Sunday, September 15, 2019

More Old than New: It Chapter Two

Despite my feelings of loyalty toward Tim Curry, I really enjoyed IT: Chapter One and went very quickly to see the sequel, dealing more with the kids of Derry who have grown up and returned to deal with Pennywise after twenty-seven years.

Bill SkarsgÃ¥rd in It Chapter Two (2019)Chapter Two was wishy-washy. The parts that were good were really good. And that constituted everything that was new in the film. All of the hauntings that the grownups experience, and the few times that Pennywise is on screen in this sequel, are excellently written and beautifully shot. That's why we all went to this film in the first place.

But the film felt imbalanced because a large majority of what happens felt like a retread of Chapter One. The kid versions of the characters are on screen for a decent chunk of the time, but that doesn'tnecessarily add to what we knew about them, or their relationship to Derry/Pennywise. There's also a higher ratio of melodrama in this film. I'm not saying to cut everything and leave only jump scares, but the sense of menace felt watered down as a result, rather than thrilling/compelling storytelling. I also felt there was a disconnect between the happenings of the past and the happenings of the present. There's not a strong enough connection b/w the adults and the new spate of kids who are being devoured by Pennywise. There's an attempt to connect them, but the community itself is not connected, dysfunctional or otherwise.

Also, and this is no minor thing: I didn't at all like the treatment of native spirituality in this film. I know this is something King has dealt with in his fiction before, but I would argue there were things that he got away with in the 80's (I'm thinking of Pet Sematary), which were dealt with better to begin with, that he shouldn't be able to get away with now. Because boiled down, what happened is that a native culture that we learn very little about holds the key to defeating the spiritual/paranormal force that Derry residents know as Pennywise, and that the only other person who can teach his friends of this ritual is a the only other person of color on screen. That shouldn't fly. You can read all about my feelings on racial/spiritual representation here. It's fine to talk about the power of friendship and coming of age as a solution to these problems - you don't have to being this kind of exotic spirituality into the picture. It's too problematic, and it's unsustainable.

Piled onto that is the framing of Pennywise's defeat as bullying. Maybe that was intentional (it could have been, given the framing of the shot), but even if it was, it was a mistake. Coming of age means becoming an asshole? Becoming the thing that traumatized you, the thing you hate? What kind of message is that? It undermines one of the primary premises of this narrative - the power of friendship and the bond of the "losers." A misstep, to say the least.

Ah well. Not every iteration of every beloved property can hit the nail on the head. I just keep hoping that they will.

K. Rating: 3/5

No comments:

Post a Comment