Greetings, dear readers. Several days ago, I was contacted by those who run this site and told they were sending me a free ticket to see the “new scary clown movie” and so I prepared myself for a viewing of Joker which, I gather, is a film about the origins of a murderous clown which released just this weekend. It fulfills, then, the “new” and “scary clown” appellations though I am not sure if it is a movie as when I reached the theater I discovered that they had not sent me to see Joker but, instead, It: Chapter Two which left me flummoxed for several reasons.
First and foremost, I had prepped myself for Joker by re-watching his previous cinematic appearances: Batman: The Movie, Batman, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, The Dark Knight, The Lego Batman Movie, and (ugh) Suicide Squad. I even sought out a copy of a tome entitled The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told and skimmed it, for I am not overly interested in sequential art. I believe I got the gist of his character, and was set to compare Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal to all the other luminaries (and Jared Leto) who have been the Joker on the Silver Screen. In short, I was prepared to approach Joker armed with all the knowledge I thought I could ever need, knowledge which is now wasted.
Secondly, I have very little knowledge of It in any of its forms, and if I’m being honest I consider Stephen King to be something of a least common denominator whose horror works are middling and, mostly, produce films of even poorer quality with the sole exception being The Shining though I suspect this is in spite of the source material rather than because of it. King’s non-horror works do manage to come out better cinematically, though my attempts to power through “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” ultimately proved that King’s written word is not to my tastes. Similarly, I’ve never read the It novel (though I don’t believe I’m missing anything, especially since I have it on good authority that there is a very inappropriate scene with the child characters that was thankfully left out of this film) nor have I seen the original made-for-TV movie. I haven’t even seen It: Chapter One nor do I ever intend to do so. I simply do not see the appeal of Pennywise, and the only frightening thing about him is that Tim Curry debased himself for such a role. I would like to add that, since I am a professional, I would have at least watched the made-for-TV movie and first chapter for the purposes of this review had it been made clear that I was reviewing It: Chapter Two. Furthermore, the movie is hardly new. While this is hardly the first time the Fictosphere has sent me to see a movie long past its opening weekend, I do hope they start having me review things with more relevance.
Now, what can I say about It: Chapter Two? I easily understood what was going on despite not seeing the first chapter, though I couldn’t really understand the stakes. The Pennywise entity is clearly stated to only be a problem every so often, and even when he is a problem, it only encompasses a small Maine town. Some indigenous people wisely escaped his radius and had no further problems with him. It’s not like he was going to spread his influence much further, and while he was certainly murderous, he seemed to only be able to kill small amounts of people at a time. There are wild animals more dangerous than Pennywise, and they’re usually not deterred by something as mundane as an area of effectiveness. It also wasn’t as if Pennywise could go after the protagonists, since all but one had left Derry long ago. They willingly walked into danger to destroy an ancient evil that could only really cause limited amounts of death and destruction within a finite radius. If you ask me, that’s not heroic, it’s imbecilic. The protagonists had actually forgotten about their first encounter with Pennywise, and most were living moderately happy lives. While it’s insinuated that each of them would die if Pennywise wasn’t destroyed, that’s true of every single human being on Earth. I can only imagine that the first film, in which they’re all children, better elaborated upon the stakes of defeat. At the very least, the children were defending their territory and lives. In this film, they intrude and put their lives in danger in what I suppose is a selfless act but this doesn’t make it any less foolish. It would have probably also helped if I found any of the characters at all likeable and cared about whether they made it through the film or not.
I can only imagine that the poor motivation and characterizations are leftovers from King’s original work, because everything not tied into a novel is at least moderately effective though there is a reliance on jump-scares. The effects work has a certain otherworldliness to it which befits an entity like Pennywise, looking not quite real nor fake, often bolstered by a score which did its best to make up for the shortcomings of the source material. The cinematography, too, helped evoke a sense of dread that was almost palpable amongst the other (admittedly sparse, which if I may digress, is another reason to send me to review films closer to opening weekend. While a good critic is able to make informed objective opinions with naught but a screener DVD, seeing a film with an audience will have a definite effect on the experience. For example, I was discussing (ugh) Mikenificent’s Avengers Endgame experience with him. For those who are unaware, he opted to see the movie twice because of some power failure the first time. He said the first audience was much more appreciative which enhanced the experience, while the second audience was far less enthused. These two different audiences colored his view of the film each time. Reportedly, he still enjoyed it.) movie-goers. There were several scenes I wish were in better films. One had a director literally descending from the heavens to speak with a screenwriter and then ascending once their conversation was over and the other had an old lady and was shown in the trailer so you can see it for yourself, right here.
Which leads me to my next topic: the naked boobies in this movie are not at all friendly. They belong to an older lady, which does not always spell doom for the friendliness of a nude bosom. In this case, the denuding of the breast only occurred once the woman had transformed into a giant gangly hell-beast trying to attack the female lead. While a woman using nudity to empower herself is one thing, and the sight of a woman baring her chest while achieving her goals is a noble sight second only to the friendly naked boobie, bared breasts upon a monstrous creature are neither friendly nor empowering. In fact, these naked boobies were as far from friendly as you could get without them being weaponized. I squirmed in my seat during the scene and wondered if, perhaps, I had been sent to this movie as some sort of perverse punishment.
To wrap things up, the movie as a standalone feature is middling. At some point, I may watch the first part to see if the pair of films works better as a single cinematic experience though I don’t see any need to and don’t want to, anyway. Whatever joys the film has are undone by problems borne of the source material, and it is my sincerest hope that the people who worked on this movie get to make something with a better script. I also hope that this, my third contribution to the site, also affords me a spot on the contributor’s page. Why does a two-bit fan-fic writing hack who can’t bother to show his real face get a spot before me, a formerly respected film critic? Here’s hoping that is rectified soon, and also that my next review is of a movie closer to its opening night.