Warning: SPOILERS ahead for IT Chapter Two.
IT Chapter Two has been criticized for being too long, but it really couldn’t have been much shorter. The sequel was long expected to surpass the 2 hours and 15-minute runtime of 2017’s IT. Stephen King’s novel is well over one thousand pages after all, and IT Chapter Two had to deal with multiple storylines to wrap up the ongoing fight between the Losers’ Club and Pennywise. As a result, IT Chapter Two clocks in at 2 hours and 49 minutes long.
The additional 34 minutes of footage in IT Chapter Two compared to the first movie has been one of the biggest criticisms of the film so far – despite what Rotten Tomatoes says about runtimes. While the pacing can be slow and story a bit repetitive, there isn’t any room to significantly trim IT Chapter Two‘s runtime. This is all because of the film’s structure and the focus it puts on the six primary members of the Losers’ Club: Bill Denrbough (James McAvoy), Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain), Ben Hanscom (Jay Ryan), Richie Tozier (Bill Hader), Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransone), and Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa).
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After a quick opening scene showing Pennywise’s return, IT Chapter Two doesn’t waste any time re-introducing the adult versions of these characters. Mike begins calling his former friends, and the movie only spends a few minutes with each of them. Bill is a successful writer, Ben a successful architect, Richie a standup comic, Eddie a risk analyst, and Beverly is only seen in an abusive relationship. The first act ends with them all reuniting in Derry – learning of Stanley Uris’ (Andy Bean) death – and coming to accept that they need to stop Pennywise for good.
When the second act begins, the movie shifts the focus to the group splitting apart once again. As part of the ritual Mike has planned to defeat Pennywise, they must each find a totem to burn. IT Chapter Two then follows each of the characters on their own journies, with flashbacks incorporated along the way that takes us back to 1989 – and retcon the first film in the process. It’s only after finding all of their totems that they reform as a group and go to stop Pennywise.
Unsurprisingly, the third act is then solely focused on them killing Pennywise. The movie shows the entire ritual, and the characters struggle to figure out what to do when it doesn’t work. This is also where the emotional payoff for the characters come from, as Eddie dies during this fight and the final scenes of the film show Beverly and Ben in a relationship, Bill clearing his writer’s block, the reveal that Richie is gay, and Mike is finally moving on from Derry.
As a whole, it is difficult to look at the structure and characters of IT Chapter Two and find footage that isn’t necessary. The best that they could do is possibly cut a few seconds here and there, but all of the set up is needed. The second act is arguably the prime candidate to be trimmed, but doing so could undermine the conclusion. Even the flashbacks to their younger days are crucial to the story IT Chapter Two tells, and cutting those would also mean losing the young cast that audiences came to adore two years ago. Through this lens, it is easy to see why the sequel boasts as long of a runtime as it does.
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