It Chapter Two, the finale to the two-part adaptation of Stephen King's most famous novel, is too lethargic to be effective. With a more focused screenplay and a more judicious editor, Chapter Two could've been a soaring climax. Instead, it's a sporadically entertaining slog.
In 1989, the "Losers Club" -- Bill, Richie, Eddie, Stan, Ben, Mike, and Beverly -- defeated a paranormal entity they called "It" (Bill Skarsgård). Twenty-seven years later, It has returned to Derry, Maine. Mike, the only Loser who stayed in town all these years, calls the others back to live up to their childhood oath: if It ever returns, so will they to defeat It once and for all.
Andy Muschietti returns after directing the first It (2017). He's a gifted storyteller who knows how to use visuals and sounds to create a sense of dread and despondence. Not having read the book, I don't know if Muschietti (and returning screenwriter Gary Dauberman) felt obligated to include as much of King's novel as possible, or they felt indulgent after the success of the first film. Whichever the reason may be, Chapter Two suffers.
There are simply too many redundant encounters with Pennywise the Dancing Clown and too many flashbacks to the Losers' childhood. Chapter Two is a lot like Zack Snyder's Watchmen adaptation: the narrative keeps pausing to fill the audience in on character details and plot points from the past. So instead of this being a Deathly Hallows Part 2 or an Endgame, building with furious tension to a thrilling climax, Chapter Two lurches from scene to scene.
Momentum does pick up in fleeting moments, though. Meeting the adult Losers is fun, especially when they all reconnect at the Chinese restaurant. And the film's third act does finally manage to approach the highs of the first installment. But for the most part, this is tedious storytelling kept afloat by the best efforts of Muschietti's cast and visual effects artists.
The child actors from the first It all return for flashback sequences. They've been digitally de-aged, but the results are more distracting than immersive. What's worse is that most of the flashbacks are completely unnecessary, doing nothing but slow the movie down or provide unnecessary recaps for people who may have forgotten or not seen the first movie. Still, the actors are good, and a couple of the flashbacks do provide essential backstory and character development.
The adult actors are all well-cast, both for their resemblances to their younger counterparts and for their abilities. James McAvoy (Bill) is the highest-profile name but arguably has the least showy part. Jessica Chastain's (Beverly) best scenes come early, but she's fine throughout. Isaiah Mustafa (Mike), Jay Ryan (Ben), Andy Bean (Stan), and James Ransone (Eddie) are all good, the latter especially for his resemblance to Jack Dylan Grazer.
Bill Hader has been getting most of the pre-release buzz, and for good reason. He's exceptional in this movie, providing layers to Richie Tozier that Finn Wolfhard (through no fault of his own) was never able to. Hader is good enough to warrant serious Supporting Actor consideration during awards season, but the nature of this movie will likely prevent such talk from happening. That's a shame.
And then there's Skarsgård, who absolutely crushes the role of Pennywise. He doesn't really get much to do here that he didn't already display in the first movie. That said, he has nothing to prove. He was very good two years ago, and he's still good now.
Checco Varese takes over from previous cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung, but doesn't miss a beat. As mentioned, editing could be better; a full 20-30 minutes of Chapter Two could've been removed with no detrimental effect. Visual effects, aside from the de-aging work, are generally strong. Benjamin Wallfisch returns to score, continuing to prove himself as one of the better composers working today.