Synopsis: It (titled onscreen as It: Chapter One) is a 2017 American supernatural horror film directed by Andy Muschietti, based on the 1986 novel of the same name by Stephen King. The screenplay is by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman. A second installment is planned. The film tells the story of seven children in Derry, Maine, who are terrorized by the eponymous being, only to face their own personal demons in the process. The novel was previously adapted into a 1990 miniseries.
Desolately Short Opinion: After the disappointment of The Dark Tower, this movie has everything it needs to make a great horror movie. It outdoes the Mini Series, without trying to emulate or outdo Tim Curry’s stellar performance as Pennywise and as a result, Bill Skarsgard makes the role his own!
Desolately long opinion…
The “It” mini series that premiered in 1990 has remained a cult hit, despite major flaws. One of the reasons for its (haha) resilience is Tim Curry’s spectacular performance as Pennywise the Clown. Many people believed that Curry’s performance could never be topped, so talks of film or other adaptations were usually short-lived. However, the miniseries’ flaws have continued to remain very noticeable, to the degree that many scenes intended to invoke terror were seen as humorous, to the degree that upon closer scrutiny, Tim Curry’s performance was possibly the only real good part about it. Perhaps it was inevitable that a new adaptation was made even though the charm of Curry’s endured.
First, let’s talk about the casting choices for the Losers’ Club. Jaeden Lieberher as Bill Denbrough brings a great layer of believability, grief, and vulnerability as the de facto leader of the Losers’ Club. A fair part of the movie is about Ben both coming terms with the fact that his little brother, Georgie, is dead rather than “missing” as he continues to insist, as well as learning that what happened to Georgie isn’t an isolated incident and that something deeply sinister and troubling is going on in Derry. As he learns more about the evil at work within Derry, he begins to take initiative with a desire to destroy Pennywise.
Finn Wolfhard, now well known for his performance in Stranger Things (also inspired by Stephen King), takes on the role of Richie Tozier. Always ready with a witty line, usually in the form of an insult or put down to his friends, one gets the feeling that his friends tolerate his presence more than enjoy it, but it doesn’t lessen the mutual strength of their bonds to each other when it counts. This role is much different to Wolfhard’s role as Mike Wheeler in Stranger Things (which is very similar to Bill in personality, funny enough), but he displays a great range of the two characters and he can be very funny or very serious when the story needs him to be, whenever he needs to be.
Beverly Marsh is played by Sophia Lillis and, like the rest of the cast does great work! Like many other members of the Losers’ Club, she doesn’t have a great home life, and in fact, hers is arguably the worst with her character heavily implied to have suffered or is suffering sexual abuse from her father. Like Bill, when she comes to learn and understand the dark secret of Derry she also takes the initiative, even when their other friends hesitate.
Jeremy Ray Taylor plays Ben Hanscom, the new kid whose isolation and loneliness lead him to frequent the public library and develop a fascination with Derry’s history. As he meets the other members of the Losers’ Club while escaping the torment of a local bully, he comes to realize just how sinister and otherworldly Derry’s disturbing history really is. Interactions between him and his love interest, Beverly, are very sweet with Beverly constantly playfully teasing him over his liking of New Kids on the Block. He, along with Mike, also has the misfortune of being a primary target for Henry Bowers and his friends.
Jack Dylan Grazer plays Eddie Kaspbrak, an asthmatic, germaphobe, and possible hypochondriac who is close friends with Bill. Any time a dispute occurs between the friends, Eddie seems to be the one who steps in and tries to calm things down. He’s also teased relentlessly by Richie because of his overbearing mother. There are strong implications that Eddie’s mother is abusive towards him, though nowhere near as blatantly as Beverly’s father (however she seems to have a desire for a disturbingly close relationship with her son, like Beverly and her father).
Stanley Uris is played by Wyatt Oleff. Of all the members of the Losers’ Club, he seems to sadly be the least developed. He’s Jewish and his Bar Mitzvah is approaching, which he doesn’t seem terribly enthusiastic about, much to the displeasure of his father. The reason why isn’t given any more detail. As with the rest of his friends, It torments him by way of his worst fear which takes the form of a misshapen woman from a painting that looks like something from Salvadore Dali.
