The big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s seminal novel, It, has finally hit cinemas. The novel has already been adapted into a television miniseries in 1990. Hindsight is everything and while nostalgia plays a part, the miniseries is not that good. Tim Curry as Pennywise the Dancing Clown is really the only thing that goes beyond critique as the great actor delivers a great performance. But that was then and this is now. Andy Muschetti, the director of Mama, has taken the reigns over the film adaptation which only covers one half of the story. How does it fare?
It is one of the best films of 2017. The filmmakers took a wise choice by instead of adapting the entire novel, they instead chose to go chronologically and thus the child half of the story. This helps keeps the film focused on one singular story instead of having to cater to the half where the children are adults. In fact, this makes the film feel more like a coming of age story…that just happens to feature a killer monster.
People were wondering how Bill Skarsgard would fare up as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. His version of the infamous killer clown is far different from what came before. This Pennywise is from the get go, a monster and definitely otherworldly. While the Tim Curry interpretation was much more bombastic and chewing scenery, Skarsgard is vicious. He still cracks (very dark) jokes but is much more silent and more like a predatory waiting to catch its prey. He’s not in the film all that much, Pennywise is a shapeshifter, but he does make the most of his screen time.
The true heart of the film lies within the kids aka The Losers Club. Bill, Mike, Stanley, Beverly, Ben, Eddie and Richie make up the group of outcasts who have to come together to stop this evil that lies within their city. The standouts for me are Beverly, Ben, Eddie and Richie. Beverly is the only girl in the group who has to deal with her own monstrous home life. Eddie and Richie provide the comic relief as the former is something of a hypochondriac while the latter is the jokester of the group. Ben is the chubby new kid and that is what I was as a kid. The other three do fine in their roles but these four were my favorites. The best part about all of them is that they behave like children. They swear like children do as in they just swear to swear. If there is one weakness is that some of the kids, Mike and Stan, don’t really get much to do.
One of my favorite aspects of the film was the sound design. In any sort of horror movie or thriller, sound design plays an integral role. Whenever Pennywise enters the scene, he is always accompanied by a haunting tune. Since you have to pay attention to a lot of background material as well, it makes you wanna go back and watch the movie again to hear things you may not have heard the first time. Since the movie is set in the 80’s, it would have been easy to lace the film with an 80’s soundtrack. The filmmakers go a better route and only really include one notable 80’s act and it’s more of a running joke than anything.
Andy Muschetti was a perfect choice to direct this film. You can tell that he wanted to stay true to the source material but also know that he was adapting it to film and thus had to make changes to better fit a film narrative. For a movie that is two hours and fifteen minutes, I hardly felt it. In fact, as soon as I realized that the third act was starting I was genuinely surprised. Once the movie was done, I wish that we could have spent more time with the cast and got to learn more about the characters. Even though there is an inevitable sequel on the way, this film does work on its own as a complete film while leaving just enough out there to hint towards the future. Not sure if this is the best Stephen King adaptation I have seen but it is certainly one of them.