The Big Picture
- Andy Muschietti’s struggles with blockbuster filmmaking are evident in both It: Chapter 2 and The Flash. His poor sense of timing and over-reliance on digital effects hinder the success of both films.
- Muschietti’s attempts to cater to mainstream audiences result in forced comedic moments and a lack of exploration of the source material’s absurdity. His approach lacks creativity and fails to engage viewers.
- The film industry’s focus on tentpole titles has limited the opportunities for filmmakers like Muschietti, who would excel in smaller-scale horror movies. Not all directors are suited for blockbuster filmmaking, and this approach overlooks the unique strengths of individual filmmakers.
Movies are not just made by one person. Even the most intimate indie feature requires so many souls to bring it to life, from the screenwriting stage to shooting the thing to an array of post-production duties. This is especially true when one is handling a big blockbuster movie like 2023’s The Flash. A massive production with a budget containing more zeros than a Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon episode has fake laughs, The Flash was not a project that came down solely to its director, Andy Muschietti. The man previously responsible for horror titles like Mama and the two It movies, Muschietti was tasked with juggling multiple continuities of DC Comics cinema and different corporate bosses on The Flash.
That couldn’t have been easy, and certain problems with The Flash are undoubtedly the result of too many executives trying to put their fingerprints on a movie. However, Muschietti still had some level of control over the film and, unfortunately, the way his identity is most felt in The Flash is in some of its gravest faults. Some superhero movie directors end up leaving everything related to their previous smaller films behind when they get the chance to helm a Marvel/DC title. In the case of Muschietti, though, he ported over a slew of grave flaws from his 2019 film It: Chapter 2 into The Flash. Barry Allen/The Flash can outrun many things, but even he could not elude Muschietti’s difficulty with getting a grasp on blockbuster filmmaking.
What Went Wrong With Andy Muschietti’s Work on ‘It: Chapter 2’?
The first It movie is not a perfect film or even an extraordinary horror feature, but it is a serviceable work. There’s no question it functioned as a “safer” interpretation of the first-half of Stephen King’s novel and relied too heavily on jump scares, but it provided some perfectly cromulent entertainment. Muschietti seemed quite comfortable mimicking the style of 1980s Amblin movies involving kids stumbling into darker mysteries/trouble, while the comparatively limited budget of the production kept things from spiraling out of control. Muschietti was firmly in the camp of budget-conscious horror that his feature-length directorial debut Mama inhabited. Those competent qualities, though, vanished once it was time to make It: Chapter 2.
With that first It becoming a huge hit, Muschietti was given a significantly expanded budget and a larger canvas to make the second movie about the Loser’s Club. The result was a bloated mess too intent on giving people what they already liked from the first movie, including bizarre flashback scenes involving the kid versions of the main character that made heavy use of distractingly bad digital de-aging. Worse, It: Chapter 2 seemed to respond to its predecessor becoming such a mainstream hit by trying to make itself “broader” and “more appealing.” Bloody deaths and jump scares were still around, but they were now accompanied by lengthy seemingly improvised comedic digressions from Bill Hader or bizarre moments like one character getting vomited on by a supernatural entity to the tune of Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning.”
It’s in these moments that Muschietti revealed something that he’s just not good at: comedy. That’s perfectly fine since not every filmmaker has to be good at every genre. However, Muschietti’s insistence on dragging It: Chapter 2 more into the realm of “mainstream entertainment” meant to ramp up the comedy in the script, and unfortunately, Muschietti just doesn’t have the chops to handle laughs. His poor sense of timing behind the camera undercuts typically reliable comedic performers like Bill Hader, and his lengthy comedic digressions feel forced, like they’re only happening to “please” the audience rather than being informed by Muschietti’s genuine passion.
Muschietti’s attempt to prove his chops at mainstream escapist American filmmaking with It: Chapter 2 even extends to a CG-heavy finale where Pennywise turns into a massive digital scorpion creature. Any sense of discernible reality has floated away by this point, leaving It: Chapter 2 devoid of scares or anything dramatically involving. Whether it’s with laughs, spectacle, or even the scares, Muschietti kept trying to deliver a crowd-pleaser with It: Chapter 2. The result was, instead, a mess — and a long one at that thanks to its criminally bloated 169-minute runtime. Worse, Muschietti’s struggles with nailing this kind of filmmaking would get exacerbated in his next directorial effort: The Flash.
What ‘It: Chapter 2’ Flaws Showed Up in ‘The Flash’?
Every one of Muschietti’s worst filmmaking qualities from It: Chapter 2 gets ratcheted up to the nth degree for The Flash. His over-reliance on digital effects work for the finale of that second It movie, for instance, permeates every big set-piece in The Flash. Plastic-looking digital humans dominate countless sequences and the subsequent nightmares of moviegoers. Somehow, Muschietti has only gotten worse at handling comedy in between these two movies, and there’s nobody with the comic wit of Bill Hader around now to salvage certain clumsy lines. An endless scene with the roommates of alternate-universe Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) just acting mildly stoned and confused is incredibly grating, while the antics between the two versions of Barry Allen are similarly irritating. Muschietti’s approach to comedy never leaves one wanting more and instead has you wishing it had never begun in the first place.
