IT: CHAPTER ONE took an interesting approach to Stephen King’s behemoth of a novel, bifurcating its frequent switches between the past and the present into purely the past sections. Doing so gave the film a kind of GOONIES-esque purity, really drilling down on that very Stephen King sense of childhood, and making a more isolated sort of adventure than the broader temporal epic of the novel. IT: CHAPTER TWO isn’t as discretely made – perhaps a fifth of the film is made up of flashbacks to the younger cast of the first film -, and struggles to unite all the ‘adult sections’ of the book into a cohesive adventure of their own that doesn’t just feel like a retread of the first film, but it all still tends to hang together on account of the strengths and likability of the cast, and the essential workability of Derry as a premise. Something is definitely lost in the whole concept of the influence of childhood, and how the past isn’t something that can be run from, to the point that it’s telling how this second film has to cross between the two time periods of the novel anyway. But as a sequel film, and an excuse to see more of the characters, it more or less works.
Leaping between the times where the characters were children and where they were adults does rob the film of some potential duology tidiness, but those sections are very frequently the highlights of the film, especially when things are less delineated that flashing back entirely (i.e. playing around with time and the castings in a scene, flicking between the times). Collective trauma, the way it stretches out from childhood into adulthood, as represented by the group gets its workout in extended little sub-quest scene groupings for each character, as they go off and confront their own pasts separately. These sections, as accurate to the novel as they are, do drag on, packing the film to its near three hour runtime. The film sparkles more when the cast is actually together, even though the tone is still slippery at times (one-liners after having been stabbed sit oddly, for example).
Pennywise the clown (whose ‘origin’ sequences are riveting, but all too brief) works for how he reduces the adults back down to children in spirit by triggering their fears to reduce them and make them small. A tweak to the ending of the novel, regarding how much characters remember their time in Derry, also reduces the essential story, making it a bit smaller in confining it to more saccharine convention. This is surprising, because the film lampshades the idea of Stephen King stories having poor endings multiple times, then goes with a worse one than the novel it’s based on! Perhaps it’s a maturation of the theme in some ways (is earning the the right, the power to forget your past more wish fulfilment than any healthy kind of way than dealing with things?), but it feels odd. At least it was mostly an enjoyable journey getting to that ending. Three balloons, and a mullet.