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Movie Review: Stephen King’s IT (2017)

Article by: Robert Sommerfield

 

We’ve finally made it.  After years of rumors, rewrites, and a catalog of people entering and leaving the project, we finally have an actual ‘R’ rated movie based on Stephen King’s most terrifying 1000 page epic, IT.

There’s been a lot of movies over the years that I’ve been hotly anticipating, and hell, even salivating to see, but none have come close to how much I’ve been waiting to see a new, proper adaptation to Stephen King’s IT.  Of course, the track record of King’s movie adaptations is certainly hit or miss, and the hype train is chugging for this film — how can it possibly live up to it?  Will it be a watered down, YA version like the recent (and abysmal) Dark Tower, or will we get something that will be remembered for years, like Carrie?  Let’s take a look, dear reader…

I should preface this first by saying that I am an unapologetic and rabid fan of the original Tim Curry miniseries from the early 1990s.  Why do I need to state this?  Well, I think that’s kind of at the heart of how people will feel about the new IT.

I have a friend who is equally as excited as I am about this new film–we both read (and reread, for me) the original novel prior to the release and, a few weeks ago, after I had the opportunity to already see the film, he called me up excitedly proclaiming that “we have to rewatch the original now!”  I paused for a moment, because I had rewatched the original a mere week before watching the new one and I had to tell him that that was a bad idea.  I wasn’t sure how to properly explain it other than to say “This new IT…. is not the old IT.”  You need to shake away all prior expectations and keep your feelings about the original separate when watching this new adaptation.

So what’s so different about the new film compared to the original miniseries?  Well, practically everything, to be honest.  We all already know that this is part one of an eventual two part film dealing only with the children’s storylines, so that’s immediately noticeable.  For some, this will be a wonderful breath of fresh air, for others, it’s going to feel weird and off balance, because you will be expecting certain things, and when they don’t happen, you’re going to be confused.

The film opens with the familiar story of Georgie and his paper boat.  This plays out very close to the original, but with a bit more flash and much more violence than we remember.  To finally see this scene play out as it did in the book and how many of us WISHED it played out in the miniseries will give some viewers goosebumps.  The opening alone made the entire film worth the effort for me.  It’s THAT good.

It
BILL SKARSGÅRD as Pennywise
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures/New Line Cinema

The biggest question on everyone’s minds, though, has been “how is the new Pennywise?” I can honestly say that Bill Skarsgård makes the role his own.  No one would be able to redo Tim Curry’s tremendous performance, and thankfully, Bill didn’t try to emulate it — he brought a fresh take on the character and it’s mesmerizing.  Bill plays the character almost as childlike and fascinated by the children, as if he’s truly otherworldly and has nothing else but them on his mind, all the while  eager to take their very souls.  While Curry’s Pennywise was a creepier and fun take on the character, Bill’s is downright terrifying.  (If clowns scared you before, you may want to bring a paper bag to the theater to breathe out of!)  Whenever he’s on-screen, you can’t take your eyes off of him.

As far as the children in the film go, the casting was also very well done  The kids fit their characters very well and you can start to get the sense of the camaraderie that the Loser’s Club develops pretty quickly in the story.  This, however, brings me to one of my very few and minor gripes about the film.  A few of the character’s personalities and backstories have been switched around it seems, which made me feel a little off, having been a fan of the other iterations of the story.  That being said, it still works and doesn’t really affect the story itself.

My biggest complaint is the time-period switch.  I really missed the 1950s backdrop and the “wholesome innocence” of the ’50s.  At times, it felt more like Stranger Things as opposed to Stephen King’s IT.  Having the time period shifted creates some updating of characters, scenes, and scares.  For instance, Henry Bowers is no longer the leather jacket greaser with a switchblade we’ve come to know, but is now a mullet-sporting metal head cruising around in a Pontiac Firebird.  There’s also a few other changes that I won’t spoil, but you’ll quickly understand what I mean.  These changes are not a movie-killing flaw, however, and I understand why they most likely chose this route: budget, I’m sure, but the adults reading the IT novel in the 1980s were children in the ’50s and ’60s, so during their read were likely getting that nostalgic warm feeling throughout the story.  Adults going to see this new adaptation will likely feel the same for the ’80s. I’ll leave that opinion up to you, of course, but I still wanted to mention it nonetheless.

So how exactly does this new version of IT fare?  Well, what it comes down to is that the film is quite scary, and overall a surprisingly good movie. It exists as a separate entity of the miniseries — with the miniseries having some things included from the novel that this leaves out, and vice versa,  but overall I can say I was a fan, and look forward to seeing it again.

My hope is that, when part 2 is finally finished, they release (theatrically or on blu-ray) a sort-of “novel edit” where they will combine the two films together to actually jump back and forth from time periods the way the novel (and miniseries) did.  Other than that, I’m excited to see the reaction to IT upon its release (Sept. 8, 2017).

Of course, it was about time Pennywise returned — after all, it has been 27 years…

 

MG Rating: 4.5/5

 

Robert Sommerfield
Robert is a self-professed lover of all things cinematic and nerd culture. When he’s not watching movies, television, or sleeping, he enjoys writing, video games, and wine, and sometimes all three together. He currently lives in Austin, TX and splits his time between working for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and wondering why his life isn’t more like a John Hughes film.

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