Antun Kovacevic’s review published on Letterboxd:
If you’re reading this review and you haven’t already seen Chapter two, and you didn’t rewatch the first Chapter, go rewatch it if you want to get the best out of Chapter two. This film doesn’t stand on its own at all.
I liked the first Chapter way more than this film. Instead of improving on the mistakes of the first film, Chapter two was an even messier film.
Let’s start with the good things. The film looks beautiful. It’s filmed beautifully and visual design of monsters and creatures is very imaginative and unnerving. All that is supported by the beautiful production design, which only suffers in act 3, when it’s too dark to tell how the background looks. On the technical level in general, the film delivers. Sound mixing really helped to build an atmosphere, and the makeup and costumes were on the point. Regarding the acting, the majority of the actors were very unutilized. James McAvoy’s and Jessica Chastain’s characters were far more interested in their child form. Those two were completely wasted because of the bland script. Star of the film, and easily the best part of it was Bill Hader. Every scene in which all of them were together, he outshined them completely. In every scene he was in, the spotlight was on him. Besides comedic chops, he showed his capability to deliver a great performance in more serious and dramatic scenes. Bill Skarsgard was also fantastic, but I wished he was a little bit more in the film.
The biggest issue I have with this film was its tone inconsistency. This film has huge tonal issues. The film is filled with humor, but that wouldn’t be a problem if the humor was dosed and appropriate. In the majority of the film, the humor and scary scenes intertwined. They intertwined in a way in which you don’t know if the scene is supposed to be scary or funny, and that’s a huge problem for a horror film. Jokes were decent in most cases, but their timing was catastrophic. For example, when I was watching this film in the theatre, when I thought the scary scene was happening at the moment, someone was laughing at the fullest, and vice versa. That’s a shame because the horror sequences were decently directed, and the jokes were mostly funny. But when those two elements intertwine too often and at the wrong moments, both of those elements lose their effect.
Except for tonal issues, the film had its problems with pacing. The film is 170 minutes long, and that’s very unusual for horror standards today. The film is very scattered and its length could be felt. There’s some redundancy in storytelling because very often the group gets together and splits apart, that happens way too many times. Act 3 was way too long and at that point, the film really started to drag.
The script was very weak, it wouldn’t even be a stretch to call it bad. I guess the absence of Cary Joji Fukunaga as one of the screenwriters hurt this film very badly in the end. The first Chapter did not develop all of the kids, but at least some of them were somewhat developed. In Chapter two for the most characters, there’s not any further development for any of them. Ben’s motives are borrowed from Chapter one and nothing else has happened with him as a character, he’s just there. Mike is only a walking exposition. Bill and Bev were way more concise and compelling characters in Chapter one. And Bowers, he was a terrible character in the first Chapter, and somehow he’s gotten even worse in the second part. I also would love if the film gave any meaning to Pennywise and his actions, beyond: he’s just an evil force who kills.
Speaking of characters, the chemistry between old Losers, compared to young Losers was nonexistent. Every time the film switched back to young actors, it became way more interesting.
In the end, compared to the first Chapter, the sequel declined in quality. It’s not a great film, but it has some redeeming qualities in it, such as visual effects and Bill Hader’s performance.