers escapes. Hell, Bowers could have been killed as a kid, left out entirely, and replaced by those jerks that kill Adrian at the beginning. They vanish just as easy. Plus, what's up with Christine not picking him up from the hospital? A rotting corpse is one thing, but a driverless car is another.
Mike lives in library?
Here's another of those things that bug me. Growing up I wanted to live in the library. The miniseries took pains to show Mike as part of the community, the head librarian running the place and well liked. Mike here seems to be a weird hermit piecing together nonsense while living in a clock tower like he's Batman's Barbara Gordon, visiting crime scenes like a ghost. Nobody talks to him, sees him, or cares for him even though he lives in a municipal building. It's just dumb and empty storytelling meant for shortcuts and winks than actual character building.
Native sweat lodge mixup
The fuck? Mike drugs Bill to get him to see the scene of IT's arrival on Earth millennia before. He explains the Ritual of Chud, the lights, natives of the area gathering to bring down the evil monster yet… it feels useless. Add to this that later they find the sweat lodge clubhouse where in the book the ritual took place, where a few of the kids see the same thing, it just feels wrong. Another scene to take away from the kids and give to the adults information just so they will stay in town and fight IT when they know, THEY KNOW IT is evil and no one will stop it. Which leads to...
Seen all die - Bev
Here's the reason they had Bev kidnapped in the first place, my rationalization believes. By being kidnapped by IT and seeing the deadlights as a child, Bev sees how they will all die. She has always known all this, shown to her by the evil thing… Why does she believe it at all? I'll tell you: so she can tell them they should stick together or they all die. From information she gets form the evil fucking thing. This feels like lazy icing on a lazy sweat lodge cake.
Lots of Street walking
This happens a lot. At this point, the Losers are going into the town to find their totems, to find things each of them can hold to remember what they used to deal with IT back in the day. These totems will go into the ritual to defeat IT. Whatever, sure. Doesn't stop some dude and his ghost in a Trans Am from running them down while superhero walking down the middle of the street. Bev did the same thing walking away from her husband, too. At least at one point with Bill he almost does get run over and laughs it off, so they might be aware of this nonsense.
Bev Dad - too much perfume
Skipping ahead a bit, we get that trailer scene with Jessica Chastain and the old lady in Bev's old house. It's creepy and effective, maybe one of the best sequences of the movie spoiled on Youtube. Still, though, there's more to it with a flashback to young Bev and her father. Her dad blames her for her mom's death from some illness. He sprays the young woman with perfume, one or two thousand spritzes more than necessary emphasizing just one more time the filmmaker's lack of understanding of subtly. One spray and a sniff close to the young girl would be unsettling and creepy. A dozen or two and some yelling just comes across as silly as all hell. Calls back to the fortune cookies with too much, just way too much into the realm of absurdity. The small looks of the old woman, the creepy dances in the background, those are unsettling. The in-your-face thumps and shouts are just crude.
Ritchie Paul Bunyon = gay
Here we begin the retroactive secret telling, the calling back and adding more to the kid's stories and yet there's nothing here. Sure, we just learned about Bev's dad's creepiness, but we saw that before with the blood bathroom. Here the secret is not an extension of what we know, but whole cloth invention. Old Ritchie's Bill Hader (doing a badass job in the role) wanders downtown to the Paul Bunyan statue and gets a vision of being attacked by the big fucker as a kid after being rejected playing Street Fighter with a relative of Bowers and being called out as gay. I have no problem reading Ritchie as gay and in love with Eddie or whoever, but what does this add? In some ways this feels more exploitative, creating a narrative not foreshadowed in the first film and exposing a secret not with a shout or an exclamation but with… nothing. Adult Ritchie never admits he's gay, just pines quietly. It feels reductive and sad and not with the pathos needed. If the filmmakers had had the balls to include this in the first chapter, I might have been more receptive.
