Alexis Peterson, Features Editor
The second cinematic chapter of Stephen King’s “IT” came out recently, hitting theatres nationwide on Sept. 6. Spoilers ahead so before we get into the particulars, let me give the broad strokes. This movie was good, long—clocking in at 2 hours and 50 minutes, but very good. I would absolutely recommend going to see it, and you don’t even need to bring a friend to hide behind as it traffics more in suspense and story than it does in cheap scares.
The film starts 27 years following the previous installment. The Losers Club are all grown up and seem to have forgotten everything about their childhoods, including their encounters with IT, the eldritch-style horror that feeds on the children of the town. One of these children includes the little brother of one of the main characters, William ‘Bill’ Denbrough, portrayed by James McAvoy and Jaeden Martell, older and younger respectively. The first 90 minutes of the film’s runtime is dedicated to the self-proclaimed “Losers Club” reclaiming the memories that they have lost of the summer that they fought IT, as those memories are what they will need to defeat IT along with the Ritual of Chud, according to their Derry-bound historian, Mike Hanlon, portrayed by Isaiah Mustafa and Chosen Jacobs, older and younger respectively.
While the rest of them have been out in the world making lives for themselves, Mike has remained in Derry, so as not to forget the promises they made to come back and defeat IT for good. The others have made good, but ultimately flawed lives for themselves, flaws that they cannot fix as a result of forgetting that summer spent conquering their greatest fears. Beverly has found herself in an abusive marriage, having forgotten much of her father’s abuse, as well as the love of her friends. Eddie has found himself married to a woman that is exactly like his mother, to the point that she was played by the same actress. Richie has become a comedian but cannot write his own material or manage to be honest with himself about who he is. Ben has found himself a successful, but ultimately lonely architect. William Denbrough has found himself as a successful author. But with the murder and disappearance of his brother unsolved in his memories, he lacks closure in life and in his books.
The beginning of the film is filled with the sweet and bitter memories of their childhoods together and their encounters with IT, allowing for the children to again take center stage. The wildly talented young cast of “IT: Chapter One,” makes their reappearance in the past, showing us pieces of the summer not previously shown. The Loser Club’s clubhouse is a big moment, as it holds both fond memories for Ben as the reason he got into architecture, as well as Stanley’s memory token. Another is found when Bill sees his old bicycle, Silver, in the window of a pawn shop. Silver is sold back to him at a steep upcharge, with Stephen King providing a cameo as the shop owner. Bill rides his bike down to his old home and has a confrontation with IT, disguised as his brother in the sewer drain where he was taken from originally. It is in this confrontation that he reclaims the boat that he made for Georgie so long ago, his token of memory.
Once all the memory tokens are gathered, the Losers club makes their way down to the sewers to battle IT using the Ritual of Chud, an ancient battle of wills that Mike has found in his time in Derry, with the help of Derry’s local Native American tribe who were present when IT first arrived. They perform the ritual only to find that it isn’t real. Mike was indeed told about it, but he also was told that it didn’t work, and led to the people performing it being slaughtered. He thought that their belief that they could kill IT would be what made the difference—more on that in a moment—as that is what hurt IT when they were children. However, the ritual does do as it promises and locks them in a battle of wills with IT shortly following their supposed failure, each of them having to face their own worst fears and overcome them. Some of them complete these trials together. Richie and Stan once again have to face the scary, not scary, and very scary doors from the first film, complete with evil Pomeranian. Ben and Beverly’s trials are intimately connected, allowing them to reach across the divide to each other, showing us that once again their love has conquered IT’s power. Bill, however, must face his trial alone, facing his younger self and his little brother and the crushing guilt he has been carrying. Bill must finally acknowledge that it was not his fault that his brother was killed, and in the moment when he tells his younger self this, I cried a little.
The Losers Club carries on to triumph in a scene that really drives home the power that each individual has over their fear. Fear only has as much power as you give it, and they take this away from IT as they use their lack of fear and their belief as both a shield and a sword. Following the fight, the adults see their child selves reflected at them in a window, complete with their absent friends. They reminisce that nothing can last forever.
The end of the film provides exactly the kind of closure that Bill was lacking in his novels, showing all of the remaining Losers moving on to better lives. Ben and Beverly are together with a dog on a boat. Mike and Bill are speaking about his newest book, with Mike finally able to leave Derry’s oppressive atmosphere. Richie is shown finally able to accept what he knew when he was young, returning to the bridge where he had carved his and Eddie’s names in the summer of 1988. It’s an ultimately happy ending to a rather harrowing story of love, courage and fear.
Overall, I really liked the film. I’ve read the book and seen the previous miniseries and I have to say that this is one of my favorite film adaptations I’ve seen in recent history. While it does make some changes from the source material to maintain its more character-driven approach to the story, I feel that the film really honored the overall intention and spirit of the novel, which I think is the most important thing. It isn’t a shot-for-shot remake, and the timing does read different between the book and the film, especially since in the book, you get to see the summer as the Losers remember it, not before they return. However, I think that most of the changes they made held true to the characters and story, and really helped to put their point across. This film demonstrates how much an individual can control their fears, and be able to move on from them, and that is something that should be learned. Even if it is through defeating a killer clown.
My vote – 8.5/10, it’s a great movie, a little lengthy, a little involved, but worth seeing. There’s a lot of great Easter eggs for novel fans too, and an interesting story. I would recommend that anyone go see it if they haven’t already.