This weekend, It: Chapter 2 had its wide premiere at theaters around the world. Andrés Muschietti’s second installment of his adaptation of Stephen King’s book It brings back every successful aspect of his first installment, plus it adds sprinkles on top. Additionally, select theaters provide even more sprinkles via a 4DX presentation. While some horror fans appreciate all the sprinkles they can get in a film, others will find that too many sprinkles can be overkill.
Regarding the film, the story takes place 27 years after the teenage protagonists, affectionately dubbed “The Loser’s Club,” vowed to return to Derry, Maine, in the event that the murderous, supernatural creature known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown returns. The adult casting of the characters is very good, especially with the adult incarnations of Beverly (Jessica Chastain), Bill (James McAvoy), Richie (Bill Hader), and the psychotic Henry (Teach Grant). Naturally Bill Skarsgård reprises his role as Pennywise and does so brilliantly.
The adapted screenplay, by Gary Dauberman, juggles King’s story with nostalgia, self-reference, homage, and pandering. The nostalgia is somewhat messy, as it attempts to balance aspects from King’s story, which is set 30 years or so prior, with Dauberman’s. Notable among these odd fits is the fact that 80’s Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Martell) rides a 50’s bicycle, which is named after a 50’s television character, the Lone Ranger’s horse, Silver. Regarding self-reference, the sequel relies heavily on the successful chemistry of the youthful incarnations of the protagonists, which are incorporated throughout Chapter 2.
The homage is fun and is probably the best addition to the franchise. Specifically, in King’s novel, the shapeshifting monster took the form of popular 50’s horror movie characters to scare the children, and while it would have been impressive to see the same happen in Muschietti’s first installment, with It taking the form of popular 80’s horror movie monsters, this never happened. Here, however, there is one particularly well-done homage; it is a nod to the Norris head spider, from John Carpenter’s The Thing. The gag involves a decapitated head sprouting legs and running amok and is punctuated by the same line of reaction dialog from the Carpenter film: “You’ve got to be fucking kidding!” As for the pandering, there are a few elements which seem meant to create an additional sense of humanity; given that they involve spoilers, I’ll skip over them, suffice it to say that they mainly involve the characters of Richie and Stanley. In a nutshell, this kaleidoscope of a narrative does seem a bit burdoned with the proverbial everything, including the kitchen sink, but it does provide a decent enough joy ride to rekindle and stoke the fire that fans enjoyed from the first installment. Now, about that 4DX…
This technology, which is the creation of the South Korean company CJ 4DPLEX, basically takes William Castle’s theatrical gimmicks to a mainstream level. The experience is comprised of theaters that are rigged with seats that vibrate and tilt, special flashing lights, wind and rain simulators, smoke machines, and various canned scents. As long as audience members do not experience motion sickness and can handle rough roller coasters, they’ll be good to go. The most enjoyable aspects for this reviewer involved the sparingly used flashing lights, which added a nice complement to scenes with lightning or similarly striking lighting effects [no pun intended], and the wind and rain. While the rain is more of a light mist, it and the wind feel refreshing in their own rights, but they do also add a nice complement to onscreen moments in which wind and rain or splashing water are present. The scents are also fun and non-invasive enough to not be nauseating, as they were when Hans Laube first tried out the Smell-O-Vision gimmick, back in 1960.