Review

It Chapter 2 Movie Review: You Can't Go Home Again

  • First Released Sep 6, 2019
    released
  • movie

Beep beep, Richie.

It Chapter 2 has officially arrived in theaters. It's the follow-up to 2017's wildly successful and acclaimed It adaptation, but does the sequel live up to those standards? Read on for our full review and then check out our look at the ending and spoiler review chat.

Stephen King novels are notoriously tough to adapt, but It ranks up there among the most challenging--and, unfortunately, the modern movie adaptation does not make it look or feel any easier. From the start, director Andy Muschietti made the tricky (and slightly controversial) choice to divide the source material's dueling past-and-present timelines up into two movies: Chapter 1, which hit theaters back in 2017 and dealt exclusively with the "kids plot" of the book set in 1989, and this year's It Chapter 2, which deals with the "adults plot" set 27 years later.

The decision paid off beautifully for Chapter 1, transforming the cerebral novel into a Goonies-flavored coming-of-age adventure with a cast of magnetic, scrappy, lovable kids who faced off against a monster and learned all sorts of lessons about life, love, and friendship along the way. In Chapter 2, however, the cracks in the concept begin to show, and ultimately, the final chapter fails to maintain the spark of the first, succumbing to a dangerous cocktail of muddled timelines, poorly placed novel call-backs, and scattered focus.

It Chapter 2 isn't a total loss. The adult cast, made up of James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, James Ransone, Andy Bean, and Jay Ryan, all manage to embody believable grown-up versions of the kids in Chapter 1. Their chemistry is electric, their humor is pitch-perfect, and their ensemble scenes are far and away the strongest part of the movie. It's hard not to love the Losers' Club, even all these years later.

Unfortunately, their ensemble scenes are peppered relatively sparingly around long, long stretches of contrived side quests that force each Loser to break off on their own to re-live some of their repressed childhood memories. Said repressed memories usually come as a package deal with flashbacks--and while it wasn't a bad idea to spend chunks of this movie with the kids of Chapter 1 again, these scenes start to feel redundant almost immediately. Each Loser seems stuck in a feedback loop, forced to rehash the same beats and learn the same lessons we already saw them learn the first time around.

Bill's still sad about losing his brother, Eddie's still scared of infection and germs, Bev's still grappling with the memory of her monstrous father. The exception to this rule is Richie Tozier (Bill Hader), who is the only one of the Losers to get an entirely new arc. His new story is arguably the most personal and interesting choice Chapter 2 has going for it, bolstered astronomically by Hader giving one of the best--if not the best--performances of the ensemble, but the movie never actually commits to his spotlight. Instead, Richie frustratingly remains a side character, playing second-stringer to the endlessly repeated Chapter 1 comfort food like Ben's perpetual, one-sided infatuation with Bev.

That strange tug-of-war between new and old ideas doesn't start or end there. Whole scenes of Chapter 2 are lifted directly from the source material with little or no thought given to how or where they fit into the dual movie's new dynamics. Entire subplots, like the Henry Bowers storyline, pick up and meander around aimlessly, every so often stopping to wink at the camera and say "hey, remember this from the book?" before they peter out without payoff. Meanwhile, some of the newer plot points--like a totally reimagined "Ritual Of Chüd," a magic ceremony used in the novel but kept out of Chapter 1--divorce themselves so completely from the source material and become so unrecognizable that it's honestly baffling that they managed to make it into the final cut at all.

In terms of scares, Chapter 2 delivers about 60% of the time. Bill Skarsgard has returned to reprise the role of Pennywise the clown, and he's just as uncanny and unsettling as he was the first time around. He even manages to stay as menacing and as threatening scaring a bunch of 40-year-olds as he did terrorizing a bunch of pre-teens--so that's certainly an achievement. However, for every genuinely amazing scare Chapter 2 has to offer, there are two more marred by awkward CGI or predictable jumps.

Tonally, Chapter 2 is similarly all over the place. There are almost too many laughs peppered in to undercut the tension--they start to feel forced and artificial. Where the kids were able to get away with mile-a-minute wisecracks by virtue of being, well, kids, the adults have a harder time pulling it off. It's not that the jokes themselves aren't funny--they absolutely are--but there really ought to have been fewer of them, if only to make the terror more effective.

Everything culminates into a series of final scenes that embody the best and the worst of the movie: Nothing entirely matches up or makes sense, but it's still fun as hell to watch these characters come together to face down a terrifying clown monster. Even if the logic doesn't work, you'll still desperately want the Losers to come out on top.

