'It: Chapter 2' Is a Bad Movie — But It Could Have Been a Great Mini-Series
Not even the 1990 version was a legitimate "mini-series."
It: Chapter Two has enough issues that the Monday after its opening weekend, the film sits at a barely-fresh 63 percent on Rotten Tomatoes — that’s 23 less than the first part, though audiences seem to like it just fine. It’s easy to sit around complaining about what went wrong, but here’s one way It: Chapter Two could have gone right: Turn it into a great mini-series instead.
Warning, light spoilers for It: Chapter 2 ahead.
The 1990 mini-series version of It, also based on Stephen King’s 1986 sprawling 1,138-page novel of the same name, remains a cult classic with mixed reviews on account of overall quality. But it really isn’t a “mini-series” per se. With a total runtime of only 192 minutes in its original version (124 less than both It movies together), the series was ostensibly also just a two-part movie. Both versions of the story have to cut huge chunks out of the novel and condense sections of the plot just to fit into the runtime. But what if they didn’t have to?
It (2017) was thrilling, scary, and enthralling in a way that the 1990 mini-series couldn’t manage. Two and a half hours was enough time to flesh out the characters in their youth, establish the dynamics of the Losers’ Club, and deliver some terrifying scenes with Pennywise. But the sequel tries to do too much with too little screentime.
It makes you wonder what Warner Bros. could have done if the entire thing, or even just It: Chapter Two, had been released as a series of episodes on a streaming service. There’s reason to hope that might eventually happen on WarnerMedia’s HBO Max streaming service, but would that be too little too late?
With Disney+, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm are gearing up to release new series for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Star Wars galaxy that fit within the framework of the movies. New heroes will be introduced in streaming series and then pop up later in movies and vice versa. Disney’s establishing a new framework for building cinematic stories, and it’s one that could’ve really helped It: Chapter Two.
Consider this: The first and second acts of It: Chapter Two are already procedural in execution. Each member of the Losers’ Club gets a phone call from Mike Hanlon requesting they come back to Derry. One of them barfs. One of them gets in a car accident. Two of them get in a fight with their spouse. One of them dies. Why aren’t each of these a short episode? Wouldn’t it be cool if you could choose what order you see them in?
Once back in Derry, each loser goes on a unique journey into forgotten memories where they encounter some frightful vision of It and recover a lost artifact they can later sacrifice in the Ritual of Chud. We see this happen a handful of times in quick succession, but it’s so rushed and haphazard with poorly defined stakes that the viewer struggles to comprehend or even care what’s going on. Again, what if these were episodes? You could even choose which order to watch them in depending on whether you want to see Bill Hader’s adult version of Richie or Jessica Chastain’s Beverly first.
It would make for a much more exciting prospect if It: Chapter Two had pushed against the boundaries of expectation like Disney+ is doing with Star Wars and Marvel, or even what Netflix does with Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Instead, we get a haphazard three-hour movie that just feels bloated and confusing.
When the Losers were kids, all of Pennywise’s illusions felt real. Now, the adults keep chanting that this stuff can’t hurt them because it isn’t real — until the fake illusions do start to hurt them. What’s real? What’s fake? We don’t know! It: Chapter Two doesn’t have enough screentime to properly explain any of this to the viewer, ironic when it also feels so bloated at almost three hours.
Director Andy Muschietti revealed to ET at the It: Chapter Two premiere he has plans to produce a supercut that’s “basically the two movies edited together with all the material that is not in the released versions,” adding “there are a couple of scenes that I want to shoot to make this a new experience.” He estimates such a cut would run six and a half hours (or 390 minutes). Sounds excruciating, doesn’t it? At least he recognizes it could be a series rather than a giant movie.
“People can choose how to see it, all in one or, you know, making little pauses,” he said. “Or bingeing! Maybe it’s divided in episodes. People now, they binge a series for 10 hours of viewing, so it wouldn’t surprise me.”
Especially if they were to film additional scenes to flesh out some aspects of the story, this definitive version of It could work really well. It’s a shame that WarnerMedia’s HBO Max streaming service won’t be out until spring 2020 because if Chapter Two had been originally envisioned as a mini-series for HBO Max, then it might actually have worked out. Why wasn’t that the plan from the very beginning?
It: Chapter Two is now in theaters.