Bill finds Silver, Buys from King, Threatens skateboard kid
Bill's token finding is also just as convoluted and useless. His old bike, Silver, is in a pawn shop window run by none other than Stephen King himself. This scene serves to give King a highlight reel, a fun cameo that we can all look back on years from now. Other than that, Silver's use in the story is… there's none. He doesn't use it to reclaim his childhood, to cure Audry in the end (she's not a thing here), or to even stop his stuttering. The bicycle is just a token of a time gone by, a glorified running joke. Then Bill goes to the drain where his brother Georgie died and yells at it for a while. We get a slight secret that there was more to that day, then Bill gets the little boat from god-knows-where. Looking on, a kid that Ritchie yelled at earlier gets yelled at and runs away. In the book this was a nice scene with Bill reconnecting with a piece of Derry, a part of his childhood, while trying the skateboard and realizing his mode of transport is Silver. Here it's another chance for the kid to be yelled at so he can be remembered later.
Bev smokes in school, NKOTB
Enter Ben. Everybody gets a token in this episodic mess, so Ben gets to just walk into an American school in 2016 and roam around. Sure, Pennywise might be affecting the town from converting the school into a prison like most other public schools. Whatever. Still, when he remembers listening to New Kids on the Block and Bev smoking in school, it's pretty nice up until she starts mocking him and then bursts into flame. This scene is pretty horrific and effective but seems to go nowhere but back to the other Losers at the hotel. Which lead me to think...
Nobody works at hotel
Bev has to go behind the desk at one point to get her key. Sure, it's late, but could we not make one person's day as an extra in this movie? Or why couldn't this be King's cameo and ditch Silver all together. I may be nitpicking, but they made a point of showing that no one was there to help them… OH. Well, I have to admit that's a little clever if annoying.
Keene Tumor talk - basement - Angel of the morning
Eddie's turn! Of course, he goes to the pharmacy because that's where a creepy old man named Keene is going to poke the spot in his face where he's going to be stabbed soon. This works as a creepy and gross scene. Then Eddie goes into the basement. He's attacked by the rotting hobo monster and decides, you know what fuck this monster shit! He chokes out the rotting hobo monster and for a moment the audience fist pumps. Then Juice Newton pipes up with Angel Of the Morning and the rotting hobo monster vomits all over Eddie. End scene.
Kid Skateboard gone
The scene at the fair where Bill tries to save the skateboard kid in the funhouse is excellent, tense, scary, and pointless in this nearly three hour movie. Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, chase them into the funhouse, and make Bill watch as you kill your darlings. This is what special unrated director's cut editions are for.
Bowers not stopped
Eddie gets stabbed in the face by Bowers who has snuck into the hotel. Eddie them stabs Bowers. Another unnecessary addition, much like everything else with Bowers. Like Audrey and Tom, Bowers should have been dumped altogether to trim this story down. Was he great in the first movie? Yep. Does he impact anything in any way here? Nope. Still the effects of the knife in Eddie's face was super effective, especially the detail of him opening his mouth, blood falling out, and the knife visible. Shudder.
Mike makes it
I could have just written "Bowers stopped" to counter point the previous scene. Rather than send Mike to the hospital, Ritchie puts an ax in Bowers head. Mike then jumps up and they go to the creepy haunted house to do battle. Bonus points for a really good Hader reaction to just killing a guy.
Stan the thing head
Over at the house ready to kick some ass, the Loser's find young Stan's body pretzeled up in the refrigerator much like Pennywise was in the first movie. Without giving us much reference (Carpenter's The Thing could have been young Eddie and/or Ritchie's unifying scary movie, imagine the squees if they had held hands while watching this), Stan's head turns into a spider monster like in The Thing and runs around. Exactly like that. Except not scary or gross but comical and time consuming.
While Ritchie does battle with… something, I think the Stan the thing head, doesn't matter as one monster in this movie is as disposable as another… While Ritchie does battle, Eddie freezes. The only Loser so far to to fight back IT by choking a motherfucker freezes. What is even happening? At least give us some Juice Newton vocals to show that impacted him enough to attack the thing killing his friend when he could conquer his own fear not so long ago.
