IT: Alright, Already, We All Float On.
Review by Anthony Cleveland
Movie fans are going to walk out of the theater floating after watching Andrés Muschietti’s IT. This movie is striking with the iron smoking, red hot. Stephen King is back in the public's thoughts after several adaptation announcements, and the Dark Tower release. To add to that, Stranger Things is becoming a cultural phenomenon and tapped into our nostalgic memories of old Spielberg and King movies. Mark my words, this film will become a massive success with mainstream audiences.
That said, this adaptation might not ring true with fans of the Stephen King novel or the miniseries.
I had the privilege of attending an early screening in Chicago courtesy of Warner Brothers and Bloody-Disgusting, and this screening was a blast, the fans being the catalyst to the fun. While standing in line, there was never conversation revolving around, "We'll see if it's good" or "They better do this," coming from the fans. Through what they had seen in the advertising, they had trusted their faith in the filmmakers with getting this movie right. The excitement and positive attitudes made this a great atmosphere to watch IT -- and boy, oh boy, did we have fun!
When people think of Stephen King's IT, “fun” probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. From those that have watched the TV miniseries at a young age, you may hear, "disturbing," "scarring," and "terrifying." I'm sure some of these will be said about the 2017 version as well, but you will also hear, "funny" followed closely at the end of their description.
IT begins closely following the Georgie story from the novel. As in the trailer, we see little Georgie chasing his paper boat in the rain only to crack his head on a police barrier and watch the boat drift into the storm drain. The audience clapped and laughed after the poor kid knocked his noggin. After that, we meet the joyful Pennywise, the dancing clown, who cracks a few simple jokes just to keep the mood up from the head bonk scene.
...then it reverts back to the version of the novel that the miniseries couldn’t show on television. I won't spoil it, but it is gut-retrenching and disturbing. I can’t think of another mainstream film that is as graphic as this opening scene. The audience went into absolute silence after that opening. There wasn’t a "woah," or a "holy shit" heard in the theater. After that scene, we knew what we were in for and the tone was set for the rest of the feature.
Pennywise may have gotten your butt into the seat, but the Loser Club kids will keep you glued to it no matter how full your bladder is. They carry this film and will be what the audience talks about after they leave the theater. They're constantly breaking each other's balls and each one of their quips hits the bull's eye. Every member of the Loser’s Club is a blast to watch on screen and you could tell that they were having just as much fun off screen as well.
The film horror unfolds with each kid experiencing some terrifying encounter from Pennywise that in someway incorporates that child's fears. For the most part, these scares are set up extremely well. We receive a small creepy back story which leads to an intense chase from Pennywise. When the film breaks from this formula, the scares feel out of place. A fan favorite part of the book is the chapter featuring the ‘Leper.’ In this film version, there is no build up and the Leper simply appears on screen in a grotesque jump scare close up. We don't know what it is and are only told later it’s from the child’s fear of a diseased, decayed crack head. This scare would work better if it were built up, rather than come face to face with the obscure shock of the Leper's face.
There are several other departures and omissions from the source material. King fans may see this as a watered down adaptation of their beloved novel. For example, the adults' responses to the Derry murders aren’t discussed as much in this film. In the novel, adults seem to forget about the town's dark past as if Pennywise is blocking it from their memories. [This, however, may be explored in part 2 of IT.]
Another plot point from the novel, the silver bullet slingshot, is absent from this film. There is a ‘device’ that they do use to combat IT, but what ultimately weakens Pennywise is when the group joins together to combat it. There's not much of the cosmic consciousness from the novel explored in this adaptation. It's a very basic good vs. evil or fear vs. courage story.
Even with the knowledge of the novel, the film felt off in some ways. This could be attributed to cuts that were made for the sake of runtime and storytelling. In other instances, the film was off in a more uncomfortable way. The only female of the Loser’s Club, Beverly, was presented in an overly sexual manner for a minor. I understand the filmmakers were trying to show her as an outcast, someone that a middle schooler would label a 'slut' without actually knowing her. But...do we really need a scene of her unbuttoning her dress and stripping down to her bra and underwear? The girl was 14 years old when this film was shot. This use of over sexuality repeats throughout with her not wearing a bra under her shirt or having make-up that has her looking much older than the other boys. This took the majority of the film for me to try to ignore and ultimately removed me from the experience.
Regardless of IT’s flaws, mainstream audiences will love this film. It feels like there's a jump scare a minute, which sounds awful, but it’s always met with a great moment of levity from the Loser’s Club. Think Jaws popping out of the water and Brody saying, “You’re going to need a bigger boat.” There are tons of moments like scattered throughout the film.
I encourage everyone that enjoys a fun roller coaster to check out IT. If you’re a fan of the novel, do your best to leave your expectations at the door and join the others in the theater...because we all float down here... and you’ll float too.
YOU’LL FLOAT TOO!
Rating: 4.5 red balloons outta 5.
What do you think? Have you been counting down the days to this one? Are you expecting the novel? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and, as always, remember to viddy well!