Let’s go floating (again).
It was a fantastic film and set up what should have been lighting in a bottle. However, this film proves that lighting doesn’t strike the same spot twice.
(Probably going to be some spoilers here).
We rejoin our losers club 27 years after the conclusion of the first film. All but Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) have left Derry and must now return as It has come back. However, we open the film with an absurdly gratuitous hate crime against two gay men. Director Andy Muschietti has defended this decision as setting the film in our time and whatever. Oh, also, Pennywise is a stand-in for Trump, so there’s that.
The film shows the beating of two gay men for being gay, and this is easily the most violent aspect in the movie. We then end the scene with the bullies throwing one of the men into the river, and he is then fished out by Pennywise and eaten. See folks, doesn’t that make all the sense? Good lord Muschietti, you just used a fucking hate crime as set dressing to introduce a murderous cosmic demon who targets children. Perhaps the most perplexing aspect of this is that we never hear another mention of this crime. Was the gay partner killed? Were the attackers ever arrested? Who knows and screw you for asking.
I don’t really give a shit if a director wants to put politics into a film, but Pennywise is a millions-year old eldritch creature—not Trump. By making this sort of ridiculous comparison we are either elevating Trump or diminishing Pennywise. For an already bloated film we shouldn’t be starting off on such odd footing.
Bloat is the name of the game in this nearly three-hour horror film. The losers have all forgotten their time in Derry and must recollect it. However, we can’t even get to this aspect of the film in any sort of orderly fashion. Bill (James McAvoy) is a writer who is tired of people mocking his endings and gets into a fight with his wife over his inability to conclude a story. First, fuck you for putting this sort of meta-commentary in a film that you know has a crap ending. The fact that the whole ending scene is brought up here (with the wife who is never mentioned again) and at a few other convenient points (usually outside of the other characters) makes me think this crap was added in after principal filming had been completed. Second, adding this sort of commentary and sloppy character-forgetting crap completely changes the film. If you told me this one was done by a different director with half the budget, I would have believed you if I didn’t already know.
One of the best things the first film did was kill off the bully Henry Bowers (Teach Grant in this one), but wait, he lived. Let’s spend a bunch of time on this waste of a character and his cheesy zombie friend who drives him around. God, I wish that last statement was a joke. You could cut Bowers from this film entirely and nothing of consequence would be lost.
Fuck me. Let’s go to Beverly (Jessica Chastain—who really does her best to liven up a surprisingly flat character) who is attacked by her abusive pile of garbage husband and then flees. He follows her in the book, but I guess spouses aren’t allowed across the county line in this movie world. I want to gripe specifically here about how flat they made Beverly. She is only defined now by her love for the dude who wrote the poem, but she forgot who did it, so we get a stupid love triangle. I really think Chastain is a great actress who is never given a deep enough character. Reducing her character to little more than a traumatized damsel in distress is a disservice to the character in every way.
Our other characters don’t fare better. Mike is basically a walking exposition machine, and when the crew has to go and find their horcruxes or whatever to put in the magical toilet to seal Pennywise we don’t even get a scene with Mike finding his! Ben (Jay Ryan) is now buff, so that’s cool, and his job is to brood and for reasons does not tell Beverly it was he who wrote the poem. Eddie (James Ransone) apparently relapsed into being a hypochondriac, which makes his evolution in the first film pointless (a trend for everyone). Richie (Bill Hader) is still a trash talking smartass, but despite Hader’s dedicated performance he still feels like a carbon copy of his younger self. Yes, I’m not mentioning Stanley (Andy Bean—who looks just like the young counterpart) because….
Pennywise is back, so that’s cool. I just wish I would have seen him a little more for the first two hours of this mess. A lot of people have criticized Pennywise for not simply murdering the kids. I didn’t mind his Pinhead-esque approach to terror. He seemed to just be having a laugh at tormenting the kids, but here they start to put him into real danger, and it ends up he just kind of sucks of killing kids, well kids who are important to plot. Scenes with him as the clown are often good, but we get too many rubbery monsters. Skarsgard is wasted here.
The coming of age aspects of the first film worked so well we get to see them all basically do it again, but this time alone. For being strongest when they are together, they are rarely in the same building. As they have to go and find the One True Ring of Power to fight the Dark Lord Pennywise, they all remember an individual encounter with Pennywise. Now, these encounters happened before they fought him as a group, but no one mentions it. Why? Fuck you. That’s why.
Tonally the film has no idea what it wants. We have a truly excellent horror sequence with Pennywise and little girl with a large birthmark. This scene showed his wickedness and his cruelty without stupid jump scares or having him turn into a rubbery monster. Another great scene has him putting on his makeup and molding his face into the bizarre grin in front of Beverly. Good stuff. However, we then have Eddie get vomited on with an over-the-top musical number bashing you in the head. So… is this supposed to be slapstick or horror?
Eldritch horror works the best when it is enshrouded in mystery. The more we know about It the less he makes any sense. The Deadlights seem capable of destroying minds, but after Richie calls Pennywise a sloppy bitch (best line in the movie) he gets a full blast and recovers almost instantly where Beverly did not see as much of them and was nearly catatonic. Pennywise simply seems too strong to basically be shit-talked to death, which is kind of what happens when the heroes realize gathering the pieces of the Tri-Force isn’t enough to defeat Ganon.
The film could be excised down to less than 90 minutes with how much crap is stuffed in. I can’t believe what a disappointment this is. Strong performances from flat or wasted characters and a handful of strong scenes aren’t enough to justify sitting through this. There are already blurbs about a possible It 3 prequel, so that’s just awesome.
Just go watch Midsommar instead.