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The Good

  • Incredible ensemble cast
  • Bill Hader stands out as one of the best
  • Bill Skarsgard's Pennywise has still got it
  • A handful of genuinely terrifying and subtle scares

The Bad

  • Confusing flashbacks muddle the story
  • Arbitrary subplots adapted from the novel that go nowhere
  • New additions to the source material that are equally baffling
  • Recycled story beats for most of the characters
  • Individual side missions kept the ensemble cast apart for way too long

About the Author

Meg Downey is an associate entertainment editor at GameSpot. She likes superheroes and horror in whatever combination she can get them.
35 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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ecs33

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Edited By ecs33

Review seems legit - every other review is saying the same.

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JSprunk

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An unneeded sequel to be sure.

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BDRTFM

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Edited By BDRTFM

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Man, how could they absolutely kill it in Chapter One and completely lose it in Chapter 2? This really sucks if its that bad. Having read the book many times, a lot of this article makes no sense, however.

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DaVillain-

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DaVillain-  Moderator

I personally enjoy Chapter 1, it was scary as hell, I was amaze how well a remake of a classic horror can bring if giving the right director of course. That said, I'm still hype for Chapter 2 IT and I'm sure Pennywise will scare me some more!!!

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Crazy_sahara

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I guess man of madam is better

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Daidochus

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@Crazy_sahara: Yeah man of madam is way better, altho i never heard of it LOL.

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jpme226

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Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah...

I'm actually kind of surprised at the comments in this review. Some of things that are stated as "cons" are kind of what happens in the book to begin with.

The gown ups DO all go off on their own when they return to Derry to try to 'reconnect' with their pasts which they have all forgotten, WTF are you talking about? The only one NOT caught in a "loop" is Mike Hanlon, who stayed behind when the rest of the Losers Club left Derry. I have to wonder if the reviewer had anything deeper than a passing knowledge of the source material. I feel like they would have known that if they did, but what do I know.

Admittedly, they have done a lot of updating to the material to make it "current". The original story took place in '58 and then again in '85 I think? I don't know what the deal was with Mike and the Goat butchering and the meat deliveries. It seemed strange to change his story...but I "get" that they needed it to be modern times when the grown ups come back so his was the easiest story to change.

I've read the book several times (as recently as 3 months ago) and I have seen the original made for TV movie dozens of times in my life. Point of fact, if you can excuse the laughable special effects of that era and some of the acting here and there, it was a pretty faithful adaptation.

We have to remember, the book is ver 1400 pages...nigh-on 400,000 words. To get THAT condensed into 2 movies is a chore. I honestly felt the first movie was pretty damned good. People have to remember, the book wasn't some horror-filled bloodfest...it was just a super creepy story and that first movie was fairly creepy.

IT is a pretty amazing book (second only to The Stand IMO), and so far, both attempts at turning it into a movie have been pretty damed good. Let's be honest, both the TV mini-series and the first new movie have been FAR, FAR better than most Stephen King based movies. The only ones that have been better are Green Mile, Shawshank Redemption and Dolores Claiborne. Most of the others have been pretty weak, if not altogether different than the books.

Movie reviews are far more subjective than game reviews, to be sure, but even still, it's a pity that GAMESPOT (the operative word here being GAME), decided to sort of pan this movie before it came out when they have a long and storied history of giving AAA developers deliver who sub-standard products big sloppy kisses year after year. They can't tip you off a week in advance that the next "Insert IP Name here" iteration sucks ass, but they can pan a movie before it comes out lol

I can't wait to see it (heh, see what I did there?), regardless and hopefully the younger folks out there who read this stuff will have the motivation to check it out for themselves.

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LordBeefJerky

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@jpme226: I agree with the essence of your post here. However one thing sticks out - one shouldn’t have to have knowledge of a movie’s source material to understand it. If the movie doesn’t clarify why the different individuals go out on their own, it is indeed a very big flaw. Having read the book twice myself, it probably won’t stand out too much, but a movie should be able to stand on it’s own.

