It, directed by Andy Muschietti, is the newest adaptation of Stephen King’s brick of a novel of the same name. It stars Bill Skarsgård as the infamous Pennywise the Dancing Clown, who had quite big shoes to fill, following Tim Curry’s interpretation of the role. The movie came out 27 years after the first adaptation of the book, which was a two-parts TV mini-series that aired in 1990. This might sound like a simple detail, but it is actually a fun little nod to the story, as Pennywise comes back every 27 years or so to terrorise Derry. It being one of my favourite novels by Stephen King, I was pretty excited for this movie, but also a bit afraid of how it would turn out. The 1990 mini-series isn’t exactly what I would call great, but it is quite fun to watch, in great parts because of how campy it is and obviously, because of Tim Curry. So of course, I was afraid that they would do more of a remake of said mini-series, and not an adaptation of the book, but I was pleasantly surprised.
As soon as the movie began, I knew I was in for a great adaptation. Georgie’s death was exactly how I remember it from the book. The movie did not shy away from actually showing us Georgie with one arm ripped off, something the mini-series completely omitted. Not that I enjoy violence made to children, but I just think that if you’re directing or viewing a Stephen King adaptation, you should know that some disgusting stuff might happen. Seeing Georgie that way shows us how far the movie is ready to go to remain faithful to the book. Because yes, I thought the adaptation was quite faithful. It might take place in a different time period (in the book, the Losers’ Club are kids in the 50s), but the main themes and elements of the story remain the same. But more on that later.
The characters were very well written and the actors did a great job of portraying them. The Losers’ Club really comes to life in the most interesting and realistic way possible. Bill Denbrough, played by Jaeden Lieberher, is the leader of the gang. He believes that his younger brother Georgie is still alive and wants to find him and bring him back home. Of course, his character arc revolves around his coming to terms with his brother’s death, which can become a bit cliché at times, but the way he is portrayed is quite interesting. Bill also stutters, which could easily be overplayed and become more of a poor imitation of a real speech impediment and unintentionally “funny”, but Jaeden Lieberher does a great job at keeping it realistic. I don’t stutter myself, but I know some people who do, and Bill’s speech was pretty much on point.
Beverly Marsh, played by Sophia Lillis, was pretty faithful to her book counterpart and the actress was very convincing. Beverly has a very unhealthy relationship with her dad; he seems to have some quite incestuous ideas at times, and even though we never see him act on them, we would not necessarily be surprised if he did. In the book, it is also alluded that he can become violent, but the movie doesn’t concentrate too much on that. Sophia Lillis, when confronted to the father character, successfully makes us feel how afraid Beverly is of him. We feel for her and would love to be able to do something to help her. She later takes things in her own hands, and stands up to her dad in a pretty violent way, but you can still feel how scared she is of him. One of the biggest book-to-movie changes concerning her character happens near the end of the movie, when she suddenly becomes a damsel in distress. In the book, Beverly escapes Pennywise and later goes in the sewers with the rest of the Losers to defeat it. In the movie, Pennywise successfully captures her and even makes her float. The six other Losers, all boys, come to her rescue and Ben saves her from Pennywise’s “spell” by kissing her. I find this damsel-in-distress trope extremely outdated and consider it one of the few big mistakes of the movie.
Richie Tozier, played by Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things, made me laugh many times, not only because of what he said, but because of the way he said it and when. I think his character had some of the best timing in his dialogue and actions. In the book, Richie often talks too much and can become a bit offensive, even towards his friends, and his friends often “beep beep” him when they want him to stop. He also loves to poorly imitate accents and create characters with his voice. In the movie, the other Losers don’t really use the “beep beep” system, and Richie does not create as many voices as he does in the book, but he is still a very fun character and has some of the best lines in the film. I loved him in the book and I still love him in the movie. As good as I thought Finn Wolfhard was in Stranger Things, I still found him a little bit insecure as an actor, which is totally normal. In It, he shows a bit more control over his acting and successfully plays a character that is quite different from the one he portrays in Stranger Things. With type-casting as an issue for many actors, Finn Wolfhard proves he can play various characters on screen.
Eddie Kaspbrak, played by Jack Dylan Grazer, surprised me. In the book, I liked his character, but he definitely wasn’t my favourite. In the movie, I adored him. He was charming and fun and as the movie went on, he started to built up more courage, but also a personality distinct from his mother’s over-protectiveness and hypochondriac nature. Of course, if you read the book, you know he ends up marrying a woman who acts and even looks like his mother, but that is another story. I had never heard of Jack Dylan Grazer before, but I think we’ll definitely see more of him.
Ben Hanscom, played by Jeremy Ray Taylor, is one of my favourite characters in the book. He is quite similar in the movie, personality wise, but they make him the one who researches and knows of Derry’s History, instead of Mike Hanlon. In the book, Mike has a lot of knowledge of the town’s violent history, which helps the Losers understand what is going on. In the movie, Ben takes his place as the historian of the Losers’ Club; his bedroom walls are covered in news articles and achieve pictures about Derry and the dramatic and violent events that take place in the town every 27 years. This is another one of the biggest book-to-movie changes in a character, and I must admit it pissed me off a little bit. It doesn’t drastically change the events of the story, but I still don’t understand why the filmmakers thought this shift was necessary.
