The aspect of “Wounds” is interesting in seemingly how it is initially portrayed. Even though it made its premiere at Sundance, the texture seems to lend itself to a series, and maybe undeniably an anthology though the cast does not seem as accurately aware of this as maybe the audience is. The set-up is kept fairly vague although the intention points to a book called “The Testament Of Wounds” which speaks to opening to possession of higher beings, whatever structure of course that might mean. Like “The Ring”, the aspect of a physical construct whether in the mind or otherwise, as keyed in here by the tunnel that begins the film and shows up on certain character’s viewscreens, is interesting.
The cast is top notch although the material is more than a little abstract considering many are coming from or have been more in major studio pictures. Armie Hammer is definitely playing outside his comfort zone but it is undeniably a part that others could have played. He shows the psychological structure but does not necessarily make it his own (though it can be effective. The same can be said for Dakota Johnson, who doesn’t have a whole lot to do besides move the plot forward. Zazie Beetz, soon to be seen in “Motherless Brooklyn,” is the more engaging one but many of these characters seems to be adrift in life looking for purpose or just actually realizing what their status quo is.
New Orleans definitely creates an inherent feeling even if the locations are a little restrictive. There is a sense of the darkness and light just off screen. Unlike something like “True Blood” that was shot in Baton Rouge, this does feel inherently local. The issue is that mood can only save so much and the lack of a true narrative connection causes an inherent disconnect in the story. While there does not need to be an unending barrage of exposition, a clearer storyline would work better. Even “Eraserhead” had a vague idea where its protagonist was going.
“Wounds” could be an ongoing series exploring more of what could be in terms of the mythology and the texture of this selection that creates grief. But grief needs a reason to be and not to just exist for itself. This is where “Wounds,” despite its pedigree, falls short.
By Tim Wassberg
The undeniably draw of the story of IT is the narrative of the community prevailing over the tyranny. The first chapter had a dexterous draw to the children of the 80s. The archetypal structures that had made “Stranger Things” a success were fully embodied by Stephen King many years before albeit in a different time. When the miniseries was made in the 90s, it used a different reference. But, as with this film, it used the innocence and naïveté of youth to propel the story. Now with the introduction of Chapter 2, it progresses the idea to modern times…and while it does not portray an essence of exactly today, it nonetheless feels now which sometimes can interrelate too closely for a sense of closure in a narrative. Pennywise in the first film was that aspect of the unknown, that personification of fear that cannot be contained. Bill Skarsgard’s portrayal in that film was a new way to see this permutation of fear that preys upon children’s misunderstanding of the unknown. While the adult actors reflect their characters well, it is not as key to the journey.
The first movie was a quest in a way, while the second film is more about placing the puzzle pieces together. The inherent structure of the book worked more in jumping in tandem between young psychology and mature thinking. That dynamic was not possible at first as it was not guaranteed the first film would be a hit. Its connection is what drew bigger actors like Jessica Chastain, who had worked with director Andy Muschetti on her early film “Mama” as well as her longtime friend and collaborator James McAvoy. Most of the rest of the kids save for Bill Hader as Richy are unknowns per se which allows the audience to buy into the belief of them returning more fully. The most effective element here is the transition in location between the young and old versions in key sequences. These are the segments of the film that truly work without seeming that it is rushing to tie up loose ends. Sequences like those in a funhouse which should illicit more dread don’t seem as powerful as they should be. Skarsgard as Pennywise, doesn’t have as much as a presence as in the first one, and is missed in many ways as the story, in adhering to King’s narrative, uses his continual use of Native American lore more as a central context. This idiom, which at times is overused in King’s narratives, is used perhaps to plug a narrative hole in comparison to perhaps “Pet Sematary” where it was more essential to the story. And at other times, like in “Dreamcatcher”, it can work quite well. Here however it is not explained enough to make full sense to the casual viewer, or even one familiar with the world.
The aspect of the subconscious especially involving the memory of the Losers, is adequately played but not as fulfilling as it should be. The best example of all cylinders working without the filmmakers worrying too overtly about the plot is when the gang comes back together at a Chinese restaurant in Derry (this was also the scene that was teased in the recent theater re-release of the first film). This scene paints the dread of Pennywise still apparent from the first film but also perfectly encapsulates the details of the grown characters as adults. Balancing these two worlds however is tricky while also keeping to audience expectations. “It Chapter 2” tries in many ways to live up to the original but it is a different construct. It is about how people understand aspects when they are older versus perceptions when they are young. While it does an admirable job of placing those story points in play, its delivery simply does not live up to the first film, through no fault of the actors or story but simply because of the trajectory placed against it.
By Tim Wassberg