Bev taken again
Uh. It's almost like the writer's didn't know what to do with her after they took away how badass she was.
Mike is evangelistic
Down in the sewers about to do the ritual, Mike takes on a fever that is reserved for Southern pulpits and Walmart customer service lines. He's not wrong, nothing he's done in the past is wrong, and by all that is in the power of the universe Mike is getting a return on this child killing monster clown if he has the receipt or not! The fact that the ritual fails spits in the face of not only the character, but of the audience. I came here to see some bonkers cosmic turtle action, not a bunch of average adults run around an alien set pretending to know what the hell is going on.
Ritual place is Geiger
They stole the set of IT's landing from the Alien franchise. Somebody call Ridley Scott and demand this sequel now. Can't be worse than Prometheus. Alien Vs Predator Vs Killer Klowns from Outer Space.
What better way to fail than fail with a big ass balloon filled with a clown spider?
I'll be honest, this was funny. But also right up there with the skateboard kid in terms of unnecessary. How long did this go on, this throw away sequence based on a throw away line backing up another scene from Chapter One. The damn dog doesn't even come back. Pennywise failed to kill any darlings here.
Bill not sick - Bullshit
This pissed me off. Just what the hell were they thinking? Why did the Losers need secondary problems on top of their already shitty childhoods? Ritchie's gay, Bev's dad blamed her for her mom's death, all of that is layered and alters the story, but saying that Bill faked sick the day Georgie died feels offensive. Not only was the poor kid not there when his brother died, but he lied to stay home. The original way, he puts the owness on himself and comes to terms with the fact that nothing he could have done would have saved Georgie. He was sick, a thing that happened to him, not like now where the blame almost shifts to him. If he had been there, Georgie might have lived, the screenwriter is saying. It's needlessly complex in a movie with already too much going on. Plus, there's no reason for him faking sick. He's not watching the A-Team or playing Hard Ball on his Atari. He just sits there at the window and watches his brother play.
No cosmic space turtle
I really wanted to see this sumbitch.
Another movie that the young Losers should have watched as its reference directly here as the house implodes in on itself after IT's defeat.
Remember all that shit about IT infecting the town, influencing the behavior of the adults to allow kids and gay men to be eaten by a monster clown? Well, killing IT has no effect. Kids are just in regular danger now. The town doesn't get swallowed up or devastated as punishment for being supported by an extraterrestrial hell demon for centuries. Since the movie never leaned on this aspect, this is not surprising. Still, we wasted a lot of money so far and didn't get a space turtle.
Right up there with the town not getting thrown out, the Losers get to remember all the trauma and horror that has haunted them all their lives. Ben and Bev get a nice life, Bill gets to write, Mike travels, and Ritchie gets his carving skills on, but man think of the nightmares. That is not how PTSD works.
Stan suicide meaning
So they saved the most useless bit for last. Here's the thing: Stan might have been my favorite Loser from the book, or at least my favorite conceptualization of a character dealing with horror. He's a logical being, an accountant, a thinking machine that needs things orderly. When IT starts getting fucking bonkers, he is the closest of the Losers to spin towards insanity because IT was WRONG. IT made no sense in the world Stan lived in and was offensive in the way IT's manifestations went against the natural world. Stan was closest to the brink of madness, the true sign of horror. You can die, be eaten, get torn apart, and have everything end, but madness is the true horror. Losing your mind, yourself, knowing that you can't trust the world and believing no one else suffers like you; that's horror. Having Stan say "Well, I was scared and that would stop me from helping (like Eddie did) so I took my top hat off the Monopoly board" just… It's sad, but it almost lessons the horror of his suicide. He's "being brave" by killing himself rather than facing his fear, even if he knows he's going to fail. Fuck that shit.