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Real talk. James McAvoy was by far the weakest link in It Chapter 2. By. Far. Compared to the work of all the other adult Losers Club but especially Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa and Andy Bean, his performance was utter weaksauce. This is even more irritating considering how much Jaeden Lieberher gave him to work with in It Chapter 1 and adult Mike’s confrontation with Pennywise was cut to give Bill the funhouse scene. All because McAvoy felt his character needed another beat.
I truly like James McAvoy, the person. I think he’s effing adorable, however I didn’t realize how weak of an actor he was until this movie. This, unlike his previous franchise, is a true ensemble film where everyone was fully developed which only made his limits far more pronounced. Frankly, Andy Bean did more with his 15 minutes of screen time as Stan than McAvoy did in the entire movie. Which only makes me sadder that my first choice for adult Bill, Cillian Murphy, wasn’t cast because he would’ve been so much better.
Hader was the effing rock in that film. His humor is, of course, evident but his touching feelings for James Ransone’s Eddie hidden in a slew of sarcasm was the best love story since Titanic. The big names, McAvoy & Chastain, were sub-par at best. I found them to be a monotone mess, simply going through the motions as if they were only required to report to the set and get a check.
Everything about McAvoy’s presence in Chapter 2 seems somehow off. His particular brand of “tortured” moral-center guy seemed altogether perfect for the casting of the adult Losers; the execution however felt completely flat. I can’t tell if I wanted less of Bill, or just more of what made him such a good character in Part 1 (or in the book and miniseries).
More Mike and Ben
Bill Hader, James Ransone, Jay Ryan and Isaiah Mustafa carried Chapter 2 on their backs, bringing forward the camaraderie, humor and foibles of their child incarnations flawlessly when they’re reunited. Watch the Chinese restaurant scene again. Those four are perfect in their reactions, specifically how Richie, Ben and Mike immediately shield Eddie and Bev from the fortune cookies. Credit where it’s due to the casting and directing, no doubt, but their chemistry together couldn’t be faked. With Chastain this works, as Bev is far more fragile and distant as an adult than she was as a child, a direct result of marrying a physically and sexually abusive man but it just made McAvoy seem even more stilted in comparison.
Plot, Plot, Plot!
I didn’t love it. I liked it. It lacked in the whole Bowers subplot: the night-time visits by Pennywise were much more intimate in the novel. I understand that they can’t expound of every plot detail from the book, but Bowers is a pretty important part of the narrative and it seemed quite thin. I also feel that the film short changed Mike’s role in being the sentinel of Derry while the rest of the Loser’s Club ran away to find fame and fortune. Chapter 2 had too much filler with no substance. Also, for a scary movie about a murder clown, it was seriously lacking murder clown. I do appreciate that it was a bit truer to the novel, especially with the opening assault at the carnival.
I actually love the lack of murder clown because it was more about The Losers and how the trauma of their childhoods, even though they couldn’t remember most of it, messed them up for life not just their encounter with Pennywise. Also, it made when we did see Pennywise so much more terrifying.
One of the biggest plots from the novel and mini-series that got short shrift here were the Audra Denbrough and Tom Rogan subplots. In fact, the inclusion of those plots would have given McAvoy the beat he felt his character was missing as Audra’s role in the book is much more important and ties the stakes for the Losers not only to Derry but to the outside world.
As for the Tom plot, it would’ve allowed Chastain to really dig into how, because Bev doesn’t remember, she went and married a man just like her father instead of fully healing and not repeating patterns. This does a huge disservice to the conversation the film could have had about how victims of abuse often become involved with people just like their abusers; and though we get a little of it with Eddie marrying a woman who behaves and looks just like his mother, it’s less than five minutes and played for laughs whenever it’s brought up in the film again. While I love the humor of the film, as someone who cracks wise the more scared I am I get it on a fundamental level, we could’ve had both.
An It SuperCut would, frankly, be a bit difficult to do as the movies in their current forms are vastly different tonally. From that perspective, one thing I would like to see is for some of the jokes to be removed from Chapter 2. They’re unnecessary, break the flow and some of them aren’t even really that good.
These are my two primary issues with Chapter 2 and could easily be dealt with through tighter editing. Conversely, I have no legitimate concerns with material in Chapter 1, so if anything, I’d like to see some things, like Richie’s homosexuality, fleshed out more. It is an important part to his character (with narrative elements tied from Chapter 1) in Chapter 2 but at times it feels shoehorned in rather than a completed arc.
The Psychology of Derry Explored More
I would like to see less Pennywise in elements from Chapter 2 that are merged into a SuperCut as well. Pennywise is simply scarier when he’s the monster in the closet and not taunting Richie from the shoulders of a Paul Bunyan statue. Chapter 1 is so effective as a horror film because, even when Pennywise is directly threatening the characters, it’s rare that Pennywise is. He usually chooses to take another form.
The under the bleachers scene was my favorite. I think every parent has had that moment of panic when a child wanders off at a crowded event and the instant relief when you find them. No matter how many times you drill it into their heads to not speak to strangers, there is a reason that bad people prey on kids: they are unquestionably trusting. The problem is that the town of Derry itself is infected. It makes adults not pay attention to those wandering tykes, and accept their fates too easily. Derry is ugly, and Pennywise is the heart that pumps the venom into the small Maine burg.
The under the bleachers scene was the only one that gave me legit nightmares. It’s every parent’s worst fear. I don’t even have children but the thought of one of my godchildren or nieces/nephews following a stranger? NOPE!
To that end I really want more of that explored in the SuperCut. I know that scenes were cut from Chapter 1 that delved deeper into the trauma of the parents of Derry as they know, on some level, what’s going on, but because of Pennywise’s hold on the town they don’t actually know, or even remember. There’s something truly terrifying about knowing that something horrible has happened right under your nose, you know it’s wrong but you. don’t. remember. and couldn’t say or do anything even if you did.
It’ll be interesting, especially if the rumors are true that Muschietti will be releasing the SuperCut in episodic format, to see what gets put back in or even added. It’s well known that additional scenes were shot after Chapter 2 was released and that Muschietti wanted to delve far deeper into the mythology of the King Multiverse but was unable to do so. Here’s hoping the SuperCut is what he and we want!
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