Well guys, I’m just back from seeing IT (for the second time) at the cinema and I think I have organized my thoughts enough to type out a coherent review.
I have been looking forward to this movies for years. It’s absolutely true – the movie has been in development hell for at least seven years and has gone through many iterations (and a couple of directorial and cast changes) but was finally, FINALLY, released in theatres on Friday. Was it worth waiting for? HELL YES. Was it a faithful adaptation? Mostly. Was it perfect? Nope, but I doubt anything would live up to my sky-high expectations.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we…
IT: The Beginning
I first read IT by Stephen King when I was little more than a nipper. ‘Tis true, I was (barely) twelve years old when I first read King’s masterpiece and it absolutely scared the ever-living-shit out of me. Sorry for the colourful language but in this case I believe it to be completely justified.
IT is without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most if not THE most terrifying books I have ever read. Seriously, I had to sleep with the light on for about two months afterwards. I was in no way easily frightened as a kid either. I loved horror (both in books and movies) and had an impressive constitution when it came to scares… or so I thought at least.
IT changed everything for me. I really related to the characters (who were roughly around the same age as I was during the flashback portions of the book) as I was bullied as a pre-teen and they felt real to me in ways a lot of other book characters didn’t.
I read IT over the span of a few days and although it definitely had a few WTF moments (the *ahem* orgy sequence where the kids move from childhood to adulthood by indulging in a bit of underage sex – yep, you read that right) but overall it was a fairly realistic depiction of childhood.
These kids were losers like I was. They were bullied and ignored like I was. I related heavily to them and the trials they go through and although I was never pursued by a child-eating malevolent creature (that I am aware of anyway) their transition to young adulthood felt about as turbulent as my own.
IT was a revelation to me. Although the adult portion of the novel was slightly less relatable to me, I still enjoyed seeing the characters mature and face their demons.
IT: The Miniseries
Not too long after reading the book, I discovered the television adaptation which I also really enjoyed even though it never quite reached the heights of the book for me.
Tim Curry was a tour de force as Pennywise and I very much enjoyed the kids section of the miniseries although the less said about the adult portion, the better. I am in no way dissing the adult actors (they really did their best to add some gravitas to the proceedings) but the storyline for their half of the tale was disappointingly scripted and veered on the camp rather than scary.
Although it was clearly limited by budgetary constraints, it was a satisfactory adaptation if not completely faithful to the original novel. Even then though, I often wondered what could be accomplished with a movie version rather than a somewhat sanitized TV adaptation. I would wait a long time for this vision to be realized.
IT: Development Hell
As I mentioned above, the movie lingered in development hell for years. Originally, True Detective creator Cary Fukunaga was signed on to direct (he still has a scriptwriter credit) and I was intrigued by what he would bring to the table especially as he had casted Will Poulter (an actor whose career that I have followed since he was a young ‘un) as Pennywise.
After some disagreements with New Line, the studio funding the project, Fukunaga stepped aside and it looked as though the movie would never come to fruition. Luckily, Mama director Andrés Muschietti felt up to the challenge of taking on the immense role of adapting this monster of a book into a workable film.
IT: The Movie
Now, finally we come to the movie itself. Muschietti has brought a brand new vision to IT. From what I can gather, it is fairly different to Fukunaga’s original concept. It added in a lot more of the book and is overall a more faithful adaptation.
But, the age-old question remains, is IT any good?
Well, I am happy to report that IT is a pretty damn good movie in its own right. A lot of the elements from the book are retained and the changes such as moving the setting from the 1950s to the 1980s (and cashing in on the trend that the 80s is cool again that Stranger Things had going for it) works for the most part.
The movie opens with the iconic sequence of young Georgie Denbrough pestering his older brother Bill for a boat to sail in the storm that has kept him stuck indoors. This instantly sets the tone and the interplay between the two brothers is both dynamic and realistic. This then makes the following scene where young Georgie becomes IT’s first victim all the more heart-breaking.
