There is always something about great commercial and critical success for a film that had somewhat low expectations, or which had gone through the pits of development hell and managed to come out the other side smelling like roses.
After being developed by Cary Fukunaga, who then left the project due to creative differences, the eventual release of It came as a massive surprise for everyone; the film ended up being not only good but being really, really good, it also came with a plethora of great reviews and a box office take that ended up making it, unadjusted for inflation, of course, the highest grossing horror film of all time and placing it as one of the highest grossing R-rated films ever released.
With that level of success comes higher expectations which has meant that It: Chapter Two is one of the most eagerly anticipated films of 2019.
Based upon one of Stephen King’s most famous novels, a book the size of a brick and which boasts one of the author’s most complex narratives and also having been adapted previously as a television mini-series in 1990, the decision to divide the central narrative of the source material in half was one of the few times when a creative decision to split a book into sections for its adaptation felt right and legitimate as opposed to a cash grab, although given the level of commercial success afforded to the tale of The Losers and their childhood battle with Pennywise, it goes without saying that New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. were probably rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of having a sequel practically prepared for them to bring to the screen.
While the first film still boasted Fukunaga’s name as one of the writers of the film’s screenplay, It: Chapter Two comes with no influence from the True Detective and future James Bond director, or any of his prior preliminary work. Andy Muschietti returns in the director’s chair, as does screenwriter Gary Dauberman, but the one aspect of the film that grabbed everyone’s speculative attention was the casting.
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While the film updated the book’s flashback setting from the 1950s to the 1980s, it still retained the structure of focusing on one group of characters in their childhood. With the sequel moving forward to the present day, speculation was ripe as to who would play the grown-up versions of the children we had come to care for so deeply in the first film and it’s here that Muschietti has chosen what looks to be very wisely.
Jessica Chastain, who had been a popular choice on the internet to play the older Beverly, joins James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Jay Ryan, Isiah Mustafa, James Ransone and Andy Bean as the other members of The Losers, while Bill Skarsgard returns as the infamous Pennywise.
Whether the second chapter can replicate the commercial success of the first film is a given, especially for that all-important opening weekend, but it’s more a question of whether or not the film can sustain the narrative and momentum of the first chapter. The television mini-series from 1990 did a similar trick of splitting the story between the past in the first half and the present in the second but ran itself against a brick wall with pacing issues in the second along with its ridiculous climax. Given that this is a 2019 film, the film will have the budget to try to pull off the audacity of King’s climax, but there is also if the film can pull off moving itself forward to focus on adults as opposed to kids, along with its present-day setting.
The first film fed into that Stranger Things vibe and worked even more powerfully on a nostalgic level, with its 80’s setting, young characters and imaginative genre trappings feeding into the level of nostalgia that is not only been spurned on by the likes of the Netflix hit but also the nostalgia that audiences have for the many Amblin films that inspired that series.
With its great choice of cast and Muschietti being able to bring a film together that had spent nearly a decade in development hell and passed through several directors that had failed where he succeeded, there is maybe a right to hold a lot of hope that this creative team and cast might be able to make us root for The Losers once again.
It: Chapter Two is expected to arrive September 2019.