[Very minor spoilers]
I’ll attempt to write this review without comparing the 2017 version to the 1990 original miniseries, but that is a bit difficult because of how much I loved that production. I saw IT when I was too young to do so and couldn’t look away. It’s great, for all of the right and wrong reasons, but that is what made it fun and cherished by a whole generation. Many are often too quick to boil the experience down to Tim Curry—who was fantastic—carrying the whole thing on his shoulders, but there are a lot of great moments and truly memorable ideas that have a ton of power from King’s book, with visuals that were rushed and did not age well. Just as it is hard to compare the book, a collection of captivating ideas that seems to have gone too far, to the film, it is difficult to try and analyze an older miniseries with a much different budget against a shorter movie that had a lot to live up to. I was worried, but went in hopeful.
Not hard to guess that the film would hinge on two things mainly: the kids and the clown. The characters come off as total non-traditional badasses. They may be The Losers’ Club, but that doesn’t prevent these young actors from stealing the show. For having so many characters I still felt like I knew most, if not all, of them by the end, even if one of them could have been easily cut, or maybe even killed off as a surprise. I had that connection I got from watching the first part of the miniseries all over again; a similar bond to the kids that they have with each other and their struggle.
Eddie, Billy, Bev, and Richie are all standouts, and they felt like real little snots suddenly facing a series of traumatic events. Their dialogue was solid for the most part, save some of the forced vulgarity and comedic moments that were only funny afterwards and out of context. Not every scene needs a one-liner. With that being said, their nemesis had some huge clown shoes to fill and it was best that this went in a bit of a different direction. I think it worked though, and now he feels like the Pennywise for a new generation, cementing himself into the nightmares, or at least the memories, of many.
My real issue with the film may in fact be the pacing, which is no surprise when looking at all of the content that was shoved into a two hour and fifteen minute tale. It feels all over the place though, speeding through what feels like they should be important moments—if not ignoring them all together—and focusing too much on things that didn’t add much, like the bathroom scene or some of the set piece scares. The three act structure works and it feels like a full story, just one that someone accidentally kept hitting fast forward on at times.
Some of the key elements that were left out did irk me slightly, but these were from the previous version, not necessarily things that hurt the story by their absence—at least until the second chapter possibly demands them. The desired payoffs still come, some in cool ways, just through different means, and nothing feels like it was trying to beat the audience over the head too hard. Some scenes are barely hanging on though, working by a thread, but it’s less noticeable because I want them to work. I’m totally into this as long as no one reminds me about the full backstory of why this is all happening. We haven’t had power for four days and I’ve made the mistake of starting the book. Let’s leave out the turtle stuff, please.
Something that I think many will find fault with is the jump scares. Not because there are too many, but that each one is accompanied by a loud and obnoxious sound that doesn’t add to the frightening atmosphere or accomplish anything, and even ruins a couple of moments for sure. The movie overall isn’t what I would call scary, but does well at holding its tone and attempting to keep its aesthetics, even if that doesn’t always make sense.
I went into this expecting some cheesiness and was not disappointed. When certain scenes were a little too much, I just had to remember that the source material would often go off the rails too, and even the miniseries had moments that left me scratching my head. I was worried about the final confrontation, because in both parts of the miniseries, it is the weakest bit. For anyone who knows what IT really is and how he can be dealt with, that is the worst aspect of the idea to me, what really kills any fear it might actually generate. For this though things seemed to be going well until the overuse of CGI and a lack of interaction with the big set piece background. The end fight is fun and feels almost right, but the set kept distracting me for the wrong reasons.
The updated aspects felt fine, but what transitioned best was the R-rating and how brutal the clown could be. From the moment he bites Georgie to the ass-whooping he takes at the end, I loved the violence and how much more generally threatening IT felt. There are moments he looked some menacing and intimidating, a true predator about to devour his prey, when not simply feeding off of their fear. There are moments though that his motions looked simply dumb, or use of CGI made the appearance awkward. Watching humanoid figures move strangely, jerking, animal-like, truly bothers some people, but the over exaggeration of it was almost silly at a couple of points. The look and feel drew me in quickly, as I enjoyed the cinematography and how almost everything looked outside of the aforementioned parts, especially in daylight scenes. It felt less like the real world and more like Derry was its own special place, overly creepy houses and all. The only thing that flat out did not work was the painting monster that was haunting Stan—absolutely horrible.
The film was directed by Andy Muschietti, and I was a bit shocked to learn that this was only his second real feature in the chair—kudos. Perhaps it was my previous experiences with King’s work and the miniseries, but the issues I had with this film were severely overshadowed by my desire to see more of the world and characters. I want to watch it again already, and because this was done in a nearly self-contained way with the character and story developments, I’m not worried if the second chapter absolutely sucks. It won’t bother me because this one will still be good by itself. I have seen that the writers are claiming the second one will be darker though with a slightly different tone, which entices me more. IT won’t work for everyone, but I will certainly cite it as a recommendation, flaws and all. I can add this to the short list of remakes I’m not ashamed to say I enjoy, and I can’t wait for the sequel, if I’m still alive in twenty-seven years.