Mike Hanlon, played by Chosen Jacobs, works at a slaughterhouse with his grandfather after losing both his parents to a house fire. Like Ben, he is also a favored target of Henry Bowers. He views himself as an outsider, sometimes even among the Losers’ Club, but comes to find his new friends are very loyal and reliable. Unfortunately, like Stan, his character isn’t explored quite as well as the other characters’.
Now the friends who make up the Losers’ Club are very important and essential for the story. They must be, and are, believable. However, an adaptation of It must also have a compelling portrayal of “It” or Pennywise, as his primary incarnation is shown. Tim Curry was very boisterous in his performance, which worked very well. Bill Skarsgard and the writers of this adaptation took a different approach. Skarsgard’s performance is much goofier, as befitting of a clown, as well as cheerful. If you’re unaware of Pennywise’s true nature, this portrayal can certainly take you off guard. Skarsgard’s portrayal is more subdued, yet animated with a very interesting and effective take on the voice. He sounds like a cartoon character, similar to Scooby Doo’s inflections and tone in fact. He brings a very different and absolutely terrifying performance!
What the critics had to say…
Critical response to this adaptation has been very favorable, with Richard Roeper giving it 4 out of 4 stars. The movie currently holds an 85% “Certified Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 8.1/10 on IMDB. In general, critics have praised the performances of the actors and the use of scares, though some have voiced annoyance with the indulgence of jump scares.
In general, critics have praised the performances of the actors and the use of scares, though some have voiced annoyance with the indulgence of jump scares.
What we liked in particular…
- Bill Skarsgard gives a magnificent performance as this movie’s main attraction, Pennywise the Dancing Clown.
- The film makes great, calculated use of not only jump scares but also Uncanny Valley effects.
- The young actors portraying the Losers’ Club members all give outstanding and believable performances.
- This adaptation gives better detail on the dark nature of the town of Derry, Maine, including both implicit and explicit signs that adults might not only be aware of what’s happening to their children but willfully ignorant or even accepting.
- Keeping the kids’ story in its own chapter instead of trying to cram a modern-day narrative with flashbacks in one movie.
- Although not discussed in depth, “It’s” true nature as an otherworldly abomination is made more explicit.
What we didn’t like so much…
- A love triangle/possible unrequited love situation between Bill, Beverly, and Ben, which gets tedious very fast.
- A lack of character development and structure for the characters of Stan and Mike.
- Beverly becomes a Damsel in Distress at one point.
What we would have liked…
- Seeing the ritual that the friends perform to learn more about It and actually defeat It in a battle of wills. It’s called the Ritual of Chud and it also allows them to discover Its true form.
- Seeing the entity that opposes It, Maturin the Ancient turtle and creator of our universe.
Some fun facts about Stephen King’s IT…
- In the original novel, to strengthen the bond between all of them as kids, Beverly has sex with all of the boys.
- Like many of Stephen King’s stories, It is referenced in other novels including Tommyknockers, Dreamcatcher, and Insomnia.
- In the novel, the friends perform a ritual to see Its true nature and true form, discovering that It isn’t actually from Earth and receive advice from a benevolent entity on how to defeat It.
- In the mini series, Tim Curry stayed in-character all throughout filming with helped keep the other actors terrified, as well as some of the crew members.
- In the novel, Its true form as a spider is opposite of a benevolent, but more passive, turtle. The turtle and spider are major factors in the Dark Tower novels.
So is IT worth a watch or not?
Absolutely! Things that might be flaws in other movies are used to strengthen the unsettling atmosphere of this movie. CGI is sometimes used in a way that it doesn’t look quite right, which works very well for this movie. The jump scares are planted throughout various scenes like a master war tactician places landmines, placing some in the obvious places, but putting enough in not so obvious places that you’re never really sure what to expect.