IT Chapter Two Review
Director Andy Muschietti returns to helm this conclusion to IT, Stephen King’s tale of a metamorphosing monster that preys on the fears of children. Lone scribe Gary Dauberman (The Nun, Annabelle Comes Home)takes up screenplay duties without Chapter One writers Chase Palmer and Cary Fukunaga, and his worst tendencies towards mechanical scares rage against the trickier second half of the source novel, which sees the seven children of the Losers’ Club called back to Derry, Maine, twenty-seven years since their first encounter with ‘It’.
Taking up the mantle of their younger selves are Jessica Chastain (Beverly), James McAvoy (Bill), Bill Hader (Richie), Jay Ryan (Ben), James Ransone (Eddie), Andy Bean (Stanley) and Isaiah Mustafa (Mike). Mike has remained in Derry for the past three decades while his friends have all left for big cities and successful jobs - Richie is a stand-up comedian, Ben is the CEO of a large company; Bill is a novelist who has outgrown his stutter but, crucially, is terrible at writing endings.
The latter seems particularly pertinent - It: Chapter Two posits itself as a definitive ending, something of a rarity in a contemporary horror landscape rife with sequels and spin-offs. Unfortunately, this sequel so often falls prey to the pitfalls its predecessor so deftly avoided that it’s often indistinguishable from your average entry in the Conjuring franchise.
I liked the film a bit more than Chris' original review. It does a good job of completing the story even if it never reaches the highs of the first movie. Much like the TV mini series it suffers from the structural problem that the story with the kids is much more interesting than the adults. The book mitigates this somewhat by cutting back and forth between the timelines, something IT Chapter Two does sort of emulate by including flashbacks. These sequences do tend however to remind you that there is a better film.
The middle section of the film does seem quite episodic with each member of the Losers' Club going off to retrieve a totem to use during the film's climax. This part comes across like side quests in a video game and you get the impression that if this was a TV show these would be individual episodes that would be classed as filler. For a movie with an almost three hour running time there are structural issues and some judicious editing wouldn't go amiss.
The other problem is actually one the filmmakers keep addressing. There is a running gag throughout IT Chapter Two that nobody likes the endings to Bill Denbrough's books. This is a criticism often aimed at Stephen King too. The problem with the ending of IT and the whole Ritual of Chud is that it's not very visual. It works on the page but ultimately ends up with a bunch of adults putting the boot in against a giant spider monster. IT Chapter Two depicts this much better than the original TV mini series but ultimately it's not a massively satisfactory ending. Also for a group that was relentlessly bullied as kids I found it quite ironic that they basically bully Pennywise to death, shouting abuse at him as they do.
Warner Bros. bring IT Chapter Two to Blu-ray as a two disc set. Disc 1 contains the film with Disc 2 being reserved for the special features. This film is presented at 1080p in its original aspect ratio of 16x9 2.4:1.
Picture quality is exactly what you would expect from a big budget studio movie. Detail is sharp with impressive colour reproduction. The reds of the ever present ominous balloons pop against the more muted backgrounds. Particularly impressive are the scenes set at night and down in the sewers. These sequences feature a lot of dark shadows but never get muddy. Contrast is excellent with deep blacks replicated well. Daylight scenes around the town are bright and crisp with fantastic detail to be seen. Overall this is an excellent visual presentation which makes the most of the format and is probably helped by devoting a whole disc, especially with the long running time.
Audio options for the feature are: Dolby Atmos and Dolby Digital 5.1, both in English. There is also an English Descriptive Track as well as dubs in Italian, Spanish, Polish and Thai.
Both the highly impressive Dolby Atmos and Dolby Digital tracks are demo material. Creepy atmospheric effects come into play whenever Pennywise is terrorising his victims and they swirl around you convincingly. It’s not just your rear speakers that get a workout, the low end is incredibly responsive. During the films climax in IT’s lair my sub woofer was working overtime as every thump from the soundtrack reverberated around the room. Obviously the Atmos track slightly pips the 5.1 presentation with the extra height channels opening up the soundstage a bit more. Either way though this is a fantastic audio presentation that will have you jumping out of your seat during the big scare moments.
On a side note it seems that it is mainly only Warner Bros. that puts Dolby Atmos tracks on its Blu-ray releases. Kudos to them for doing this and it’s a shame more companies don’t follow suit. There is really no reason not too.
Subtitle options are English, Italian, Spanish, Cantonese, Chinese, Korean, Greek, Polish and Thai
The Summer of IT Chapter One: You’ll Float Too 35:38 - This is quite a substantive piece about the making of the movie. Strangely, however, that movie is the first IT. The entire running time is devoted to looking at the production of the first movie and in particular its young cast. There are a lot of onset interviews and some nice behind the scenes footage. Included, are excerpts from the actors' auditions which is always interesting to see and shows why those particular actors were chosen. There is a fun look at the process of putting the kids together before shooting so that they convincingly come across, onscreen, as friends. Looking back at the Blu-ray release of the original film it doesn't actually have a making of documentary that covers the material included here so I can see why this has been included.
The Summer of IT Chapter Two: IT Ends 39:30 - This is the part of the documentary that actually details the making of Chapter Two and is laid out in pretty much the same fashion as its counterpart. Again, there is a lot of onset interviews with the cast and crew intercut with behind the scenes footage. Obviously this time round it is largely concerned with the adult cast although we do get some details about how the kids influenced the decisions made. Director Andy Muschietti and his producer sister Barbara are featured throughout and we get quite an in-depth look at what goes into making a big budget horror. Audition footage is included again with the work of Bill Skarsgård being particularly impressive, especially his transformation into Pennywise and the CGI work used to augment his performance.
All in all both parts of the documentary give a pretty comprehensive overview of the production of both films. Emphasis is put on assembling the respective casts, with the younger actors getting the bulk of the attention (as well they should).
Pennywise Lives Again 09:55 - This featurette concentrates on Bill Skarsgård's performance as the fearsome clown. Unfortunately, it duplicates a lot of what has already been covered in the main documentaries. Most of the same footage is used and while it is expanded upon it's a shame that there is such a repetition of footage.
This Meeting of the Losers’ Club has Officially Begun 08:12 - This short feature covers the process of casting the adult actors and their interactions with their younger counterparts. Again it's nearly all duplicated from the main making of material. A few extra details are thrown in but for the most part it is superfluous.
Finding the Deadlights 06:18 - Stephen King gives his thoughts here in between shooting his cameo for the movie which is really fun. There is more footage of King on set interacting with James McAvoy and he goes into a bit more depth about his writing process on the original novel, however, it is a lot of the same footage used again. King is a funny guy and always well worth listening to, it's a shame that a longer piece couldn't have been put together for him to talk about one of his most beloved epics.
Commentary by Director Andy Muschietti - As commentary tracks go this one is informative if a little dry. Muschietti is easy to listen to and provides a lot of information. He points out cameos, shooting locations and gives a lot of background information on the production. It might have been a better idea, however, to have had someone with him to create a more conversational style. For a film with such a long running time things can get a bit monotonous after a while.