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jpme226

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@lordbeefjerky: A valid point for sure. I just felt like the review was a bit...I dunno...sort of seemed like it was someone who was "wanting" to quibble with it. I totally understand that non-readers of the book will always have a different take on it, that's the risk inherent with making a book a movie, especially one as vast as IT. I suppose I am being a bit harsh based on "reviews" in general. Not harshing anyone, just an opinion. I suspect that most replies won't be as kind as yours was, so thank you for that! lol

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LordBeefJerky

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@jpme226: Haha no worries! What you’re writing makes a lot of sense, so no reason to be anything but kind =)

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Poodger

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Chapter 1 wasn't amazing to begin with, at least as a horror movie. The dynamic between the kid actors was well done, but the movie as a whole was kind of meh.

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Crazy_sahara

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@Poodger: The ending was great, the entire movie not so.

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timthegem

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How about a review from someone who didn't eat the book?

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Thelostscribe

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I wasn't generally impressed with the first movie. I saw it awhile after it came out, so maybe the Hype machine just built it up too high, but I just didn't really get into it.

I remember thinking the original movie was pretty cool, but it didn't age well haha. Probably won't see the second one. The subplot negative is something that happens in Stephen King's books as well. I hear anyways, never read any of his books yet. I hear he'll throw in a random multi-page subplots or characters that really have no further impact on the story other than the pages they consumed.

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LordBeefJerky

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Edited By LordBeefJerky

The most interesting thing here is that GameSpot - a gaming website - actually managed to get a review through of a big budget horror film not released yet, before they got a review though of a big budget horror game that released almost a week ago now. Please fix your priorities, guys.

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ZmanBarzel

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Edited By ZmanBarzel

@lordbeefjerky: What was the big budget horror game that released about a week ago? The only horror game I can think of that came out recently was the "Blair Witch" game, but "big budget" is not an adjective that can ever be applied to a Bloober game.

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LordBeefJerky

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@zmanbarzel: I was referring to Blair Witch indeed. Maybe my big budget labeling was indeed exaggerated, but luckily I have the GameSpot forum users to correct me when I make such outragerous claims as well as when autocorrect forces me to misspell certain words. Never mind the actual content and intention of my post, let’s all focus on the small stuff, shall we?

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ZmanBarzel

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Edited By ZmanBarzel

@lordbeefjerky: OK, let's look at the actual content of your post: you're suggesting an entertainment website shouldn't review one of the biggest horror movies of the year — the sequel/conclusion to a movie that grossed $700 million worldwide two yeas ago — because they haven't reviewed a B-grade horror video game.

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LordBeefJerky

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@zmanbarzel: Thank you for clarifying this. Do you have a point hidden somewhere between the lines or is your revelation of a bloated ego the only thing I can take with me from having this dissatisfying conversation?

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ZmanBarzel

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@lordbeefjerky: Take this: as much as it pains you, reviewing a niche video game isn't all that important to Gamespot.

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LordBeefJerky

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@zmanbarzel: That does indeed pain me as you might have figured from my original post. If I wanted a thorough and well argumented review of It Chapter 2, GameSpot definitely isn’t my source to go to. There are many highly skilled film critics out there. However niche video gaming - hell, even AAA-game reviews that are up to GameSpots standards are few and far between. Like I said - this is first and foremost a gaming website. Do you really - and I mean REALLY - think it’s too much to ask to get these guys to focus on the one thing 99,9% of the users are here for?

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bobblehead875

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@lordbeefjerky: And yet here you are, commenting on the review form the source you "definitely" wouldn't go to. Congrats ;)

And just a helpful tip: Unless you're prepared with the literal charts to prove it, don't use "99.9% of people..." to make a point.

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LordBeefJerky

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@bobblehead875: Where else would I post this comment, oh wise one? My issue is only relevant in this here topic, wouldn’t you say? Also - I didn’t read this review, since I’m not at all that interested in what a gaming website has to say about a film. Of course, I now realize that more disagrees with me, than I originally thought, and that makes me even more sad, since we already have tons and tons of reviews of big budget films out there, yet the well written reviews of games are declining.

Thank you for your helpful tip. I won’t use it at all though. I set the number quite low to be sure I wouldn’t get any ignorant replies like yours, yet here we are..

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JSusie

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@lordbeefjerky: Also interesting you called it GameStop......when it's GameSPOT.

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LordBeefJerky

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Edited By LordBeefJerky

@JSusie: Autocorrect really got me there, I admit. Very interesting that was the part that really got through to you though. Stuff like that generally says a lot about a person..

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JSusie

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@lordbeefjerky: I agreed with the rest of it

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LordBeefJerky

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@JSusie: Right. Sorry for lashing out. Having a bad day here (if it isn’t obvious).

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Sound_Demon

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uh oh.

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