The movie then shifts on to approximately eight months later, where the kids are finishing up school for the long-awaited summer holidays and making plans. For Bill Denbrough and his three young chums Eddie Kaspbrak, Stan Uris, and Richie Tozier – this means starting the search for Georgie whom Bill is convinced is still alive and alone and hurt somewhere within the town sewer system.
Their search will lead them to fellow outsiders Ben Hanscom, Beverley Marsh and Mike Hanlon and the seven of them form the ‘Losers Club’ who band together to not only try to ascertain what has happened to Georgie but to also find the other missing children of Derry. One by one, each of them will come to realize that there is a menace far beyond the uncaring adults and psychopathic bullies that dog them, that there is something far more evil in the town of Derry and IT is hungry…
The kid actors in the movie are beyond fantastic. They are such a great group and they really do feel like friends. There is a slight Stand by Me vibe at times which really works to the movie’s benefit. I was very impressed by Sophia Lillis who plays the young Beverley Marsh and Finn Wolfhard who plays Richie ‘Trashmouth’ Tozier (my favourite character from the book incidentally) but they were all excellent.
I was actually most concerned about Bill Skarsgård being able to convincingly pull off Pennywise (especially after the always-amazing Tim Curry) but I needn’t have worried because he brought a whole new meaning to word ‘terrifying’. He wasn’t Tim Curry but didn’t try to be which definitely was the right choice. He made the role his own.
The story was tweaked in places and there were some changes, but overall it retained the feel of the book which I think is much more important than being a direct word-for-word, scene-for-scene adaptation.
I thoroughly enjoyed IT and after viewing it a second time round, think it is definitely a contender for my favourite movie of the year. I am keeping my fingers crossed that it is successful enough that to warrant Chapter 2 (which is wholly contingent on the success of Chapter 1 unfortunately).
IT: Some Other Thoughts
Now, I have a theory *that it’s a demon, a dancing demon… gotta throw in a Buffy reference now and again dontcha know!* that there is a good reason why Sophia Lillis was cast as Beverley, she really looks like a young Amy Adams. Could it be that Muschietti is maybe courting Amy to play the elder Beverley Marsh?
A particular scene in IT where the creepy pharmacist likens the young lass to Lois Lane (played by Amy Adams in the latest adaptation of Superman) could perhaps lend credence to this theory. Or it could just be me spit-balling wildly here but I think I may be on to something…
This movie didn’t have as many allusions to other Stephen King works like The Dark Tower movie did, but it certainly made up for that with a lot of 80s nostalgia such as the Gremlins and Beetlejuice posters on one of the characters bedroom walls and Nightmare on Elm Street 5 playing at the local theatre in the film.
They also managed to squeeze in a reference to the Turtle that plays a role in the book (though wisely, not in this movie as it would probably be a bit too fantastical and that it is taking into account that IT literally is about a killer clown from outer space!) and where would an 80s-themed movie be without a New Kids on the Block appearance??
IT: Some Fun Facts
Fun fact 1: the Duffer brothers wanted to direct IT once upon a time but were deemed too inexperienced. They later would go on to create the genre savvy Stranger Things which was an unexpected hit.
Fun fact 2: IT shares a cast member with Stranger Things in young Finn Wolfhard who plays wise-cracking Richie in the film.
Fun fact 3: The entity IT makes an appearance every 27 years where it gorges itself on children (literally feeding itself on their fear) and goes into a sort-of hibernation until the next cycle is up. The miniseries was released in 1990. The movie has been released in 2017 – exactly 27 years later. Spooky coincidence? I think not…
Fun fact 4: The only cast member to have been cast in both the unfilmed Fukunaga version and Muschietti finished movie was Finn Wolfhard.
Fun fact 5: The scenes where Pennywise’s eyes move in different directions was not aided by CGI – actor Bill Skarsgård is actually able to do this. Also, the scene where Pennywise unfolds himself from a refrigerator was also Skarsgård; on set he was given training by a professional contortionist in order to perform the scene himself. Dude really does go ‘method’ to get the right result!
Fun fact 6: Stephen King fully endorsed the film – he saw an early screening and gave the project his approval.