IT by Stephen King is now a 33-year-old novel. Everyone knows the story. Even if you haven’t read the book or seen the original adaptation, the story is so ingrained into western popular culture that you probably know everything that’s going to happen anyway. The fact is that just telling the story well was never going to be enough, regardless of how perfect the CGI monster-clown looked.
The 21st century audience doesn’t just consume a piece of content once and then enjoy the memory. We pore over it, trawling for Easter eggs, creating in-depth fan theories about minor characters’ backstories and anything left noticeably vague. With this in mind, the thing that would make or break IT: Chapter Two was always going to be the smallest details.
In that respect, IT: Chapter Two is marvellously constructed. There are Easter eggs peppered throughout. There are enough fairly obvious ones, such as the Stephen King cameo, that no one will leave the cinema without noticing something. But there are enough that are far more subtle that avid egg-hunters can trawl through the film over and over again and keep finding something new. There are dozens of small, secret Pennywises hidden in the background. There are subtle references to other Stephen King tales, as well as throwbacks to details you’ll only pick up on if you’re familiar with the original novel or the Tim Curry predecessor.
As far as films go, IT: Chapter Two is pretty good. The casting is wonderful. Every protagonist genuinely looks as if their child counterpart could easily grow up to become them. They all have wonderfully implemented mannerisms and feel so genuine. This is only to be expected given some of the names they had in the cast.
Bill Hader has stood out as a particularly surprising yet brilliant casting choice, and rightly so. Best known for his comedy work, his portrayal of adult Richie is incredibly profound. He’s clearly very suited to being the dry joker of the group, with his great comic timing coming in very handy. However, at the end of the film, when the characters are basking in the cocktail of triumph and grief, the vulnerability Richie is finally ready to show makes for one of most moving moments in the film.
Much like in the prequel, Bill Skarsgård is masterfully creepy as Pennywise. Tim Curry left some big shoes to fill and Skarsgård absolutely nailed it. His ability to move his eyes independently certainly didn’t hurt, but a lot of it surely evidently down to his acting skill as well.
There are a lot of things from the original novel that don’t make it into IT: Chapter Two. This was inevitable. Even between two films, 900 plus pages makes for a hell of a lot of detail that you can’t cram into two movies. Nonetheless, even in condensing it considerably, the creators managed to hang onto the elements of the story that make it so good, both in terms of broad themes and small details.
A film can only be so scary when the mystery was revealed at the end of its prequel and you already know everything that happens. There was always going to be something lacking when it came to the fear and tension that this film was capable of creating. However, given these limitations, IT: Chapter Two is still a really memorable experience.
It is, at various times, funny, disgusting, creepy and heartwarming. The way it tells Stephen King’s classic tale of humanity triumphing over evil is, above all, enjoyable. It’s a film that knows how to tell an old story in a way that caters creatively to a smart audience and pays homage to its history.