Stephen King adaptations in the past couple of decades had a decidedly rocky road until Andy Muschietti’s IT hit the big screen in 2017 and reinvigorated the demand for the author. While the Tim Curry version of Pennywise from the 90s had his fans, there is no argument that Bill Skarsgård was responsible for bringing to life the definitive version of the character in this latest adaptation. The film was a wild success at the box office due to its nearly flawless execution as a contained story. IT ended its story with The Losers Club having vanquished Pennywise, but making a pact to face him if he ever returned. Although not officially billed as such, the end credits created a surge of excitement amongst fans as “Chapter 1” crept up on screen. Fans of novel knew there was so much more to tackle with this story, and the success of the film all but guaranteed a sequel. After a two-year absence, Pennywise returns to the screen to finish what he started in this lengthy horror epic.
IT: Chapter Two picks up 27 years after the events of the first film. Pennywise has returned to Derry to commence racking up the body count once again. Most of The Losers Club has long since left Derry behind, but Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) has remained while preparing for the potential reemergence of Pennywise. After seeing the initial evidence of him coming back, Mike rallies all of the members of The Losers Club to return home. No one is exactly excited to return to Derry, but the surviving members eventually show up to hear Mike out. Once the gang is back together, they realize Pennywise has mostly become a very faded memory for those who moved away. There has been a sense of dread that has followed them throughout their lives that they have never been able to truly come to terms with. Mike refreshes their memories and announces that they must take down Pennywise once and for all. Richie (Bill Hader) and Eddie (James Ransone) want nothing to do with this, but Beverly (Jessica Chastain) reveals ominous visions that have haunted her since being under IT’s spell that predicts their death should they fail to defeat him or leave town without fulfilling their pact. The group reluctantly stays to face the terror they thought they had vanquished long ago. Each member must confront one of their most intrinsic fears before they even have a chance at persevering.
The first IT was great because it had a talented young cast facing a terrifying being that could tap into their worst fears. It built tension effectively and was not weighed down in too much mythology. IT: Chapter Two has to tackle the rest of the massive book in which King is typical King. It is understandable those who have affection for the book would want to see most of it on screen, but there is just so much to cover and a lot of it is really silly. The main thrust of the narrative is each Loser tracking down a personal artifact that they will use as a sacrifice to take down Pennywise. This is inherently kind of hokey, but it would be fine as a narrative crutch if the film was not so awkwardly paced with each Loser essentially going through the same general scenario one after another. We went through this as an audience with the first movie, without it taking just shy of three hours. If one didn’t know this was based on a book, you would swear this entire thread was simply a way to get the charming kids from the first movie back to reprise their roles in flashback. There is only so much you can do when you are beholden to a novel, but a great novel does not necessarily make a great movie.
That it is not to say IT: Chapter Two is a terrible movie; far from it. The adult cast of the movie does an excellent job, even when characters like Bill (James McAvoy) and Ben (Jay Ryan) are given relatively little to do in the story. Bill Hader and Jessica Chastain are the non-psychotic alien clown standouts of the film. The production design and special effects are outstanding, as well, which leads to some truly creepy moments. Bill Skarsgård once again taps into some otherworldly state that allows him to become the stuff of nightmares. The movie is so long that you just feel exhausted by the stop and go thrills even before you get to the 45-minute final battle with your favorite clown. The first movie was such a visceral experience that it is a slight letdown to be met with a sequel that loses a lot of its thrill to a lack of editing. This movie was made by a creative team that grew up with and cherished this book, but having someone who was not afraid to kill their darlings would have made for a tighter, more compelling film.
IT: Chapter Two comes to Blu-Ray with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer that is very effective. Andy Muschietti put a lot of thought into the production design of the film and put some Easter eggs in for King fans. All of this is brought to life in vivid detail with this transfer as even the smallest touches show up. The film has an inherently warm summer palette that that suits the setting extremely well. Skin tones look natural in both eras, and bright colors such as those at the carnival leap off the screen. A large portion of the movie takes place in darkness, including the super-sized finale. The black levels hold up relatively well with only a minimal amount a black crush. This issue is very likely fixed on the 4K UHD Blu-Ray version. Overall this is a great looking transfer that holds up well throughout the lengthy runtime.
The Blu-Ray release comes with a knockout Dolby Atmos track that fully immerses you into the creepy environment of the film. There is some intense activity in the low end when Pennywise is causing mischief, and the score from Benjamin Wallfisch creeps throughout all of the channels. The dialogue comes through crystal clear even during moments of intense kinetic movement. Sound effects are expertly placed with perfect directionality to ensure you feel like you are right there beside The Losers Club. This track gives all of your speakers a steady workout while working together to provide the most unsettling soundtrack possible.
- Commentary by Director Andy Muschietti: This solo commentary track provides a wealth of information throughout the runtime including a near-cameo from Guillermo Del Toro and fun tidbits from filming on set.
- The Summers of IT : Chapter One – You’ll Float, Too: A 36-minute deep dive into the first IT including footage of the kids auditioning and bonding before filming. There is so much fun information to take in with this one. One of the highlights is the young actor who plays Georgie meeting Bill Skarsgård in Pennywise makeup for the first time.
- The Summers of IT : Chapter Two – IT Ends: A 40-minute look at the development and filming of this second chapter of the series. There is a lot of great footage of the kids grown up and bonding with their adult counterparts. The most fun is seeing Bill Hader riffing on set and having a blast with his costars.
- Pennywise Lives Again: A 10-minute look at Skarsgård getting into the character of Pennywise and developing his mannerisms that make him so creepy.
- This Meeting of The Losers’ Club Has Officially Begun: An 8-minute featurette on the kids and their adult versions and how the filmmakers decided who they wanted for the film. Bill Hader tells an amusing story about how Finn Wolfhard got him the job.
- Finding The Deadlights: A 6-minute featurette which brings in author Stephen King to discuss his participation in the adaptation and how he feels the movie handled the legacy of the novel.
IT: Chapter Two fails to live up to the creative heights of its predecessor due to the belief that they needed to cram as much from the novel into the film as it could stand. While still enjoyable, the nearly three-hour film feels very overstuffed with a finale that is a sensory overload. All of the actors portraying present-day members of The Losers Club do a phenomenal job of harnessing the spirit of their younger counterparts. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has provided an excellent A/V presentation and a whole disc of immensely entertaining extras. Fans of the film will be very pleased by Warner’s treatment of the property.
IT: Chapter Two is currently available to purchase on 4K UHD Blu-Ray, Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.