Bill Skarsgard, Finn Wolfard
dir. Andy Muschietti
After garnering rave reviews and a boatload of money at the box office, I was expecting great things from IT, the latest Stephen King adaptation to come our way this past year. Those expectations are most likely what led to a sense of disappointment while watching what is still a pretty good film.
First and foremost, it was always going to be a challenge to bring King’s 1,000+ page novel to the big screen. There’s a lot of weird stuff in there that audiences would have a hard time buying into had they actually tried to adapt it (the magical turtle, as an example). Even still, it often feels as though the film is simply glossing over parts of the story and not spending much time in allowing them to breathe. Going back to the Tim Curry miniseries in the early 1990s, the Losers’ Club’s’ initial encounters with Pennywise were given a bit of time to develop and flesh themselves. There felt like there was a purpose to those encounters that would pay off later. In this 2017 edition, the encounters begin and are over with in a matter of, sometimes, seconds. No chance for buildup or any real suspense, and it also doesn’t give the audience much of a chance to get to know the new Pennywise before he’s already out taking on his other forms in order to scare the children of Derry. These encounters come off almost as a checklist, where you can almost hear the director going: “And cut. Check that one off, Ben met Pennywise. Who’se next?”
That’s not to say that IT is a terrible film. It’s not by any stretch. It’s actually a rather enjoyable film, but it works best when it’s dealing with its coming-of-age elements in which we find the Loser’s Club hanging out together, enjoying the summer, and banding together against the bullies who torment them. Those moments are the real standouts in IT, with the exception of the oddly scored and directed scenes that include the rock fight in the quarry being turned into a punk-rock music video of sorts to Beverley having her friend cleanup a room of blood that the others may or may not actually be able to see.
Ultimately, even though the film already clocks in at over 2 hours, a longer film might have been stronger than what we currently have. A bit more from Pennywise would have been nice, but also more time spent with the kids just being together is a must, especially considering that two characters from the story are almost completely sidelined in this version.
All-in-all, though, IT is a good time for sure and one of the better films I’ve seen from the 2017 releases. But, at the same time, it could have been so much more.