If you’ve ever seen The Godfather Part II (and if you haven’t, get thee to a streaming service) then you know that it is possible for a sequel to eclipse the original. It’s just rare, and if the reviews are to be believed It Chapter Two, which opens today, is not the exception to the rule.
In this film, the Losers Club of the original reunites in Derry, Maine 27 years later after first tangling with Pennywise. It’s the kind of device that would feel like a Hollywood contrivance if it weren’t faithful to what happens in the Stephen King-penned source material.
The end result of this shift? If the critics are to believed, a movie that isn’t quite as compelling or scary as the original. Why? Because as good as the performances in the film are—Bill Hader steals the show as Richie Tozier, Bill Skarsgård can still play a scary as hell clown—seeing kids go up against a killer clown is just scarier than adults fight the same one.
Writing in Rolling Stone, Peter Travers said Chapter Two is “almost as scary but not quite as grabby.”
Entertainment Weekly‘s Leah Greenblatt wrote that the film spends so much time “shoving scares down the audience’s collective throat that they eventually crossed over to the other side…and start giggling at the sheer bogey-man lunacy of it all.”
That’s not a great thing to hear about a horror movie that’s not aiming for camp, and perhaps it could have been avoided if it, as the first, genuinely terrifying film did, centered its story around young people robbed of their innocence in a terrifying way instead of adults who are inherently less vulnerable and therefore less sympathetic.
Then there’s the runtime. It Chapter Two is nearly three hours long. That’s a long time—Travers calls it an “ass-numbing two hours and fifty minutes”—particularly for a film that’s part of a genre dependent on building tension and surprising its audience. It’s just harder to surprise people over and over again, and a shorter runtime means you don’t have to.