IT, where to start? Born from the brain of literary machine and titan Stephen King, IT is the story of how fear and childhood trauma haunts people into adulthood. Written out, the entire story takes about 1,100 pages and is quintessential King. So, when Andrew Muschietti declared that 2017 would see IT reborn exactly twenty-seven years after the television adaptation the world of King fans was ready to see Pennywise again, ready with a bit of trepidation.
To take on such a gargantuan story would be daunting to anyone and considering how long an IT remake has been on the drawing board it is a bit of a gift and surprise Pennywise even made it to the big screen.
While overall an enjoyable and successful adaptation there are a couple of definite flaws that despite solid casting, genuine chemistry among the young actors and overall success must be discussed.
But before the long haul starts, there is a shorter review by Time Magazine: here.
Now buckle up and let’s get this show on the road.
It was a brave decision to take on Tim Curry’s performance as Pennywise and with twenty-seven year old Bill Skarsgård in the role most of the pedophilic undertones of Curry’s older Pennywise were buffed out, but that still leaves a child eating, embodiment of all the hatred and evil in the hearts of the Derry folk that is Pennywise the Dancing Clown, so all in all still disturbing and skin crawl worthy.
While Skarsgård did a wonderful job as Pennywise, the physical appearances of Pennywise throughout the movie lacked the true terror of the novel and the manipulative taunting of the T.V. series. As the 2017 movie tried to combine the two it came up seemingly empty handed, lacking true all-chips-in terror of the source material but equally lacking the restraint and presence of Curry’s.
But again compliments must be paid to Skarsgård, whose clown face is possibly more terrifying without the makeup and skull cap. His take on Pennywise is unique from Curry’s and is definitely akin to the book’s. He gave a convincing and often times pitch perfect performance, marked by a genuine understanding for the character of Pennywise and seemed to understand the inner, festering motivations in a way the Curry never did. But alas, Skarsgård’s Pennywise was sadly marred by timing and strange cut offs that lacked the tension and drama of a true chase.
Given the enormity of Muschietti’s challenge slack must be cut for the adaptation. 2017’s IT focuses solely on the childhood half of the novel, an effective and advantageous decision for pacing and continuity. By cutting the novel in half and detangling the time lines Muschietti gave himself room to build the relationships and character arcs of the Losers Club, but even that seemed to lack oomph.
That being said since Muschietti was adapting IT for the silver screen not the small screen the development of the complexity in the kids, the parents and Pennywise were lacking. The adults were blatant and lacked subtly, the kid’s character development was simplified and hinged on singular moments instead of many. Pennywise was parred down to just a very scary clown rather than a symbol for racism, homophobia, of the hatred and fear that can inhabit very real people, but this simplifying of a complex character, simplifying of fear, is not unique to just 2017’s adaptation, the 1990’s T.V. adaptation was lacking as well.
Due to the time constraints of a conventional movie the Loser’s Club as a group also suffered. The time that could have been spent building the club into the truly loyal and incredibly strong group of friends it is in the book and even the 1990’s version seemed to be spent focusing on the “maybe” relationship of Beverly and Bill, important yes, but it should not have occupied as much screen time as it did.
Even worse though was the final show down’s use of CGI, a slapdash attempt to use all the new fangled tech available, the final “We all float down here” was taken too far. It was an unnecessary, overt and a lazy just-for-shock effect.
>> A Brief Interjection: If one is going to make a point about racism, one should not drop a one liner into a script like throwing in the gym towel. Racism is a complex topic that in order to land right and meld with a story must have development behind it. The line dropped by a mad and Pennywise influenced Henry Bowers felt like a sore thumb, out of place and awkward. The line lacked any build up or support from the rest of the movie. No back to CGI. <<
The use of CGI for the floating children, Pennywise’s floating blood and his final “diffusion”(?) cheapened the essence of what Pennywise is, it sucked the emotional weight from the final showdown and made it a fight of the supernatural alone, it takes the symbolic humanity out of the fight.
The CGI also stole from the kids the sort of finality of facing their demons, of facing Derry. Muschietti gave Pennywise the benefit of a mystical “death”, admittedly Pennywise is fated to return but he needed to slither away like the pathetic creature he is by the end of the show down, not ambiguously dissolve like some dramatic end for the weight of story to land properly.
Now it may seem like this is about 900+ words just bashing 2017’s IT, in part that is true, but in all honesty despite the flaws the movie is an enjoyable one, it is all in all a very good movie, well worth the price of admissions and perfect for the upcoming Halloween season.