It Chapter Two reviews: 'Elaborate fun-house horror' or 'pointlessly long'?
Pennywise vs. the Losers’ Club, round two.
On Tuesday, the first It Chapter Two reviews were published, just a few days before the film is scheduled to hit theaters. As the brief initial responses via critics tweeting after early screenings signaled, the responses are mixed. But most seem to have something to say about that runtime.
Director Andy Muschietti’s sequel to the 2017 horror adaptation clocks in at 2 hours and 50 minutes (with credits). Much of that, according to EW’s Leah Greenblatt, is spent “shoving scares down the audience’s collective throat.”
“If brevity is not necessarily the soul of a good scare, it would certainly serve a story that sends in the clowns, and then lets them just stay there — leering and lurking and chewing through scene after scene — until the there’s nothing left to do but laugh, or leave,” she writes.
Other critics, like Variety‘s Peter Debruge, are more accepting of the runtime, writing how the film “builds to something significant.” Perhaps it’s not really all that different than spending a chunk of your day binging Stranger Things. (This film even has a Finn Wolfhard in it.)
It Chapter Two adapts the portion of Stephen King’s novel when the members of the Losers’ Club have grown into adulthood. James McAvoy plays Bill, Jessica Chastain plays Beverly, Bill Hader plays Richie, James Ransome plays Eddie, Isaiah Mustafa plays Mike, Jay Ryan plays Ben, and Andy Bean plays Stan. Twenty-seven years after they thought they defeated It, the gang is called back to Derry, Maine when their shapeshifting tormenter resurfaces.
On Tuesday morning, after 40 reviews were logged, the film garnered an 83 percent “Fresh” score on Rotten Tomatoes. So, whatever the grievances, It lured viewers in again.
Read the first reviews of It Chapter Two, in theaters this Friday, below.
Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment Weekly)
“More than once in It: Chapter Two, someone onscreen mutters ‘you gotta be f—in’ kidding me.’ It’s hard, from the cheap seats, not to start to agree; the film spends so much of its two-hour-and-45-minute runtime shoving scares down the audience’s collective throat that they eventually crossed over to the other side (at least at this particular New York screening) and start giggling at the sheer bogey-man lunacy of it all.”
John DeFore (The Hollywood Reporter)
“Why isn’t It a prestige miniseries for some cable or streaming company? Andy Muschietti’s two-part film clearly yearns for that format, not only in its patience-testing length — nearly three hours just for Chapter Two, with the director teasing reporters about the prospect of a 6.5-hour supercut — but in an episodic structure that frustrates those who expect certain kinds of dynamics in drama and suspense. Literally doubling the number of actors that played key roles in its predecessor, 2017’s Chapter One, the film puts excellent thesps in the parts but winds up feeling much less satisfying. Even so, it’ll likely be seen by a sizable percentage of the moviegoers who made the first film a worldwide hit.”
Peter Debruge (Variety)
“It: Chapter Two is much longer than it needs to be, but it builds to something significant — and a lot of that filler feels justifiable in terms of how audiences’ consumption patterns are changing. Whereas the three-hour 1990 miniseries version was split across two nights, viewers now binge an entire season of Stranger Things — a shameless It knockoff that improves on King’s novel — in a single weekend. In retrospect, it’s easy to see that the 2017 film (already long at 135 minutes) was just a glorified trailer for this movie. Still, Muschetti could have used It to launch a franchise or an open-ended TV series, but instead, he recognizes the value in closure.:
Dan Callahan (The Wrap)
“What stands out in It Chapter Two is not the clearly labored-over insect effects but that moment with Mrs. Kersh and the scene of Pennywise as Beverly’s father — both reliant on actors rather than technical wizardry. The human eye can tell that there is not much in effects but effects themselves with a story like this about evil. But an actor like Gregson or Skarsgård can channel evil for us because they are human, and so therefore are presumably familiar with evil and can show it under controlled conditions to an audience.”
Mike Ryan (UPROXX)
“Look, I get it, It Chapter Two is about redemption and the Losers coming together again to learn how strong they all are together. And the actors make it work. But the biggest problem is IT, because IT can be everything and IT can be nothing. IT has no real rules or motivations, or rhyme or reason, for literally anything he does. Why doesn’t IT just easily kill these people who are back in town to kill IT? It Chapter Two really isn’t interested in answering anything like that. Which is fine! Because it’s a movie about the Losers! And It Chapter Two really works when it concentrates on those characters. (Which, in the end, is why I’d still give this movie a positive recommendation.)”
Kate Erbland (IndieWire)
“Despite some massive updates from the first film, including the addition of an entirely new cast of much-less-plucky adults and a vibe so dark it borders on the grotesque, this It is not so different than its predecessor. It’s not quite the end of it, it’s more a continuation of it, and one plagued by old problems that should have been solved long before it even attempted to conclude itself. Still, much of the promise is held: It is the end of something, and a haltingly satisfying one at that.”
Karen Han (Polygon)
“Though the use of horror to address trauma that’s passed down from generation to generation is, by now, old hat, It: Chapter Two manages to make it feel fresh through sheer verve. Even if it doesn’t manage to counteract some of the sillier moments (the finale has a “the real treasure was the friends we made along the way” feel to it, and not completely in a good way), the monsters and mayhem are perfect end-of-summer blockbuster fodder, just exciting enough to keep your adrenaline flowing. That said, if you’re looking for scares, It: Chapter Two may not be the place to find them: The only time I truly gasped was at Peter Bogdanovich’s cameo.”
Angie Han (Mashable)
“On the other side of the spectrum, Mike, the sole non-white member of the Losers Club, remains more plot device than character, despite the best efforts of Mustafa and his teenage counterpart, Chosen Jacobs. It is additionally unfortunate that his contribution to the story involves some creaky stereotyping of Native Americans as mystical people of the past. Even as the It movies try to confront real-life evils like racism, misogyny, and homophobia (yes, Adrian Mellon makes an appearance), they reveal some disappointing shortcomings.”
Alex Godfrey (Empire)
“This film is not a deep psychological excavation, but that’s fine — it’s as deep as it needs to be. It’s about dealing with your shit, about confronting the things you haven’t let go, the things you’ve suppressed, avoided, run from. Pennywise preys on these personal demons, in ways that are much more elemental than before. Muschietti explored childhood fears with the first film, but the sequel steps things up — there are now years of trauma for Pennywise to poke at. There is more meanness to his tapping into the Losers’ troubles, and their nightmarish excursions feel much more embedded in the story. There was a disconnect to the set-pieces in the first film, but here Pennywise is more integrated, more overtly involved in it all.”
Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian)
“There is some lively stuff here, including a few sensational cameos and interesting ideas about confronting one’s personal demons, about homophobia, abuse and depression. It is also about the ubiquitous availability of the past in the digital age and the permanent reunion-stalkerthon of social media, and about the way guilt and shame are built into what we choose to remember and forget about our teenage years. But, like the first film, it becomes a virtual non-narrative anthology of standard jump-scares that could be reshuffled and shown in any order. The second time around, your tolerance for this is tested to destruction and beyond because, unlike the first movie, it is just so pointlessly long: approaching three hours, with our heroes finally beginning to assume a glassy-eyed solemnity like Hogwarts graduates or the Fellowship of the Ring. Muschietti is even hinting at a possible third chapter.”