Mike Hanlon, played by Chosen Jacobs, is the character that is, according to me, the least faithful to his book counterpart. Not only does Ben becomes the historian instead of him, his whole backstory changes. In the movie, both his parents die in a destructive fire, which doesn’t happen in the book. His character is also much more important in the book than in the movie, and I wonder how the second part of the story, the adult part, will play out for him. His first encounter with the Losers is quite faithful to the book, rock fight and all, but many elements of his personal story are left out. In the book, he acts as a sort of narrator for the story. He is also the only character who stays in Derry as an adult and becomes the town librarian. Since his “historian” side was given to Ben instead, I wonder if the sequel will still see him become the town librarian or if the filmmakers will once again shift this part to Ben.
Finally, Stanley Uris, played by Wyatt Oleff, left me quite indifferent, just like he did in the book. He has some good moments and the actor who portrays him does a good job, but I still think his character has a weak presence in the story as a whole. I understand what he represents and why he is in the story but, both in the book and the movie, I think his character is not the best written one and remains in the shadows of the others.
Working with younger actors can often be more difficult, as many of them are not professionally trained, or act out emotions in a way that can be a little bit off, but the cast of It was great and I’m sure we’ll see them in other films.
Clowns have terrified me ever since I was a kid and saw reruns of the It mini-series. Tim Curry’s Pennywise is the reason I am afraid of clowns, and even though I would not call it a phobia, they make me very uncomfortable and I would not like to encounter one. I recently re-watched the mini-series, and even though I love Tim Curry and his acting was great, I think Pennywise is not as scary as it should be. The mini-series portrays it more as a joker, a trickster, than an actual murderous creature. The 2017 movie does a better job at making the clown scary. It still has a trickster side to it, but it is more terrifying and violent, like it is in the book. Bill Skarsgård is amazing as Pennywise. He found the right, terrifying but almost funny voice for the killer being, but also the right laugh, the right smile and the right on-screen presence. Bill Skarsgård is a very tall man, but what makes him truly impressive is the clown suit and creepy vibe, and I think that even if Skarsgård hadn’t been as tall, the character would have worked the same. Like, even if he wasn’t about 6’4″, Pennywise would have been scary.
The movie as a whole, looks great. The CGI doesn’t look fake and is not cheaply over-used like in so many other movies. The costumes and decors are great and give out a real 80s vibe, and even though I was not even born yet in the 80s, I feel like the movie is representative of the era. There are many nods and references to 80s pop-culture, but also to the 1990 mini-series (in one scene, Richie ends up in a room full of clown dolls and mannequins and one of them is Tim Curry’s Pennywise). The references are fun and they don’t take over the story, which is great.
As I mentioned earlier, in the book, the Losers are kids in the 50s, but the movie made the switch to the 80s. I guess it is in part because of the recent wave of 80s nostalgia that is happening on TV and in movies, but also because it might be more relatable to today’s audience than the 50s are. I didn’t mind the change, and I actually thought it was a good idea, because then, the adult part of the story will take place in 2016-2017 approximately, which could lead to an interesting approach, wether or not they end up referencing the clown sightings that took place recently. Even though the time period changes, the themes, values, characters and main events of the story remain the same and are adapted to the different time period. Pennywise doesn’t turn into the Universal monsters, such as the mommy and the werewolf like it does in the book, but its essence remains the same; it will turn into whatever its victim is most afraid of. The power of imagination is extremely important in both the book and the movie, but some finer details are left out of the movie. It doesn’t hurt it too much and these elements might still be explored in the sequel.
At the end of the movie, after the Losers’ final fight with Pennywise, the children that were floating are seen coming back to the ground. The movie then cuts to another scene and it is never mentioned what happened to the kids. Are they all dead or are they all still alive? Once again, they might explain this in the sequel, or they might ignore it completely, which would lead to quite an important plot hole. It is also quite possible that Henry Bowers is dead, but since we didn’t actually see him die on screen, he might still be alive. In the book, he survives Pennywise’s 50s attacks and is still part of the story in the 80s to once again torment the now adult Losers. Maybe we’ll see him again in the sequel, or they might have decided to eliminate his character completely. The movie leaves a few things open, once again because they might be more relevant in the sequel. Most of the problems I have with this movie are nitpicks about little book-to-movie changes, but if you haven’t read the book, the movie still makes sense and is really good. It can be really funny at times, but not because the effects are bad or anything like that. The funny moments are meant to be funny, unlike many other funny moments in scary movies, that were meant to be scary but are so bad they make us laugh instead. I think it relies a bit too much on jump scares, but they are not used in a way that harms the movie too much.
In the end, It was a pretty good movie, one I definitely would go see in theatre again, and left me excited for the sequel. It is one of the few good Stephen King adaptations and I would definitely recommend it.
It : B+