Directed by: Andy Muschietti
Written by: screenplay by Chase Palmer, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman (based on the novel by Stephen King)
Featuring: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Martell, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, Nicholas Hamilton, Sophia Lillis
Bill Denbrough’s brother George goes missing the the town of Derry and from that point on this one tragic event shapes the rest of Bill’s life. Now a bullied in and out of school Bill with a group of fellow bullied kids, The Losers Club, discover that the events in Derry and behaviour of it’s residents have been formed by a shape-shifting monster that preys on children and their fear. Now the Losers have to do something.
Based on the highly successful It novel by Stephen King and following on some twenty years after a successful TV adaptation of said novel with a memorable turn by Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown this new movie version was up against it before the outset. Did it succeed, I would say in some cases yes and others no.
Skarsgard, with the hardest job to do, has to wipe away older viewers memory of Curry’s performance, I’d say he just about does with his Pennywise being more alien, more a version where something is trying to be a vision or version of a clown but not doing such a great job. Curry’s version was more like a clown that hid the evil, this version cannot quite do it. So both are good and different in their own sense.
The casting of the kids is great and generally their acting is believable and of the highest standard, only when they are asked to push the emotional envelope do they stumble a bit but that is too be expected, they are children. It has to be said Sophia Lillis seems too pretty, too sharp, too bright, to be bullied or even in the Losers Club.
The opening scene setting and introduction to the story are great, atmospheric and full of evil foreboding but they also set a standard that unfortunately the film then fails to get back up to. It was a huge shame that the story’s timeline was moved from the 1950s to the 1980s so that we could get a Stranger Things-like story on the big screen because I genuinely believe this takes away the strength of the tale. One example being the monsters, in the original story they are ridiculous movieland creatures that would the kids of the day would be frightened off, silly looking but in Pennywise’s hands deadly and dangerous. In Muchietti’s version of It they are generic and ulitmately dull.
Another anchor that drags the film down is the movie victim’s trope that really should be lost nowadays. The kids are shown to be scared by resourceful, have a good idea what they are fighting and how it works, then when we get to the meetings with Pennywise they forget all about it and scream, shout, split-up and generally behave like its next victims, rather than nemesis.
Herein lies another rub too. Although I’m an old beardy weirdy man and therefore don’t necessarily get scared by films I am not made of stone and understand what is meant to be scary, or enthralling or as I see it, funny and at no time did I really feel that It was truly scary. There was tension, monsters, death, mystery but it just was not scary. Logic, as in most films, take a break, but with Pennywise being all powerful, feeding on the fear of children by isolating them, able to get access to anywhere they are, well that’s just a bit too all powerful even for resourceful brave kids.
It is ultimately a bit of a damp squib, well acted throughout, seems to be the correct running length, after all it is a big novel and a lot of stuff has to excluded, but the film does not do any justice to Stephen King’s novel and has some ideas that should have stayed on the ideas board. Too much CGI for Pennywise, let him be more clown than monster, that is supposedly how he got all his victims over the centuries, if you going to make your kids, bright, resourceful but scared do not make them bright and resourceful one minute then as dumb as fence-posts the next. It would take extraordinary children to beat Pennywise.
Finally, what happened to all those floating bodies at the end….yeeeew.