Movie producers like sequels. Movies are expensive to make, and they feel safer if new projects have been in some way “pre-sold.” This is why Disney is making live action versions of old animated films and animated films out of old live action ones.
But why do audiences like sequels? They probably don’t expect to have the same experience in watching the new film “It Chapter 2” that they had in watching the 2017 “It.” Perhaps they want to be reminded of what they got out of the first film.
To tell the truth, though, only those of them who have already seen “It” a couple of times and recently are going to be able to make much sense of the stylistically discontinuous entertainment they will see on the screen this time.
Not that the moviemakers have lost track of what was in “It.” In fact, “Chapter 2” has been praised for remaining true to Stephen King’s 1986 novel. As if to certify the film’s devotion to the book, King himself appears here as an antique-shop owner in the movie’s Derry Maine.
And just to be true to himself, King has the actions of the movie’s heroes, the “Losers,” be influenced by the spiritual traditions of a Native American tribe living in the area.
That hunk of material is, like several other hunks, tossed into the story, slowing the progress of this seemingly very long movie. Also parenthetical are the eventually preachy businesses about the non-appearance of one of the Losers and the gangling interruptions caused by a homophobic and violent local and by an escapee from an asylum for the criminally insane.
The later was a similarly insignificant character in the first movie. The reason for the attack on the two young men at the Derry carnival figures in the story only to give the — now get this — alien, serial-killing clown who lives in the town’s storm sewers, Pennyworth, a chance to show he is back.
What is set up to help the story of the second hunting of murderous Pennyworth is, unfortunately, nonsensical. It is a series of investigations carried out independently by the different adult Losers. The movie cuts back and forth between the kids from the first movie and the middle-aged versions, played by James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, and others.
Each of them is sent off to rediscover something they have forgotten about their childhood around the time they put a temporary kibosh on the clown. What makes Mike so sure they have A) forgotten something important and B) that the thing forgotten will be recalled by the discovery of some object?
One by one they chase off to find out what they’ve forgotten, like former charges of a 1980s nursery school prompted by “recovered memory” psychologists. We follow them and you know what? They’ve each forgotten something too significant for the audience to believe they’ve forgotten it. And in each case they come up with some little totem to represent the event.
Then, finally, they take us back to the boarded-up Victorian mansion and into the tunnels and the complicated storm sewers under it. Again they find Pennyworth’s throne room and again they confront him.
And after the drawn-out confrontation and the weak resolution, there’s a drawn-out stretch of “falling action” during which some things are explained and some stories are tied off.
As story telling, “It Chapter 2” is not much. But then one has to wonder if screenwriter Gary Dauberman (who has already given us a couple of “Annabelle” movies) and director Andy Muschietti (who six years ago made “Mama” with Chastain and then disappeared) thought telling a good story was one of their main responsibilities here.
Most of their potential ticket-buyers already knew the story of “It.” And they may not care much if its sequel tells any story at all.