‘IT’ (2017) Review
I was born in April 1981. My mother was an avid reader and one author that she constantly bought books from was Stephen King. Later, I would take the books that she previously read and I would attempt to read them. In 1994, after watching the ABC Miniseries which I taped and watched repeatedly, I decided to start reading my mom’s hand-me-down paperback of It. It took me three months to read it. However, at such a young age, I’m not sure I comprehended everything, especially some of the more adult nature of the book.
Fast forward to 2017 and we have a honest-to-god Rated R adaptation of Stephen King’s novel – well the first part anyway. There is no doubt that this was a highly anticipated film. Not just for horror fans but general audiences as well. In the 80’s, Stephen King was a sensation. People who had no interest in horror, read many of his books, moreso It. Remember that opening sequence in Donnie Darko where Donnie returns home in the morning and his mother is reading the paperback copy of It? While that was a nod to Stephen King, it was also a placement of time because anyone who was alive and somewhat aware in 1987 or 1988, knew that everyone read this book (something I think a recent article found elsewhere on the internet missed).
That rabid excitement that spanned over general readers seems to be back 30 years later with Andy Muschietti‘s film adaptation. Previously, Cary Fukunaga (“True Detective”) was attached to direct but Mischietti took over once Fukunaga had a difference of opinion with the studio. However, it seems a large portion of his script was used – as he is still credited.
It’s difficult to not compare this film to the 1990 miniseries at times. There are scenes and characters that I feel the film does justice to. However, I also think that the miniseries did a few things better than the film. For starters, while I like the actors who play The Loser’s Club a bit more in this film adaptation, I feel that the camaraderie was stronger in the miniseries. I also feel that while Bill Skarsgård‘s Pennywise is different and uses more of a childish charm to lure children in, Tim Curry’s interpretation was more frightening and intense than any scene of Skarsgård’s performance. With that out of the way, let’s dive into the film.
The setting is changed from 1958 to 1989, which I think is for the better. While some themes that were in the book get abandoned because they were really fashioned more around that time period, Muschietti does a great job at updating our main characters to feel a bit more genuine to the audiences of today. Finn Wolfhard (“Stranger Things”) nails the character of Richie Tozier (maybe this is why he remained from the Fukunaga cast). Also, these kids cuss and this is reflective of that 30 year modification. In the 50’s, it seemed like kids cussed to accent anger or seem like they were cool or more adult. Here, when the kids curse, it feels natural. Gone is the racism plight from Mike Hanlon’s character, which does push the character into the background a little bit – which may feel off-balance since Mike, as an adult, is the one who stays behind in Derry, Maine and organizes the defense’s in what will be the second-part of the tale. Another shift with Mike’s character is that he was the one who knew about Derry’s past. That has been shifted over to Ben with this adaptation. This makes Mike a character that feels a bit purposeless. However, Stanley is probably the weakest character of all. Which is odd because we do actually get some time with him yet it feels like filler or throwaway. As for the bullies, they are vicious. Henry Bowers, played by Nicholas Hamilton, is pretty frightening. The most terrifying thing about It is Derry, Maine. It is a town of secrets and, possibly a town that helps disguise some unsavory people that inhabit it. While there are some hokey elements that pop-up (Stanley’s creature manifestation) that seem to be a fascination from director Muschietti, the film is well directed and gorgeously photographed.
Is It scary? I didn’t think so but it definitely has a creep factor to it, a perversion of innocence. Which, if you really think about it, was a major theme of the novel. Is It: Chapter One (the title is given at the end) one of the better modern Stephen King adaptations, yes, without a doubt. The 2 hour-plus run time leaves you wanting more time with The Loser’s Club as by the end of it, you feel that maybe you didn’t get to know them as well as you could have. It has a great balance of heart, scares and an overall off-kilter tone. Something’s off in Derry and the film is just a peek at it.
Finn Wolfhard as Richie
Solid direction that stays close to the source material's overall themes
Pacing makes it feel brisk even though it is a 2-hour-plus film.
Some of the main characters feel a little flat
Pennywise is more playful and might come across to some as less terrifying than what the character was intended to be
Muschietti seems to carry over some of the goofy elements from MAMA (particularly one creature manifestation)