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Face-Off: It: Part 2 1990 vs. It: Chapter Two 2019

When IT: CHAPTER TWO was released into theatres last September, I put together a Face-Off between the first part of the 1990 IT mini-series and the first IT movie - a Face-Off you can read right HERE. Now that IT: CHAPTER TWO is available on home video (and you can pick it up on Amazon), it's time for the second half of that Face-Off. Time for part two of the 1990 IT mini-series to go up against the CHAPTER TWO film. Twenty-nine years apart, directors Tommy Lee Wallace and Andy Muschietti both brought Stephen King's story of the grown up Losers Club setting out to destroy Pennywise the evil clown to the screen. But which version turned out better?

STORYTELLING

In the first half of the mini-series, a group of children known as The Losers Club defeated the supernatural evil that lurked in their hometown of Derry, Maine. Problem is, that evil re-emerges every 30 years, so that half of the story was told through flashbacks the adult versions of the characters had as they were called back to Derry for a rematch. There are some more flashbacks in this half, but for the most part we're hanging out with the adult Losers as they meet up, regain memories, reconnect, feel sad, and get scared. I start to miss the child versions of the characters, because the story of these adults isn't as interesting or engaging as what happened to them 30 years before. These adults are kind of a dull bummer.

2017's IT told the story of the Losers Club battling the evil that lurks in Derry without ever cutting away to the adult Losers, so I thought CHAPTER TWO might completely focus on the adult versions of the characters in a similar manner. That's not the case, because a large part of the story centers on the adults digging up artifacts from their past, requiring several flashbacks to the kid Losers in 1989 that show us there were a lot of major moments that we missed out on even though the previous movie was 135 minutes long. It feels like a cheat that we weren't shown so many important things the first time around, and these flashbacks help build the movie up to an overly long 169 minutes. The movie goes on and on and gets exhausting.

THE LOSERS CLUB

Director Tommy Lee Wallace gathered a solid cast to play the adult Losers, and I'm especially glad to see Harry Anderson and John Ritter in here as Richie and Ben. I grew up watching them on the sitcoms Night Court and Three's Company, so I love seeing them deal with horrific subject matter. Annette O'Toole was a great choice for the adult Beverly Marsh, The Waltons' Richard Thomas is our emotional lead Bill, Tim Reid does nice work in the role of Mike, the one who brings everyone back together... And when Bill and Mike get their hands on a bike, Thomas and Reid happily come off like total dorks. Richard Masur isn't around for long as Stan, but he's always a welcome presence. The only one that doesn't sit well with me is Dennis Christopher as Eddie, he seems like a nebbish caricature.

Director Andy Muschietti cast some great child actors in the first IT, and for this one found some more great actors to play the characters as adults. James McAvoy was a fantastic choice for the adult Bill, Jessica Chastain was the obvious and perfect choice for Beverly, Bill Hader takes over for Finn Wolfhard as the hilarious Richie, Isaiah Mustafa gives a strong performance I didn't know to expect from "the Old Spice guy" as Mike. James Ransone occasionally goes over-the-top as Eddie, but looks just like his child actor counterpart. Andy Bean only has a couple minutes to play the adult Stan... While Jay Ryan is fine as Ben, I do feel like the casting could have been slightly more interesting for that role. Then again, it's just tough to follow in the footsteps of John Ritter.

PENNYWISE

Tim Curry continues to do terrific work in the role of the evil Pennywise the Dancing Clown, but it feels like he's taking it easy on the Losers this time around. He just pops up a few times to do some taunting, then when it comes time to have his final confrontation with the Losers he turns into a giant spider. The standout moments for Pennywise in this one are when he tricks Ben into kissing him (Ben thinks he's kissing Beverly), and a scene in a library where he has a lot of fun spouting dopey jokes. Pennywise wasn't given nearly enough to do in this half.

Out of the entire mini-series and both movies, Pennywise has his most despicable scene here when he lures a little girl into the darkness he's hiding in by pretending to be her friend and saying he can take the birthmark off her face. Of course, he ends up devouring her. Bill Skarsgård plays the character well and gets to show up sporadically to taunt characters, drop the "Kiss me, fat boy!" line, tell Losers he missed them more than once, and eat a few people. When It becomes a giant spider in the end, it still has Pennywise's head, a nice way to keep him present.

SCARE TACTICS

The evil in Derry likes to appear to people as Pennywise, but it can also take other forms and show people some trippy visions. It speaks to Eddie through an old pharmacist, makes Beverly interact with a ghoulish old lady, attacks a child while taking on the appearance of a mummy... In one crazy moment, a man is attacked by It while it has the body of Pennywise and the head of a dog. It becomes a disappointing spider in the finale, but its best trick comes early on when it makes the Losers see some weird stuff in a Chinese restaurant. Fortune cookies spray blood, have roaches and baby birds inside them, one turns into a crab. That's a great moment. It also gets the help of a knife-toting lackey it communicates with through the rotting corpse of a childhood friend.

With 169 minutes to work with, Muschietti packed the movie with an insane amount of jump scare and attack sequences. Beyond the Pennywise scenes we get a giant Paul Bunyan, the sight of young Beverly with a head of flames, the return of the leper, a blood flood, twisted versions of loved ones and selves, a knife-wielding lackey and his corpse sidekick, a monster dog, a goofy-but-awesome-looking old lady creature, and a Chinese restaurant scene that takes the gag effects much further than the mini-series went. There's an insect with the head of an infant! Muschietti does occasionally ruin scenes with odd choices, like lifting a moment directly out of THE THING and disrupting a grossout with "Angel of the Morning" for no apparent reason at all.

EMOTIONAL CONTENT

There's a melancholy feeling to the second half of the mini-series, as the Losers are reunited after decades apart and are reminded of the heartbreak and terror they've been burying in their subconscious all that time. It's sad to see them having to deal with It again, and to see how their childhood experience has traumatized them, but I never make an emotional connection with these adult characters like I had with the young characters in the first half. I don't care about them as much. Some of them are tough to get invested in, and some of the more heartwarming moments are too schmaltzy to be effective.

With less schmaltz and some solid acting from its stars, IT: CHAPTER TWO was able to make the story of the adult Losers emotionally effective and engaging. It's fun to watch the Losers interact with each other again after 27 years, and we see the turmoil bad memories and unfinished business causes for them. I was able to care about the adults as much as I cared about the characters when they were younger, there wasn't the disconnect I have when watching the mini-series. The movie is too long and some questionable decisions were made, but at least it kept the emotional element intact.

IT: CHAPTER TWO

Throughout IT: CHAPTER TWO there are jokes about the character of Bill, who is an author, not being able to write satisfying endings - a humorous nod to the fact that Stephen King has written some disappointing endings over the years, and that a lot of people were let down by the ending of the mini-series. Neither of these adaptations have the exact same ending as the novel, and I don't think either of them are all that great... But even though IT: CHAPTER TWO goes on forever, it's livelier than the second half of the mini-series and I get more entertainment out of watching it. So Muschietti's film wins this one for me.

Do you agree with the outcome of this Face-Off, or do you think the mini-series should have taken the win? Share your thoughts on these adaptations in the comments section below. If you have suggestions for future Face-Off articles, you can send them to me at [email protected].

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