Warning: SPOILERS (for the movie and novel).
If there was one thing I was anticipating more this year than Stephen King's new novel, The Institute, it was IT Chapter Two. I absolutely loved Chapter One, mostly due to the fact that the child actors in the film were the epitome of The Losers' Club in my eyes. They inhabited their roles so effortlessly. Yes, I had some minor gripes with Chapter One, but director Andy Muschietti seemed to understand the fact that IT was not horror... not really. IT was a coming of age story, one about the bonds of friendship and the pains of growing up.
And Muschietti continued that theme in Chapter Two. As with most book adaptations - especially King's adaptations - there were some noticeable changes from book to screen, but none that really bothered me. I know how bonkers the Ritual of Chüd is in the book and it does feel like one of those things that is impossible to film properly. So some of the changes to the ending were understandable, and thankfully, still made sense.
The cast was phenomenal. Bill Hader, who plays Richie, is getting most of the accolades, deservingly so. He is the perfect combination of comic relief and heart and Hader proves once again that he's capable of some amazing dramatic range (fans of Barry will have already known this, of course). But I want to give some major credit to James Ransone as Eddie. Not only in terms of appearance, but Ransone nailed Jack Dylan Grazer's mannerisms to a tee. He also has some of the best lines in the film.
That's not to say I found the rest of the cast lacking. Isaiah Mustafa, James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, and Jay Ryan were all fantastic as well. I know a lot of people had their dream cast for Chapter Two, but having watched the film, I find it difficult to imagine anyone else in these roles now.
Once again, Bill Skarsgård brings it as Pennywise. He carries an intense amount of malevolence in this film, using the Losers' adult secrets and insecurities against them while still playing on their childhood fears. Pennywise is a character where one just has to be able to let go of all control and devote 100% to the role and I think Skarsgård does it brilliantly, perfectly balancing the goofy charm of a clown to lure in the children, and the crazed mania of a monster.
If I have to list my gripes, it's simply that I wasn't thrilled with the CGI. Some of it was really obvious and jarring, though I think they did a great job in the de-aging process of the flashback scenes with the kids. I wish they would have not used a CGI monster for the Kersh scene - I think it would have been more frightening and effective if they had kept the old woman, but made her decaying as she attacked Bev. I would have also loved to have scene Tom and Audra in Derry, like in the novel. I get that with a nearly 3 hour run time cuts have to be made, but Tom's death in the novel was so satisfying to me. Alas. I also feel like Henry was a bit underused, but what little role he did have was very effective and Teach Grant did a phenomenal job with what he was given.
There are a couple cameos in the film - including a wonderful scene between Stephen King and James McAvoy with a fun poke at the criticism that King can't write a good ending. Keep an eye out for Andy and Barbara Muschietti as well. I also want to give a shoutout to the score - the soundtrack is wonderful, and the closing score "Stan's Letter" (you can listen below) is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I've heard this year.
Muschietti gave me a movie that I feel stayed true enough to the book to make it successful in my eyes. IT took me 2 months to read, and I remember finishing it up in the bathtub and finding myself crying as I read the last page. I cried at the end of IT Chapter Two as well, for so many reasons. Stan's death was already emotional for me, but Eddie's death and Richie's reaction (Hader was brilliant in this scene), as well as Richie returning to the bridge to finish his carving R+... I could feel my heart breaking again.
I think so many of us know what it's like to have friends at that age, and then to grow up, move away, grow apart... forget. The dramatic themes of childhood, friendship, and adulthood are so very strong in IT and I think I loved the movies because Muschietti was able to convey that.
Simply put, nobody writes childhood like Stephen King. And it was refreshing to finally see an adaptation (excluding The Body/Stand By Me, of course) that truly understands that.