I guess I should actually title this review It: Chapter One, as that’s what the movie calls itself before the credits roll. Which, is kind of a dumb title in my opinion. It: Chapter One would end with poor Georgie getting taken by Pennywise, and be about a five minute movie. It: Volume One would speak more to the book based origins of the tale, whetting the appetite for the inevitable Volume 2 conclusion chapter, as they only cover the first half of the book in this movie, which is a smart decision on the filmmaker’s parts.
In case you’re channeling your inner Faith No More and are asking me, “What is It?” right now, and haven’t been online in the last six months or so, It, is the movie adaptation of the classic Stephen King novel, which was previously made into an ABC miniseries starring the legendary Tim Curry in the role of Pennywise, and one that to me, who had just read the book not long before I watched the TV movie of the week version, merely thought “It” to be okay, but Curry’s Pennywise was worth watching “It” for.
This current movie adaptation has been in the works for a few years actually, was at one point going to be directed by Cary Fukunaga who left the production at some point, and was fully finally directed by Andy Muschietti (Mama). The script by Chase Lieberman, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman does some updates to the novel, which was set in the 1950’s during the first half of the book when the kids first encounter It, to a more audience friendly 1989, which really worked for me, as a kid growing up in that time frame.
The same story plays out as in the novel, despite the adjusted time frame, and Derry, Maine has had a long history of missing children going back since the town’s founding, and this time a group of kids figure out what’s going on, after Bill’s (Jared Lieberher-Midnight Special) brother Georgie is taken by the clown prince of fear, Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard-Hemlock Grove) and him and his friends also encounter the demon in their own ways and seeing them through their own fears, before banding together to destroy It once and for all.
There was a lot to like about this movie, I loved the setting, and the bond between the kids felt real,with dialogue that felt as I talked with my own friends as a kid, a little rough, a little raunchy, but real.
I loved also the Spielberg-esque moments from time to time we get in this movie, little things like kids riding their bikes through the neighborhood, and some zoom in shots felt very much like a product of the time in which the film was set, great soundtrack as well using some underused music from the time period, it fit the era perfectly.
Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things does another great job in a role set in the 1980s with a group of friends who have to stop a supernatural threat. Though his Ritchie is as far removed from Mike from the Netflix show as possible, he’s the loudmouth of the group, or the “Mouth” if we’re comparing The Losers Club to The Goonies. He does a great job in this movie.
As does Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise, what little we get from him actually acting that is, is pretty great. Where the movie fell apart for me was the overuse of cgi and jump scares. Like most of the “scares” in this movie felt like they were just taken from the video game Five Nights at Freddy’s but replacing demon robot bears and such with demon clowns.
Some of the practical effects worked for me though, and the sequence with the clown dolls, including an homage to Tim Curry’s Pennywise kept me entertained and interested.
Also, I find this strange to say in a movie that’s already close to two and a half hours long but there were parts of the movie that felt rushed to me, and we really don’t get to know any of the kids at all except for that they’re in this group, or meet up with them later on, such as the case of Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs) who we get an intro for in the start of the movie, then just kind of shows up near the end and joins the group like their token Winston Zeddemore, who is basically only useful because he has a bolt gun that they can use to kill the beast with.
What’s really scary to me in this movie was the human element of fear, character’s such as the bully Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton-The Dark Tower) and Mr. Bowers (Stephen Bogaert-American Psycho) were more frightening to me as we see people like that every day unfortunately. Henry felt a bit over the top stereotypical bully, but we do get a little insight into what makes him this way, not as much as we do in the book, but again, time constraints.
The flaws with this movie, overuse of cgi and jump scares aside really come down to time constraints. You can only do so much in a movie, it can only be so long. Now, where this movie would be best served would be a Netflix or Hulu streaming series, where we can really get to know these characters and feel for them as we do when reading a book. Some stories, like this, are best served that way.
In the end, I wanted to like It a lot more than I did, so I can only give the movie at best a C+ rating. I will say that the movie is leaps and bounds ahead of most other Stephen King adaptations out there, so there is that.
It: Final Grade C+
It is playing in theaters now.