Worse, though, is how The Flash crystallizes certain problems with Muschietti’s approach to genre cinema that weren’t really clear until now. Chiefly, he has trouble with fully embracing the absurdity of the source material he’s adapting. Muschietti likes the idea of a movie about a scary supernatural clown but eschews the massive space turtle from the original It book out of fear of being too goofy. Similarly, The Flash’s closest equivalent to Reverse-Flash is revealed to be a CG entity covered in gray rocks, devoid of any color. Variations on Barry Allen’s alternate reality are also kept strictly in the realm of references to other DC Comics movies — there’s never anything truly absurd that would differentiate these two domains.
One’s imagination runs wild with the ways The Flash could play around with an alternate version of Earth, but a Back to the Future casting joke is the weirdest thing the movie dabbles in. There’s a lack of curiosity on the part of Muschietti when it comes to exploring the fullest visual, thematic, or creative possibilities of the heightened genre stories he’s telling. With that quality, viewers also struggle to be curious or engaged with the worlds he’s concocted. Muschietti’s focus is instead on just mimicking cinema of the past, but with no real interest in exploring new variations on cinematic norms or even expressing a tangible passion for the material he’s referencing. Michael Keaton’s Batman returns in The Flash, but he’s just around as an action figure people can point at because they remember he exists. The way Keaton’s version of this superhero is filmed and handled, you never get a sense of Muschietti wielding an unstoppable love for this character. Keaton’s Batman is just here for obligatory fan service, not in the name of interesting ideas or even just a director’s uncontainable fixations.
Even Muschietti’s big swings at pathos in both It: Chapter 2 and The Flash demonstrate a similar derivative quality. These aren’t just big Warner Bros. tentpoles, oh no, they’re also meant to make you cry like it’s the beginning of Up. In both cases, though, Muschietti just proves an ill fit for that kind of material. For instance, a closing scene in It: Chapter 2 features Richie Tozier (Hader) wistfully recalling his adolescent crush on Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransone). It’s a sequence hindered by bad digital de-aging on the kid characters in the flashbacks and Muschietti’s unwillingness to explore queerness within It: Chapter 2 beyond just suffering and pain. You can’t just play sad music and have a character return to a familiar landmark and expect it to be as moving as Terms of Endearment. A similar surface-level quality permeates The Flash’s big scenes involving Barry Allen having to let go of his deceased mom. Since Barry Allen isn’t a character audiences are invested in, one’s eyes can’t get moist at The Flash’s big pathos-heavy sequences. Every time Mushcietti tries to really inspire significant emotions of any kind from audiences in these two movies, things just fall tremendously flat.
The Film Industry Has Let Audiences and Andy Muschietti Down
Andy Muschietti’s underwhelming work on It: Chapter 2 was an unfortunate harbinger for many of the most critical failings of The Flash. The cringe-inducing stabs at broad comedy, the over-reliance on digital effects work, the distant approach to pathos. Muschietti even shows little interest in making creative use of the compositions composer Benjamin Wallfisch delivered for each of these movies. Both It: Chapter 2 and especially The Flash are truly inert when it comes to their respective soundtracks. However, despite this abundance of shared flaws between the two features, Muschietti’s struggles in the world of major tentpole filmmaking isn’t entirely on this director. That’s no lead-up to a snide punchline, Muschietti and audiences have both been failed by a film industry that’s now so geared towards tentpole titles that there’s no room for a variety of types of filmmakers.
After the first It movie, Muschietti should’ve been a go-to horror movie journeyman filmmaker, which would be a totally valid and awesome career. The history of horror cinema isn’t just littered with John Carpenters and George A. Romeros — it’s also packed with classic titles helmed by journeymen directors. Muschietti displayed some clear talent in his initial two smaller-scale films that could’ve worked fine in the realm of mainstream horror cinema. However, modern Hollywood sees filmmakers behind smaller successful movies as only having one future: blockbuster film directors. Not only did It: Chapter 2 get ramped up to be a major tentpole, but Muschietti was also given The Flash, a project so beyond the scope of any of his prior features.
Worse, Muschietti suddenly felt the need to try and expand his filmmaking style to be like Steven Spielberg, a blockbuster auteur who can deliver scares, pathos, laughs, and anything else a blockbuster movie might need. That’s a massive ask for any director, and Muschietti just couldn’t fit the crowdpleaser blockbuster mold Warner Bros. wanted him to fit in. It’s a problem that also plagued filmmakers ranging from Duncan Jones to Joe Wright to Stephen Gaghan (among many others) whenever they suddenly leaped from directing $20 million movies to $200 million VFX extravaganzas. If you want to make a movie for a major Hollywood studio in the modern world, that usually means taking on a blockbuster movie, a title that not every filmmaker is perfectly suited for.
This certainly doesn’t excuse all the shortcomings of Muschietti’s work in It: Chapter 2 and The Flash, particularly just how poorly this director is at handling any kind of broad comedy. But it does put into context that Andy Muschietti is not “a horrible person” or anything hyperbolic like that. Instead, his recurring struggles in the world of big blockbuster filmmakers represent the problem with Hollywood’s current one-size-fits-all approach to directing mainstream cinema. Not everybody is or should be a director who can deliver massive blockbusters. We need to make room for smaller films where somebody like Andy Muschietti can indulge in his best traits. Goodness knows something larger-scale like The Flash just exacerbated all his very worst qualities as a filmmaker.